Review of all deaths from acute pancreatitis recorded at Glasgow Royal Infirmary between 1974 and 1984 identified 126 patients, 53 (42%) of whom had pancreatitis first diagnosed at necropsy. Aetiologies of the fatal attacks of pancreatitis included gall stones (30%), alcohol (15%), other identified aetiological factors (17%), and was unknown (38%). Overall mortality fell from 14.9% in the early half of the study to 10.8% in the latter half although in the 73 patients in whom the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis was made during life, the mortality rate was unchanged throughout. Within the group of 73 patients diagnosed during life deaths from gall stone pancreatitis have fallen by almost 50% suggesting that improved treatment of this subgroup may have occurred. The findings of this study lend support to the concept of early, complete clearance of calculi from the biliary tree, either by an endoscopic or surgical approach.
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