Of 279 patients admitted to a specialist unit with acute pancreatitis, 210 were admitted directly and 69 were transferred for treatment of local or systemic complications. Outcome was assessed in terms of mortality and morbidity and in relation to aetiology, predicted severity of disease (modified Glasgow score), organ failure (modified Goris multiple organ failure score), and need for surgical intervention. The death rate was 1.9% in patients admitted directly but was 18.8% in those transferred from other units. Mortality in gall stone related pancreatitis was 3% compared with 15% (p = 0.03) in pancreatitis of unknown aetiology and 27% (p = 0.01) in post-endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography pancreatitis. Mortality was related to age (mortality > 55 years old 11% v 2%; p = 0.003) and Goris score (score 0, mortality 0% v score 5-9, mortality 67%; p = 0.001). In patients transferred from other units, mortality was 11% in those transferred within a week of diagnosis and 35% when transfer was delayed (p = 0.04). Thirty six patients had pancreatic necrosis on dynamic computed tomography of whom 29 underwent pancreatic necrosectomy with a 34% mortality. Mortality was related to the modified Goris score (median score 2 in survivors v 6 in non-survivors; p = 0.005) and was higher when necrosectomy was performed within the first two weeks of admission (100% vs 21%; p = 0.004). In conclusion, mortality in acute pancreatitis is influenced by age, aetiology of the disease, and presence of organ failure. Patients transferred for specialist care have a 10-fold greater mortality than those admitted directly and mortality is greatest when transfer is delayed. Early necrosectomy carries a prohibitively high mortality.
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