Respiratory complications of acute pancreatitis are well recognised and are closely related to a poor prognosis. Using an experimental model in the rat, a decrease in lung compliance and an increase in lung weight were produced in acute pancreatitis. The effects of dexamethasone, heparin, and aspirin on these changes were studied. The mean specific lung compliance was reduced by 16% in the pancreatitis group compared with the control group (p less than 0.05) and this change was abolished by dexamethasone (p less than 0.02), heparin (p less than 0.01), and aspirin (p less than 0.001). Percentage lung weight (as percentage of total body weight) was raised by 22% in the pancreatitis group compared with the sham operation group (p less than 0.01) and this change was abolished by heparin (p less than 0.01) and aspirin (p less than 0.05), but not affected by dexamethasone (p less than 0.5). The results indicate that 'stiff' and heavy lungs occur in experimental acute pancreatitis. The fact that these changes are abolished by heparin and improved by aspirin suggests that intrapulmonary fibrin deposition is a factor in the pathogenesis of the important respiratory complications of this condition.
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