People with acute pancreatitis are usually admitted to hospital - to intensive care if it’s severe. They are not allowed to eat and drink and are given fluids through the vein by a drip. They are given painkillers, and may be given antibiotics to prevent infection. They may have a tube draining the contents of the stomach out through their nose. In most people, the acute pancreatitis then starts to improve in about a week.
People with chronic pancreatitis are usually not admitted to hospital unless the pain is severe, or unless there are complications. Painkillers are prescribed. They need to take care to avoid triggering more pain, which means having low-fat meals and cutting out alcohol. People with chronic pancreatitis may also need to take enzymes to help them digest food, and supplements to make up for the vitamins and minerals not being absorbed.
Depending on the cause of the pancreatitis and the person’s condition, there are a range of other treatments which may be recommended regardless if an acute or chronic presentation. They include:
- cessation of alcohol consumption
- cessation of smoking
- changing diet such as lower fat meals
- increasing clear fluids
- ERCP to find and remove any cause of blockage to the drainage system of the pancreas (such as gallstones)
- surgery to remove the gallbladder, or even damaged areas of the pancreas
- treatment for diabetes if that develops.
Last reviewed: November 2016