Acute idiopathic pancreatitis is a term used when no underlying cause has been identified on routine investigation. However, more specialised investigations may identify aetiological factors, biliary sludge and sphincter of Oddi dysfunction for example, in 38-72% of patients with recurrent episodes. Treatment of these abnormalities may prevent further episodes of pancreatitis. The aim of this study was to follow up and determine the outcome in patients with a first episode of idiopathic pancreatitis, and thus determine the need for further investigation and treatment in this group of patients. Thirty one patients with a single episode of idiopathic pancreatitis were studied who had no specialised investigations or specific treatment. During a median follow up of 36 months only one patient has had recurrent pancreatitis. Two patients experienced a single episode of unexplained abdominal pain; serum amylase, liver biochemistry, and abdominal ultrasound were all normal and the pain resolved within 48 hours. In conclusion, in the medium term, the prognosis is good after a first episode of idiopathic pancreatitis and specialised investigation is unnecessary.
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