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Management of acute pancreatitis: from surgery to interventional intensive care
  1. J Werner1,
  2. S Feuerbach2,
  3. W Uhl3,
  4. M W Büchler1
  1. 1Department of General and Visceral Surgery, University of Heidelberg, Germany
  2. 2Department of Radiology, University of Regensburg, Germany
  3. 3Department of General Surgery, St Josefs Hospital, University of Bochum, Germany
  1. Correspondence to:
    Professor M W Büchler
    Department of General and Visceral Surgery, University of Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 110, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany;

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In recent years, treatment of severe acute pancreatitis has shifted away from early surgical treatment to aggressive intensive care. While the treatment is conservative in the early phase, surgery might be considered in the later phase of the disease. Surgical debridement is still the “gold standard” for treatment of infected pancreatic and peripancreatic necrosis. Advances in radiological imaging, new developments in interventional radiology, and other minimal access interventions have revolutionised the management of many surgical conditions over the past decades. Several interventional therapy regimens, including endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) and sphincterotomy, fine needle aspiration for bacteriology (FNAB), percutaneous or endoscopic drainage of peripancreatic fluid collections, pseudocysts, and late abscesses, as well as selective angiography and catheter directed embolisation of acute pancreatitis associated bleeding complications have been well established as diagnostic and therapeutic standards in the management of acute pancreatitis. Secondary to recent technical improvements in interventional therapy and minimally invasive surgery, even infected pancreatic necrosis has successfully been treated in selected patients. However, technical feasibility does not obviate sound clinical judgement. We must be cautious in the application of new technologies in the absence of well designed clinical trials. Thus minimally invasive surgery and interventional therapy for infected necrosis should be limited to clinical trials and specific indications in patients who are critically ill and otherwise unfit for conventional surgery.


The management of acute pancreatitis has been controversial over the past decades, varying between a conservative medical approach on the one hand and an aggressive surgical approach on the other. There has been great improvement in knowledge of the natural course and pathophysiology of acute pancreatitis over the past decade.1–4 The clinical course of acute pancreatitis varies from a mild transitory form to a severe necrotising disease. Most episodes of acute pancreatitis (80%) are mild and self limiting, …

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