Acute biliary pancreatitis, caused by macroscopic cholesterol gallstones or microlithiasis, is often a severe disease with considerable morbidity and mortality. Formation of cholesterol gallstones and microlithiasis is caused by cholesterol crystallization from cholesterol supersaturated gallbladder bile. Particularly patients with fast and extensive crystallization, due to highly concentrated bile, low biliary phospholipid contents and gallbladder mucin hypersecretion seem at risk for pancreatitis. Patients who suffered from acute biliary pancreatitis should undergo cholecystectomy as secondary prevention strategy. For patients at high surgical risk, endoscopic sphincterotomy may be an appropriate alternative. Pharmacological manipulation of biliary lipids by the hydrophilic bile salt ursodeoxycholic acid is reserved for patients with recurrent pancreatitis despite previous cholecystectomy or sphincterotomy, or with contraindications to surgical and endoscopic treatment. Maintenance therapy with ursodeoxycholic acid is however a very effective secondary prevention strategy. Potentially, secondary prevention of acute biliary pancreatitis could also be achieved through decreasing biliary mucin contents by UDCA, NSAIDs or N-acetylcystein, or through achieving bile dilution (currently not feasible).
Keywords: aquaporins, cholesterol, crystallization, mdr gene, microlithiasis, nsaid, sludge, udca
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