American College of Gastroenterology
Advancing Gastroenterology, Improving Patient Care

Gallstone Pancreatitis


Overview

  • What is gallstone pancreatitis?

    Gallstone pancreatitis is an inflammation or irritation of the pancreas that is caused by a gallstone getting stuck while trying to pass out of the bile duct and into the small intestines. This can happen when a stone squeezes out of the gallbladder, or forms in the bile duct itself. Pancreas juice to 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.

Risk Factors

  • Who gets gallstone pancreatitis?

    Females, older age, being overweight, high cholesterol, birth control pills or hormone replacement pills, losing weight quickly, diabetes and pregnancy are all risk factors.</p

Symptoms

Diagnosis

  • 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 elevated as well. Your doctor can sometimes see the pancreas irritation on a CAT scan of your belly. This can tell them how bad the pancreatitis is. They may also want to get other special tests to look for small gallstones.

Treatment

  • What is the treatment of gallstone pancreatitis?

    If your doctor finds out that you have 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, while the irritation improves.

    If you have a gallstone stuck, then you may need to have this removed to prevent worsening of the pancreas irritation or infection of your bile ducts. 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 and cause what is called pancreatic necrosis.

Author(s) and Publication Date(s)

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

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