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Evidence-Based Treatment of Acute Pancreatitis: A Look at Established Paradigms

Heinrich, Stefan MD*; Schäfer, Markus MD*; Rousson, Valentin PhD; Clavien, Pierre-Alain MD, PhD*

doi: 10.1097/01.sla.0000197334.58374.70

Background: The management of acute pancreatitis (AP) is still based on speculative and unproven paradigms in many centers. Therefore, we performed an evidence-based analysis to assess the best available treatment.

Methods: A comprehensive Medline and Cochrane Library search was performed evaluating the indication and timing of interventional and surgical approaches, and the value of aprotinin, lexipafant, gabexate mesylate, and octreotide treatment. Each study was ranked according to the evidence-based methodology of Sackett; whenever feasible, we performed new meta-analyses using the random-effects model. Recommendations were based on the available level of evidence (A = large randomized; B = small randomized; C = prospective trial).

Results: None of the evaluated medical treatments is recommended (level A). Patients with AP should receive early enteral nutrition (level B). While mild biliary AP is best treated by primary cholecystectomy (level B), patients with severe biliary AP require emergency endoscopic papillotomy followed by interval cholecystectomy (level A). Patients with necrotizing AP should receive imipenem or meropenem prophylaxis to decrease the risk of infected necrosis and mortality (level A). Sterile necrosis per se is not an indication for surgery (level C), and not all patients with infected necrosis require immediate surgery (level B). In general, early necrosectomy should be avoided (level B), and single necrosectomy with postoperative lavage should be preferred over “open-packing” because of fewer complications with comparable mortality rates (level C).

Conclusions: While providing new insights into key aspects of AP management, this evidence-based analysis highlights the need for further clinical trials, particularly regarding the indications for antibiotic prophylaxis and surgery.

This evidence-based analysis provides the currently best available treatment of patients with acute pancreatitis regarding nutrition, antibiotic prophylaxis, and medical treatments, as well as the indications for endoscopic interventions in biliary pancreatitis and surgery for necrotizing pancreatitis.

From the *Swiss HPB Center, Department of Visceral and Transplantation Surgery, University Hospital of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland; and †Department of Biostatistics, Institute for Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.

Reprints: Pierre-Alain Clavien, MD, PhD, FACS, FRCS, Department of Visceral and Transplantation Surgery, University Hospital of Zurich, Raemistrasse 100, 8091 Zurich, Switzerland. E-mail:

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.