Acute pancreatitis is a serious condition where the pancreas becomes inflamed over a short period of time. The pancreas is a small organ located behind the stomach and below the ribcage.

Most people withacute pancreatitis improve within a week and experience no further problems, but severe cases can have serious complications and can even be fatal.

Acute pancreatitis is different tochronic pancreatitis, where the inflammation of the pancreas persists for many years.

The most common symptoms of acute pancreatitis include:

  • suddenly getting severe pain in the centre of your abdomen (tummy)
  • feeling or being sick
  • diarrhoea

If this isn't possible, contactNHS111 or your localout-of-hours service for advice.

Why it happens

It's thought that acute pancreatitis occurs when a problem develops with some of the enzymes (chemicals) in the pancreas, which causes them totry to digestthe organ.

Acutepancreatitisis most often linked to:

  • gallstones which accounts for around half of all cases
  • alcohol consumption which accounts for about a quarter of all cases

By reducing your alcohol intake and altering your diet to make gallstones less likely, you canhelp to reduce your chances of developing acute pancreatitis.

However,one infive cases are severe andcan result in life-threatening complications, such asmultiple organ failure.

In severe cases wherecomplications develop, there's a highrisk ofthe conditionbeing fatal. In England, just over 1,000 people die from acute pancreatitis every year.

If a person survives the effects of severe acute pancreatitis, it's likely to be several weeks or months before they're well enough to leave hospital.


Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Nov 2016