Background: Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is associated with elevated levels of pancreatic enzymes and pancreatitis. Gabexate, a protease inhibitor, has been used to prevent pancreatic damage related to ERCP.
Methods: We conducted a multicenter, double-blind comparison of gabexate (1 g given by intravenous infusion starting 30 to 90 minutes before endoscopy and continuing for 12 hours afterward) with placebo (mannitol and sodium chloride, administered in the same fashion). A total of 435 adults scheduled to undergo ERCP and, when indicated, endoscopic sphincterotomy underwent randomization; 17 were excluded from the final analysis for various reasons. The remaining 418 patients (mean age, 60.4 years)--208 in the gabexate group and 210 in the placebo group--were analyzed. Acute pancreatitis was considered to be present if serum amylase or lipase levels (or both) were five times greater than the upper limits of normal in association with the onset of pancreatic pain.
Results: After the procedures, 276 patients (66 percent) had elevated pancreatic-enzyme levels; the frequency was similar in the two groups. Mean serum amylase values were higher in the placebo group than in the gabexate group through 24 hours of observation (P=0.03). Twelve patients in the gabexate group and 29 in the placebo group had abdominal pain (6 percent vs. 14 percent, P=0.009). Sixteen patients in the placebo group and five in the gabexate group had acute pancreatitis (8 percent vs. 2 percent, P=0.03). Two patients treated with gabexate and six given placebo had adverse events, all of which resolved. Two patients given placebo died of acute pancreatitis; one was excluded from the evaluation because pancreatitis was present before endoscopy. One patient in the gabexate group died, from a myocardial infarction.
Conclusion: Prophylactic treatment with gabexate reduced pancreatic damage related to ERCP, as reflected by reductions in the extent but not the frequency of elevated enzyme levels and in the frequency of pancreatic pain and acute pancreatitis.