Gallstone Pancreatitis Overview
What is gallstone pancreatitis?
Gallstone pancreatitis is an irritation of the pancreas. This is caused by a gallstone getting stuck while trying to pass out of the bile duct into the small intestines. This can happen when a stone squeezes out of the gallbladder, or starts in the bile duct itself. Pancreas juice can back up because of this and lead to the pancreatitis. If this happens, it can be dangerous, and you can get really sick. You should definitely see a doctor without waiting.
- Who gets gallstone pancreatitis?
Things that increase the risk are females, older age, being overweight, high cholesterol, birth control pills or hormone replacement pills, losing weight quickly, diabetes and pregnancy.
- What are the symptoms of gallstone pancreatitis?
The pain may be in your left upper belly on in the back. It usually comes on quickly and can be sharp or squeezing. You can sometimes also get sick to the stomach and throw up.
- How is gallstone pancreatitis diagnosed?
Pancreas labs (amylase and lipase) can be increased, and your liver tests (ALT, AST, alkaline phosphatase and bilirubin) can be high as well. Your doctor can sometimes see the pancreas irritation on a CT scan of your belly. This can tell them how bad the pancreatitis is. They may also want to get other tests to look for small gallstones.
- What is the treatment of gallstone pancreatitis?
The most important thing is getting you a lot of fluids through your veins. They will also keep you from eating or drinking anything while your belly hurts. Most of the time this will let the pancreas irritation improve in a few days. You can start eating and drinking again when your belly pain improves. If you have really bad pancreatitis, you may need to take your food through a tube or your vein until it gets better. Your doctor will give you pain medications to make the pain better.
If you have a gallstone stuck, then you may need to have this removed. This can be done with a scope test but sometimes needs surgery. There is a chance that the stone could pass on its own and you might not need anything done. If the pancreatitis is really bad, part of the pancreas can die. We call this pancreatic necrosis.
Author(s) and Publication Date(s)
Royce Groce, MD, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH - Updated July 2022
Royce Groce, MD, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH - Updated April 2021
Young Choi, MD and William B. Silverman, MD FACG, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, IA