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HPB (Oxford). 2003;5(2):69-85. doi: 10.1080/13651820310001108.

The role of the intestine in the pathophysiology and management of severe acute pancreatitis.

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Pancreatitis Research Group, Department of Surgery, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.



The outcome of severe acute pancreatitis has scarcely improved in 10 years. Further impact will require new paradigms in pathophysiology and treatment. There is accumulating evidence to support the concept that the intestine has a key role in the pathophysiology of severe acute pancreatitis which goes beyond the notion of secondary pancreatic infection. Intestinal ischaemia and reperfusion and barrier failure are implicated in the development of multiple organ failure.


Conventional management of severe acute pancreatitis has tended to ignore the intestine. More recent attempts to rectify this problem have included 1) resuscitation aimed at restoring intestinal blood flow through the use of appropriate fluids and splanchnic-sparing vasoconstrictors or inotropes; 2) enteral nutrition to help maintain the integrity of the intestinal barrier; 3) selective gut decontamination and prophylactic antibiotics to reduce bacterial translocation and secondary infection. Novel therapies are being developed to limit intestinal injury, and these include antioxidants and anti-cytokine agents. This paper focuses on the role of the intestine in the pathogenesis of severe acute pancreatitis and reviews the implications for management.

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