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Minerva Gastroenterologica e Dietologica 2005 December;51(4):265-88


language: English

The role of endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography and endoscopic ultrasound in diagnosis and treatment of acute pancreatitis

Kinney T. P., Freeman M. L


Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is an important tool for diagnosis and therapy in acute and recurrent pancreatitis. While treatment of biliary disorders leading to pancreatitis is common practice, over the past several years many specialized centers have been directing traditional biliary techniques such as sphincterotomy and stenting towards the pancreas. A justifiable fear of pancreatitis and other complications has caused many endoscopists to shy away from pancreatic endotherapy, but refinements in technique, extensive experience, and most notably the routine use of pancreatic stenting to prevent post-ERCP pancreatitis has opened up the field and allowed for endoscopists in specialized centers around the world to perform diagnostic and therapeutic ERCP of the pancreas safely and effectively. In acute gallstone pancreatitis, the benefit of therapeutic ERCP including biliary sphincterotomy has been proven in randomized controlled trials. There are also data to support the role of ERCP directed at the pancreatic sphincters and ducts in treatment of acute relapsing pancreatitis due to pancreas divisum, sphincter of Oddi dysfunction, smoldering pancreatitis, pancreatic ductal disruptions, and perhaps even in evolving pancreatic necrosis. Many causes of apparently idiopathic pancreatitis can be discovered after an extensive evaluation with endoscopic ultrasound (EUS), magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) and ERCP with sphincter of Oddi manometry. ERCP often allows treatment of the underlying cause. Because of the inherent risks associated with ERCP, particularly when directed toward the pancreas, the role of ERCP in acute and especially recurrent pancreatitis should be primarily therapeutic with attempts to establish diagnosis whenever possible by less risky techniques including EUS and MRCP. With the added techniques, devices, skill-sets, and experience required, pancreatic endotherapy should preferably be performed in high volume tertiary referral settings. ERCP for diagnosis and treatment of severe or acute relapsing pancreatitis is also best performed using a multidisciplinary approach involving endoscopy, hepatobiliary-pancreatic surgery, and interventional radiology.

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