Pancreatitis is swelling and inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ behind the stomach. It makes digestive enzymes and insulin. The digestive enzymes flow into the small intestine to help break down food. Insulin is released into the blood to control the level of sugar in the blood.
Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic. Acute pancreatitis is a sudden attack. After acute pancreatitis, most people recover completely, especially if the disease is diagnosed and treated early enough. Pancreatitis that doesnâ€™t go away or keeps coming back and damages the pancreas is called chronic pancreatitis.
About half of the people who have pancreatitis have gallstones blocking the flow of pancreatic secretions into the intestines. This causes the pancreas to swell and hurt. Other causes may include drinking alcohol, having high levels of blood fats, the side effects of some medicines, some surgeries, smoking, or an injury to the belly.
How can I take care of myself when I go home?
You may need to make lifestyle changes to prevent further damage to the pancreas and prevent further attacks of pancreatitis.
Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.
Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you should take them, and why you take each one.
Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.
Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
Talk to your provider before you use any other medicines, including nonprescription medicines.
Your provider may prescribe medicines or other therapy to:
Control your blood sugar
Replace enzymes that the pancreas normally makes to help digest food
Treat or prevent an infection
If you have had surgery, to care for your surgical wound:
Keep your surgical wound clean.
If you are told to change your dressing on your surgical wound, wash your hands before changing the dressing and after disposing of the dressing.
Ask your healthcare provider if there are any foods or medicines you should avoid.
Follow activity restrictions, such as not driving or operating machinery, as recommended by your healthcare provider or pharmacist, especially if you are taking pain medicines or muscle relaxants.
You will probably need to make changes in some of the foods you eat. Ask your provider about the benefits of talking to a dietician to learn what you need in a healthy diet.
Take care of your health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and try to keep a healthy weight. If you smoke, try to quit. If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. Learn ways to manage stress. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.
Follow your provider’s instructions for follow-up appointments.
Keep appointments for any routine testing you may need.
Talk with your provider about any questions or concerns you have.
Call emergency medical services or 911 if you have new or worsening:
Belly pain that happens along with:
Jaw, arm, shoulder, chest, or back pain
Nausea or vomiting
Shortness of breath
Bright red blood in your bowel movement
Swelling in your legs
Dizziness or lightheadedness
Call your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening:
Bloating or belly pain
Black, tarry bowel movements
Diarrhea, constipation, or other intestinal problems
Frequent or foul smelling bowel movements
Signs of infection around your surgical wound if you had surgery. These include:
The area around your surgical wound is more red or painful
The wound area is very warm to touch
You have blood, pus, or other fluid coming from your wound area
You have a fever higher than 101.5Â° F (38.6Â° C)
You have chills or muscle aches
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Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-12-19 Last reviewed: 2014-12-16
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Pancreatitis Discharge Information: References
Feldman, M, Friedman, L, & Brandt, L. (2010). Acute Pancreatitis. Sleisenger and Fordtran’s gastrointestinal and liver disease [9th ed.], Ch. 58, 959-983.e6. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Goldman, L, & Schafer, A. (2012). Pancreatitis. Goldman’s Cecil medicine [24th ed.], 146, 937-944. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders.