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Pancreatic Necrosis and Pancreatic Abscess Workup

  • Author: Abraham Mathew, MD, MS; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
 
Updated: Apr 01, 2015
 

Laboratory Studies

No specific hematologic studies define infected necrosis or pancreatic abscess. A persistently elevated white blood cell count with a left shift and positive blood cultures is suggestive of this diagnosis.

The degree of pancreatic enzyme elevation does not directly indicate the degree of necrosis.

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Imaging Studies

The presence of air in necrotic tissue in a pseudocyst on imaging studies is specific for infection. The absence of a communication to the gut (often by spontenous drainage into the gut lumen) is also a sign of infection.

Abdominal computed tomography (CT) scanning with intravenous (IV) contrast; ultrasonography, either endoscopic or transabdominal; and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) (with gadolinium) are potential modes for imaging pancreatic necrosis or abscess.

MRI is becoming the imaging study of choice due to concerns regarding the use of iodinated contrast, which is said, by some, to devitalize marginal tissue, increasing the burden of necrotic tissue.

Computed Tomography Scanning and Magnetic Resonance Imaging

The current criterion standard for initial evaluation is contrast-enhanced CT scan (see the following image), which may reveal ischemic pancreatic tissue as evidenced by the lack of uptake of contrast. There is some suggestion that early CT scan may be detrimental in ANP, with IV contrast worsening ischemia.

Contrast-enhanced CT scan of infected pancreatic p Contrast-enhanced CT scan of infected pancreatic pseudocyst.

Consider repeat imaging in all patients with ANP who develop worsening abdominal pain, develop signs or symptoms of obstruction, or have a prolonged clinical course.

MRI may be of some additional benefit in the acute evaluation of ANP; gadolinium does not cause a worsening of ischemia in experimental models.

Splenic vein thrombosis is seen in 40% of patients with WOPN.

Pancreatic necrosis appears as devitalized tissue with decreased IV contrast present on CT scan or MRI. A pancreatic pseudocyst has a rim of fibrous tissue surrounding a pocket of peripancreatic fluid.

Earlier accumulations of fluid without the fibrous capsule, or peripancreatic fluid collections, and the surrounding inflammatory tissue were referred to as a phlegmon, but this term is now obselete.

Demonstrable necrotic tissue in the pseudocyst may exist. Typically, this develops more than 3 weeks after the initial bout of pancreatitis.

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Procedures

In the absence of cholangitis or jaundice, the 2013 American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) guidelines recommend magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) or endoscopic ultrasonography, rather than diagnostic endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) to screen for choledocholithiasis as the suspected etiology of acute pancreatitis.[7]

Endoscopic drainage

EUS-guided transgastric drainage of a pancreatic abscess, with insertion of 2 double-pigtail catheters has also been reported to be useful.[8]

Endoscopic necrosectomy and draining may give impressive and immediate symptom relief.[6, 9]

No randomized trials have evaluated the minimally invasive techniques for infected pancreatic necrosis, and not all guidelines from professional organizations show "consensus to recommend this minimally invasive management of pancreatic abscess."[10, 11]

This lack of agreement likely relates to the fact that successful treatment of symptomatic, sterile or infected walled-off pancreatic necrosis with transoral/transmural endoscopic drainage needs to be followed by percutaneous drainage in 40% or by operative interventions in 20%.[12, 13, 14]

In cases of WOPN, creating multiple gateways for drainage of necrotic debris improves treatment success.[15]

Endoscopic drainage of pancreatic fluid collections in persons with acute or chronic pancreatitis is an accepted alternative treatment option to surgical intervention; it provides a successful drainage of the fluid and relief of symptoms in almost 90% of patients.[16] Complications occur in 11% of patients, including death in 5%. Not removing the transmural stents decreases the recurrence of pancreatic fluid collection.[15]

In persons with SAP having intervention for infected reasons of infection or abscess, 20% will develop an external pancreatic fistula (EPF).[17]

Spontaneous closure of the EPF occurs in 88% of persons in a median of 70 days. Of these 88% whose EPF closes, approximately 24% develop a pancreatic pseudocyst requiring surgical management.

CT-guided or ultrasonography-guided needle aspiration

The presence of either bacterial or fungal flora in pancreatic fluid collections usually aspirated via CT-guided needle biopsy is the sine qua non of pancreatic abscess. The presence of organisms on either Gram stain or culture is essential to establish a diagnosis of abscess.

The presence of either bacterial or fungal microbiota in pancreatic fluid collections (usually aspirated via CT-guided needle biopsy) is essential to establish a diagnosis of pancreatic abscess.

Pancreatic fluid collections are frequent sequelae of pancreatitis, and endoscopic drainage of these collections is gaining acceptance as an alternative to surgical drainage. Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS)-guided drainage should be reserved for prepancreatic fluid collections located at the pancreatic tail. These fluid collections should be evaluated by EUS before attempts at endoscopic drainage.

In the last two decades, the indications for surgery have become less aggressive, focusing more on the treatment of complications such as necrosis, abscess, and pseudocyst.[18]

Surgical drainage

Even with aggressive intravenous fluid replacement, nutritional support and early intervention of pancreatic necrosis or abscess, the hospital mortality rate of SAP is about 20%.

Sterile necrosis may be followed with serial CT-guided drainage and continued antibiotics.

Surgical drainage of infected necrosis or an abscess is the procedure for cure. Placement of indwelling drains after the initial procedure may be necessary for complete resolution.

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Contributor Information and Disclosures
Author

Abraham Mathew, MD, MS Professor of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Hershey Medical Center, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine

Abraham Mathew, MD, MS is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Gastroenterology, American Gastroenterological Association, American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

Disclosure: Received ownership interest from Hershey Endoscopy Center for partner of ambulatory surgery center, practice site; Received consulting fee from Boston Scientific for consulting.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Douglas M Heuman, MD, FACP, FACG, AGAF Chief of Hepatology, Hunter Holmes McGuire Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center; Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine

Douglas M Heuman, MD, FACP, FACG, AGAF is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, American College of Physicians, American Gastroenterological Association

Disclosure: Received grant/research funds from Novartis for other; Received grant/research funds from Bayer for other; Received grant/research funds from Otsuka for none; Received grant/research funds from Bristol Myers Squibb for other; Received none from Scynexis for none; Received grant/research funds from Salix for other; Received grant/research funds from MannKind for other.

Chief Editor

BS Anand, MD Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Baylor College of Medicine

BS Anand, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, American College of Gastroenterology, American Gastroenterological Association, American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Jose A Perez, Jr, MD, MBA, MSEd Residency Director, Internal Medicine Residency Program, Vice Chair of Education, Department of Medicine, Methodist Hospital; Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College

Jose A Perez, Jr, MD, MBA, MSEd is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for Physician Leadership, American College of Physicians, Society of General Internal Medicine, Society of Hospital Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Acknowledgements

Eric R Frizzell, MD

Instructor of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences; Consulting Staff, Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Walter Reed Army Medical Center

Eric R Frizzell, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Gastroenterology, American College of Physicians, American Gastroenterological Association, and American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Alan BR Thomson, MD Professor of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, University of Alberta, Canada

Alan BR Thomson, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alberta Medical Association, American College of Gastroenterology, American Gastroenterological Association, Canadian Association of Gastroenterology, Canadian Medical Association, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

References
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  16. Hookey LC, Debroux S, Delhaye M, Arvanitakis M, Le Moine O, Deviere J. Endoscopic drainage of pancreatic-fluid collections in 116 patients: a comparison of etiologies, drainage techniques, and outcomes. Gastrointest Endosc. 2006 Apr. 63(4):635-43. [Medline].

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Contrast-enhanced CT scan of infected pancreatic pseudocyst.
 
 
 
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