There are two forms of pancreatitis: Acute and Chronic.
Every year 240,000 patients in the US are hospitalized with the primary diagnosis of acute pancreatitis. The majority of these patients have a relatively mild form of the disease and recover rapidly. This is fortunate, because despite more than a century of research, we still do not have any specific treatment for pancreatitis. Fifteen to 20% of patients with acute pancreatitis suffer from a severe course of the disease. Patients with severe acute pancreatitis develop multiple organ failure (requiring mechanical ventilation, kidney dialysis, and intensive care), and commonly need major surgery to remove the infected tissue from around the pancreas. Of this subset of patients with severe acute pancreatitis, 15% to 20% will die as a direct result of the disease. Acute pancreatitis is a major problem, and aside from general medical support, we currently have no treatment. It is clearly critical that we gain a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying this disease in order to develop much needed therapy.
Dr. Nicholas Zyromski, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Surgery
Indiana University School of Medicine