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J Public Health (Oxf). 2007 Dec;29(4):398-404.

Hospital admission for acute pancreatitis in the Irish population, 1997 2004: could the increase be due to an increase in alcohol-related pancreatitis?

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  • 1Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Trinity College Centre for Health Sciences, Adelaide and Meath Hospital Incorporating the National Children's Hospital, Tallaght, Dublin 24, Ireland.



To investigate trends in the incidence of acute pancreatitis by examining emergency admissions to acute public hospitals over an 8-year period; to compare trends for alcohol-related pancreatitis admissions with biliary tract-related admissions and to profile the patients admitted with an acute pancreatitis diagnosis.


All in-patient emergency admissions for which an acute pancreatitis diagnosis (ICD-9-CM Code 577.0) was recorded as principal diagnosis were identified for years 1997-2004 inclusive. Alcohol-related acute pancreatitis admissions (i.e. had alcohol misuse recorded as co-morbidity) were identified using ICD-9-CM-codes 303 and 305. Biliary tract disease-related admissions (i.e. had biliary tract disease recorded as co-morbidity) were identified using ICD-9-CM codes 574.0-576.0 inclusive. Pearson's chi2-test was used to compare proportions in groups of categorical data and chi2-tests for trend were used to identify linear trends.


There were 6291 emergency admissions with a principal diagnosis of acute pancreatitis during the 8 year study period, with 622 admissions in 1997 compared to 959 admissions in 2004, an increase of 54.1%. Age standardized rates rose significantly from 17.5 per 100,000 population in 1997 to 23.6 per 100,000 in 2004, (P<0.01 for linear trend). There were 1205 admissions with alcohol misuse recorded as a co-morbidity increasing from 13.9% (87/622) of acute pancreatitis admissions in 1997 to 23.2% (223/959) in 2004. This increase was significantly greater than the increase observed for biliary tract disease-related admissions, 19.6% (122/622) in 1997 to 23.5% (225/959) in 2004. Rates for total acute pancreatitis admissions were highest in those aged 70 years and over; the majority (3563, 56.6%) of the admissions were male with a mean age of 51.1 years (SD 19.9); the mean age for male admissions was significantly younger than for female admissions (49.1 versus 53.6 years, P<0.001). However, for alcohol-related admissions, rates were highest in those aged 30-49 years and patients admitted with alcohol misuse recorded were significantly younger than those who did not have alcohol misuse recorded (42.0 versus 53.2 years, P<0.001). Median length of stay was 7 days.


Hospital admissions for acute pancreatitis rose from 17.5 per 100,000 population in 1997 to 23.6 per 100,000 in 2004. The proportion of admissions that had alcohol misuse recorded as a co-morbidity rose more markedly than those with biliary tract disease and the rise was more pronounced in younger age groups. The increasing trend in alcohol-related acute pancreatitis parallels the rise in per capita alcohol consumption. Given the continuing rise in binge drinking, particularly among young people, this is a cause for concern.

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