What is gallstone pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis is a disease that causes inflammation and pain in your pancreas. The
pancreas is a small organ that makes fluids and enzymes to break down the food you eat.
This is part of the digestive process. Sometimes a gallstone can block your pancreatic
duct and cause pancreatitis. This is known as gallstone pancreatitis.
What causes gallstone pancreatitis?
Gallstones form in your gallbladder. But in cases of gallstone pancreatitis, the stone
leaves the gallbladder. It blocks the opening from the pancreas to the first part of the
small intestine (duodenum). This causes a backup of fluid that can travel up both the
bile duct and the pancreatic duct. Gallstone pancreatitis can be very painful and
life-threatening if not treated. Gallstones are the leading cause of short-term (acute)
What are the symptoms of gallstone pancreatitis?
Severe pain is the most common symptom of gallstone pancreatitis. But it's not the only
symptom. You might also have:
color to the eyes, skin, or both (jaundice)
that feels sharp or a “squeezing” in your left upper belly (abdomen) or in your
that travels from the original site up to the shoulder or chest
How is gallstone pancreatitis diagnosed?
Gallstone pancreatitis is diagnosed by using a combination of tools. The most common
are blood tests and different types of body scans. Blood tests can find inflammation in
the pancreas. CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound can give a clearer picture of how severe the
pancreatitis is. It can also tell if a gallstone is stuck inside the pancreatic duct and
needs to be removed.
How is gallstone pancreatitis treated?
Gallstone pancreatitis usually needs to be treated in the hospital. If the inflammation
related to your pancreatitis is mild, not eating and drinking for a few days will treat
your condition. During this time, healthcare providers may give you fluids through an
IV. In cases where you may not be able to eat for a long time, you may fed through a
special tube and sometimes into your vein. Healthcare providers will also treat any pain
and nausea with IV medicines. Often this will be enough to get your stone to pass
through your body and ease the pancreatitis.
more severe cases, your surgeon will likely remove the gallstone. This will be done
through surgery or with a special tool (endoscope) during a procedure called ERCP.
Depending on your condition, you may need to have your gallstone removed right away. You
might be able to wait until after about 48 hours of getting fluids directly into your
vein. This allows your inflammation to ease first. Your healthcare provider may advise
that your gallbladder be removed. This will be done after your pancreatitis has eased.
Sometimes it's done in the hospital during the same stay. This will greatly reduce your
chances of getting gallstone pancreatitis in the future.
What are possible complications of
gallstone pancreatitis goes untreated, the complications can be very serious. Digestive
fluids from the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas, may back up into your body. This can
cause an infection called cholangitis. You may also develop yellowish eyes and skin
(jaundice). The tissue of your pancreas itself can even begin to die in a condition
called pancreatic necrosis. Gallstone pancreatitis can be fatal if not treated.
How can I prevent gallstone pancreatitis?
not possible to fully prevent gallstone pancreatitis. This is because it’s not possible
to fully prevent gallstones from forming. But you can take steps to reduce your
gallstone risk. Eat a healthy diet, stay at a healthy weight, keep your cholesterol
levels within a normal range, and manage diabetes if you have it. If you are taking a
medicine that contains estrogen, ask your healthcare provider how this might add to your
risk of developing gallstones.
When should I call my healthcare
Gallstone pancreatitis symptoms, especially severe pain, are clear warning signs. If you have any of the symptoms, get medical help right away.
Key points about gallstone
Gallstone pancreatitis occurs when a gallstone blocks your
pancreatic duct causing inflammation and pain in your pancreas.
Gallstone pancreatitis causes severe belly pain, nausea,
vomiting, fever, chills, and jaundice.
If untreated, gallstone pancreatitis can cause serious
Gallstone pancreatitis may need to be treated in the
You may need surgery or an endoscopic procedure to remove the
You may need to have your gallbladder removed.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your healthcare provider tells you.
At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your healthcare provider gives you.
Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
Know how you can contact your healthcare provider if you have questions.
Online Medical Reviewer:
Jen Lehrer MD
Online Medical Reviewer:
John Hanrahan MD
Online Medical Reviewer:
L Renee Watson MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed:
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