Glossary of Medical Terms


Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, which is an organ in the upper abdomen that makes insulin and digestive enzymes. Pancreatitis may cause sudden, severe abdominal pain.

Pancreatitis is most commonly caused by excessive use of alcohol or by a blockage of the tube (duct) that leads from the pancreas to the beginning of the small intestine (duodenum), usually by a gallstone. Other causes include an infection, an injury, or certain medicines. It may develop suddenly (acute), or it may be a long-term, recurring (chronic) problem.

Treatment in the hospital includes pain medicine and fluids given through a vein (IV) until the inflammation goes away. Nutrition is given through a tube to avoid stimulating the pancreas. Although most people recover fully from pancreatitis, complications such as bleeding, infection, or organ failure may develop. 

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