What Are You Struggling With?

Ep130: Pancreatitis (video episode)

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Podcast Transcription

Pancreatitis is a very serious and very painful and difficult complication for a patient to experience. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, obviously. What can happen is it can actually start to auto digest itself, meaning it can actually start to eat itself up. Now, if that starts to happen we can lose pancreatic function. Common causes for pancreatitis are alcohol abuse, gallbladder disease, PUD, obstruction of the ducks, and hyperlipidemia.

Now, let’s see here. Gallbladder … Gallstones and alcohol abuse are two of the most common causes of this disease. Now, of course, alcohol abuse can lead to chronic pancreatitis, which can develop over time and can actually lead to complete loss of pancreatic function. If we lose pancreatic function that can actually, obviously, lead to death. Gallbladder disease, if we have gallstones, can actually block the ducks and lead to auto digestion, as well, of the pancreas.

So, here’s our pancreas. Now, the pancreas is an endocrine and an exocrine gland. Endocrine means it is secreting hormones into the bloodstream. So, some of the things that the pancreas does. The pancreas helps with digestion of food. The way it does that is it has a couple different hormones. It has lipase, amylase. It has trypsin and it has nuclease. So, lipase actually helps the digestion of fats, amylase with carbs, and trypsin helps with protein digestion. Nuclease helps with nucleic acids. The pancreas also secretes insulin and glucagon. Insulin helps to lower blood sugars by allowing blood sugar into the cell. Glucagon actually helps to raise blood sugar. So, you can see very simply, very quickly here, how important the pancreas is.

A very small organ, but it’s incredibly important to the function of the body overall. If we lose function of the pancreas we lose ability to digest food, to regulate blood sugars. It actually helps the sodium bicarbonate, as well, to maintain acid-base balance. So, the pancreas is an incredibly important organ.

Like I said, as well, we have chronic pancreatitis versus acute pancreatitis. With acute pancreatitis most of these patients are actually going to recover on their own and return to normal function. With chronic, this can be a slow progression and it can result in complete loss of pancreatic function.

Common cause for chronic pancreatitis is going to be alcohol. An alcohol abuser, that can actually permanently affect pancreatic use and pancreatic function. What happens again, like I said, if that happens is the pancreas actually starts to kind of eat itself up. It actually starts to auto digest, is what it’s called. Once it begins to eat itself, it actually loses the ability to secrete these hormones and it loses its basically its function as the pancreas.

Assessment. How are we going to see the patient? Abdominal pain, they’re going to have sudden onset. It’s going to be mid epigastric pain, and left upper quadrant. They’re going to experience nausea and vomiting. They’re going to have weight loss. They’re going to have abdominal tenderness. We’re going to see an increase in white blood cells, billirubin, ALP, and an increase in amylase and lipase.

Date Published - Oct 6, 2015
Date Modified - May 13, 2016

Jon Haws RN

Written by Jon Haws RN

Jon Haws RN began his nursing career at a Level I Trauma ICU in DFW working as a code team nurse, charge nurse, and preceptor. Frustrated with the nursing education process, Jon started NRSNG in 2014 with a desire to provide tools and confidence to nursing students around the globe. When he's not busting out content for NRSNG, Jon enjoys spending time with his two kids and wife.