Acute pancreatitis is caused by the activation of digestive enzymes in the pancreas and a possible treatment, therefore, is the inhibition of enzyme secretion. This approach is somewhat controversial, however, as it is not clear whether pancreatic secretion continues to occur during the course of acute pancreatitis. Animal studies show an appreciable reduction of secretion in the inflamed pancreas, but studies in humans are not conclusive. The use of somatostatin or its analogue, octreotide, has been investigated in several clinical studies. A meta analysis of six individual studies in which somatostatin was given for acute pancreatitis showed that somatostatin significantly reduces mortality. A trial in patients with moderate to severe acute pancreatitis showed a lower rate (although not statistically significant) of complications in patients treated with 3 x 200 and 3 x 500 micrograms/day octreotide, compared with controls and patients receiving a lower dose of octreotide. A further study showed a significant reduction in patient controlled analgesics in patients treated with octreotide compared with controls. Pain is the important clinical symptom of chronic pancreatitis, possibly resulting from an increased intraductal pressure during secretion. The effect on pain of the inhibition of pancreatic secretion by octreotide has been investigated in two studies. One showed no significant reduction in pain after treatment with octreotide for three days. In the other, in which octreotide was used for three weeks, significantly less pain and analgesic use was recorded during octreotide treatment than during placebo. The most common complication of chronic pancreatitis is the formation of pseudocysts. There is some evidence that octreotide may be useful in their treatment.
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