Gut 53:1340-1344 doi:10.1136/gut.2004.039883
  • Pancreas

Persistent organ failure during the first week as a marker of fatal outcome in acute pancreatitis

  1. C D Johnson,
  2. M Abu-Hilal,
  3. , Members of the British Acute Pancreatitis Study Group
  1. University Surgical Unit, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Mr C D Johnson
    University Surgical Unit, F Level, Centre Block (816), Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK;
  • Accepted 17 March 2004
  • Revised 4 March 2004


Background: In predicted severe acute pancreatitis, many patients develop organ failure and recover without local complications, and mortality is only 14–30%. It has been suggested that half of patients with progressive early organ failure may die, but there are no data to relate death or local complications to duration of early (week 1) organ failure.

Aims: To determine mortality rates in patients with transient (<48 hours) and persistent (>48 hours) early organ failure and to show whether persistent organ failure predicts death or local complications.

Patients: A total of 290 patients with predicted severe acute pancreatitis previously studied in a trial of lexipafant, recruited from 78 hospitals through 18 centres in the UK.

Method: Manual review of trial database to determine: the presence of organ failure (Marshall score ⩾2) on each of the first seven days in hospital, duration of organ failure, and outcome of pancreatitis (death, complications by Atlanta criteria).

Results: Early organ failure was present in 174 (60%) patients. After transient organ failure (n = 71), outcome was good: one death and 29% local complications. Persistent organ failure (n = 103) was followed by 36 deaths and 77% local complications, irrespective of onset of organ failure on admission or later during the first week.

Conclusion: Duration of organ failure during the first week of predicted severe acute pancreatitis is strongly associated with the risk of death or local complications. Resolution of organ failure within 48 hours suggests a good prognosis; persistent organ failure is a marker for subsequent death or local complications.