Acute pancreatitis has a one percent mortality rate, making it a disease that is very rarely fatal. Nevertheless, there are numerous complications of the disease that can eventually lead to fatalities or long-term negative health repercussions. Below are complications that require careful monitoring to avoid long-term disability or death:
Acute flare ups of pancreatitis can result in debris and fluid collecting in cyst–like pockets within the organ itself. Large pseudo-cysts that rupture can lead to complications such as massive, multi-organ infections and internal bleeding.
Chronic or acute pancreatitis can lead to permanent chemical changes in the body that negatively affect the function of the lungs, causing blood oxygen levels to fall to dangerous levels. This can cause the presence of an asthmatic wheeze or fluid in the lungs.
Because the pancreas and its proper production of insulin are a person’s first defenses against diabetes, long-term presence of the disease can lead to high blood sugar and eventually the need for insulin.
Almost all cases of acute pancreatitis makes the organ vulnerable to various bacteria. This can lead to serious infections that make intensive care necessary. In severe cases, surgery to remove permanently damaged tissue is necessary.
Acute pancreatitis can eventually result in kidney failure. The latter can be chronic or acute in nature, but chronic is much worse, as the only treatment for it is dialysis–mechanical cleaning of the blood. Having to take dialysis treatments on a regular basis permanently alters the lifestyle for most people.
It is possible for chronic pancreatitis to eventually cause pancreatic cancer. Because there is no cure for this type of cancer, the mortality rate is 100 percent. Although certain treatments are available to prolong the patient’s life, most individuals suffering from this type of cancer do not live longer than five years from the date of the initial diagnosis.
Both chronic and acute pancreatitis can halt the organ’s proper production of enzymes needed to break down and process vitamins and minerals from food. Therefore, even though a person may be eating the same amount of food and following a consistent diet, weight loss, dehydration and malnutrition are serious threats for those who suffer from chronic pancreatitis or those experiencing an acute flare up.
Heart or Pulmonary Failure
Failure of proper lung function is also a complication of severe acute or chronic pancreatitis. Heart failure is also a possibility for those who suffer from the disease on a long-term basis. Additionally, pulmonary distress syndrome may develop at some point, due to the aforementioned low blood oxygen levels.
Because certain pancreatitis complications can be life-threatening, it is essential to seek proper treatment as soon as one begins experiencing symptoms. This is the best way to prevent the majority of complications from advancing to a more serious level.