Health A-Z

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If you suspect you have acute pancreatitis, do not eat or drink anything until you see a doctor. Food and drink trigger the release of enzymes from the pancreas. This will make the pain worse.

Most people who develop pancreatitis are admitted to the hospital. They are treated with pain relievers and intravenous fluids.

You will not be allowed to eat or drink until your symptoms begin to improve. In most cases, nothing can be done to speed healing or shorten an episode. If the episode is prolonged, and a patient cannot eat for longer than a week, nutrition may be given intravenously.

In some cases, antibiotics may be prescribed. These will help to prevent or treat infection in the pancreas or surrounding tissues. Most cases do not need any additional medications.

If you have an attack of pancreatitis caused by gallstones, you may need to have an ERCP. During the test, the doctor may make a tiny cut into the opening of the bile duct to treat current or future blockage. You will likely be advised to have your gallbladder removed. This usually is done days to weeks after the episode of pancreatitis has gone away. Immediate surgery is technically more difficult and can make pancreatitis worse.

In rare cases, surgery may be needed to:

  • Drain a pseudocyst

  • Treat an abscess

  • Stop bleeding

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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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