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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Diagnosis

Your doctor will diagnose acute pancreatitis based on:

  • Your symptoms

  • A physical examination

  • Certain laboratory tests

Blood tests usually reveal high levels of two pancreatic enzymes.

In some cases, a computed tomography (CT) scan may be done. The scan can identify swelling of the pancreas and accumulation of fluid in the abdomen.

The scan also may show whether you have pancreatic pseudocysts. Pseudocysts are pockets of digestive enzymes. They develop in some cases of severe pancreatitis or after repeated attacks. Serious complications can result if the pseudocysts burst and spill enzymes onto vulnerable tissues.

If gallstones are suspected, an ultrasound examination of the gallbladder may be performed.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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