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Necrotizing pancreatitis (NP) is a health problem in which part of your pancreas dies. This is because of inflammation or injury. If the dead tissue gets infected, it can cause serious issues.
The pancreas is an organ that sits behind your stomach. It makes fluids that flow through a duct into the small intestine. These fluids help you digest food. The pancreas also releases hormones to help control blood sugar. This includes insulin.
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. When the pancreas gets inflamed, it may leak digestive enzymes into the pancreas itself. This harms the pancreas. This can lead to pancreatitis. When this damage is severe, parts of your pancreas may not receive enough blood and oxygen to survive. NP happens when a part of the pancreas or the tissue around it dies from inflammation.
The dead part of your pancreas may be separate from the healthy part. Or it might stay with the nearby tissue. The dead tissue may not contain germs, or it may get infected. These factors affect your symptoms and treatment.
Some people with pancreatitis get NP. Pancreatitis is a fairly common condition. It’s been on the rise lately. It’s more common in men than in women. It can affect people of all ages.
NP happens when your pancreas gets inflamed or injured, and the pancreatic enzymes leak. This harms the tissues of the pancreas. If this damage cannot be reversed, it causes NP. In some cases, the nearby tissue may become infected. This is from bacteria that spread into this dead tissue.
NP may start after an episode of sudden (acute) pancreatitis. People with chronic pancreatitis can also get NP. But this isn’t as common.
Having gallstones and drinking a lot of alcohol are the two most common causes of pancreatitis. Some other causes of it include:
You may have a higher risk for NP if you have a health issue that can cause pancreatitis. These include gallstones. You may be able to decrease your risk of NP by treating your health condition. Drinking less alcohol may also lower your risk.
Symptoms of NP may include:
NP may also cause dehydration and low blood pressure. Complications from NP may cause other symptoms.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your health history, symptoms, and other health conditions. He or she will also give you an exam, focusing on your abdomen.
To diagnose pancreatitis, your healthcare provider may do tests. These may include:
Your healthcare provider will rule out other causes of your symptoms. He or she will check you for an ulcer, inflammation of your gallbladder, or pancreatic cancer. Your healthcare provider can often diagnose NP with another imaging test, such as MRI.
Your healthcare provider may also take a sample from the part of your pancreas that has died. Using imaging tests, a healthcare provider uses a fine needle to take a small sample. This sample then goes to a lab. Technicians can tell if the dead tissue shows signs of infection.
Treatment often happens in two parts. You will have treatment for pancreatitis and treatment for the part of the pancreas that has died. To treat the pancreatitis, you may need the following:
You may also need nasogastric feedings. In nasogastric feeding, you get nutrition in liquid form. You will receive it through a long, thin tube. This tube is put through your nose and into your stomach. You may also not be able to eat or drink anything for a while so that your pancreas can rest.
If the sample of your pancreas didn’t show signs of infection, you may not need further treatment. In this case, your healthcare team will watch you. You may need to have another small sample taken from your pancreas. Your healthcare provider may want to recheck you for signs of infection.
If you have signs of infection or lab tests that show infection, you will need antibiotics. You will also likely need to have the dead, infected pancreatic tissue removed.
Your healthcare provider may put a thin tube (catheter) through your abdomen to remove the dead tissue. This is done with the help of medical imaging. Or the area may be taken out endoscopically. This means it will be removed by entering the ducts of the pancreas through the stomach. In other cases, you may need surgery to remove the area. This is often done after other techniques have not worked.
If your health is stable, your healthcare provider may delay these treatments for a few weeks. That’s because the risk of complications decreases when it’s done later. But if you are very sick, you may need emergency treatment to remove the dead, infected part of your pancreas.
The main complication is infection. It affects many people with NP. This is more likely to happen 2 to 3 weeks after NP first appears.
Infection can sometimes lead to sepsis. In this illness, your body has a severe reaction to bacteria in your bloodstream. Sepsis can lead to shock. This reduces blood flow to your major organs. This can cause temporary or permanent damage to your organs. Sepsis can sometimes lead to death.
Your healthcare team will treat early signs of sepsis to give you the best chance of getting better. You may need IV fluids, antibiotics, and breathing support. They will also treat early signs of infection. This is to help keep sepsis from happening in the first place.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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