Background and aim. Till now, no Italian studies providing information on acute pancreatitis have been published. The aim of this study was to evaluate the epidemiological and clinical characteristics of acute pancreatitis in Italy. Materials and methods. The study involved 37 Italian centres distributed homogeneously throughout the entire national territory and prospectively collected epidemiological, anamnestic, laboratory, radiological, therapeutic (pharmacological, endoscopic and surgical) data, relevant to each individual case of acute pancreatitis consecutively observed during the period from September 1996 to June 2000. Results. One thousand two hundred and six case report forms were collected, but 201 patients (16.6%) were subsequently eliminated from the final analysis. We therefore studied 1005 patients, 533 (53%) males and 472 (47%) females, mean age 59.6 ± 20 years. On the basis of the Atlanta classification of acute pancreatitis, 753 patients of the 1005 cases analysed (75%) were mild and 252 patients (25%) severe. The aetiology was biliary in 60% of the patients, related to alcohol abuse in 8.5%, while in 21% of the cases it could not be identified. Over 80% of the patients (83%) were admitted to hospital within 24 h from the onset of clinical symptoms, while only 6% were admitted after 48 h. In particular, 65% of the patients were admitted to hospital within the first 12 h. Antibiotics were used in 85% of the severe and 75% of mild forms. Endoscopic therapy was carried out in 65% of the severe cases, but only in 40% it was carried out prior to 72 h. Eighty-five patients (8.5% of the total, 34% of the severe forms) underwent surgical intervention: 20% on the first day, 38.5% within the fourth day, and the remaining (41.5% of the cases) later on for infected necrosis. The mean duration of hospitalisation for patients with mild pancreatitis was 13±8 days, while for the severe disease it was of 30±14 days. The overall mortality rate was 5%, 17% in severe and 1.5% in mild pancreatitis. Conclusions. Acute pancreatitis in Italy is more commonly a mild disease with a biliary aetiology. The treatment of the disease is not optimal and, on the basis of these data, needs to be standardised. Despite this, the overall mortality rate is low (5%).
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