Those experiencing acute or chronic pancreatitis–inflammation of the pancreas–must understand that seeking treatment as soon as possible can lead to a faster recovery. There are many ways of treating pancreatitis, and the approach selected primarily depends on the severity of the case.
Managing Mild Pancreatitis
The management of mild pancreatitis involves a somewhat straightforward approach. In most cases, mild flare ups of pancreatitis are treated with enhanced nutritional support, proper hydration and appropriate pain control. Mild cases of the disease do not usually require hospitalization of the patient, but if he or she does not closely follow the doctor’s instructions or does things to exacerbate the flare up, a hospital stay may be required.
Managing Severe Pancreatitis
On the other hand, severe attacks of this type usually require hospitalization and at times, aggressive treatment by an expert in the field of gastroenterology. The first course of action for severe flare ups is usually oral or intravenous antibiotics. The patient is almost always categorized as “NPO” regarding meals, meaning “nothing by mouth.” Rather, nutrition is given intravenously or through a temporary feeding tube. In extremely severe cases, surgical procedures are sometimes performed, which include the removal of necrotic pancreatic tissue. If the gallstones are suspected as the cause, a special test may be ordered to determine if this is the case. If gallstones are present, the patient will be placed on a zero-fat diet for up to seven days.
Intensive care may be necessary for those with severe, acute flare ups. Close monitoring is necessary to ensure that gastrointestinal bleeding, and renal or pulmonary failure are prevented. The goals of the intensive care team include providing strong supportive care, decreasing inflammation and preventing or limiting the development of widespread infections.
Once a person is in the recovery phase, it is essential for him or her to follow specific instructions. In the majority of cases, abstaining from alcohol is the best way to recover from a pancreatitis flare up. Those who do not feel they can stop drinking without help should ask their doctor for a referral to a local treatment program.
Following a low-fat diet is also important, as this will prevent the buildup of bile and ultimately the formation of gallstones. Patients should choose diets that center around fresh vegetables, fruits, proteins and whole grains. Because dehydration typically accompanies pancreatitis, it is wise for all patients to consume plenty of fluids.
Although it is a serious illness that cannot be ignored, pancreatitis is rarely fatal when treated in a timely manner. However, it is vitally important to seek appropriate medical care as soon as symptoms are noticed.