“When we see acute pancreatitis, it’s typically managed with intravenous hydration, analgesics for pain control and antiemetics for nausea,” he said. Physicians may run several tests to try to figure out what caused the pancreatitis such as gallstones, alcohol, certain medications or autoimmune disease. In extreme cases, pancreatitis can lead to major problems in the body, including kidney injury or respiratory distress.
Is pancreatitis a common complication from colonoscopy or upper endoscopy?
No. In a recent study that analyzed the experiences of nearly 80,000 patients who had colonoscopies, pancreatitis was not even described as a risk of the procedure.
“It would be an extremely rare complication,” Dr. Ketwaroo said. “So rare that it’s at the level of what we call case reports, which means it occurs perhaps one in every million colonoscopies.”
Pancreatitis would be considered extraordinarily rare among upper endoscopies as well. Several large studies over the years, including a German study of more than 100,000 people who had the procedure, have not shown pancreatitis to be a complication.
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There is, however, a highly specialized endoscopic procedure called an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, or ERCP, that “tends to irritate the pancreas,” Dr. Visrodia said. But this is very different from a colonoscopy or even from a standard upper endoscopy, he explained. ERCP involves passing an endoscope through the mouth and into the small intestine to manipulate the bile and pancreatic ducts. Because that area is immediately adjacent to the pancreas, pancreatitis is not a wholly surprising complication.
When should someone contact a doctor?
While abdominal discomfort is possible immediately after any endoscopic procedure, it should not be severe or persist, Dr. Ketwaroo said. For upper endoscopies, a mild sore throat may occur, but it should go away within about two days. Abdominal pain that lasts into the night, intense pain or difficulty swallowing, blood in the stool (which can sometimes look black or tarry) or fever should prompt patients to contact a doctor or go to the emergency room.