Pancreatitis Complications

Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is a large gland that is located behind the stomach. It produces enzymes and hormones into the body. These enzymes help the body with digestion and regulation of glucose, or sugar.

Types of Pancreatitis Complications

In mild cases, pancreatitis complications after ERCP are rare and non-fatal. However, severe cases can cause pancreatitis complications that may spread to other bodily systems. Pancreatitis complications include internal bleeding, respiratory problems, infection, and organ failure. Patients who exhibit symptoms of pancreatitis complications after ERCP should seek immediate medical attention before the condition worsens.

Chronic Pancreatitis vs. Acute Pancreatitis

There are two main types of pancreatitis: chronic and acute. Chronic pancreatitis is long-term and is rarely related to a failed ERCP procedure. In some cases, chronic pancreatitis may last for years.

Acute pancreatitis occurs suddenly, and typically lasts for days. Of the two conditions, acute pancreatitis is associated most with life-threatening pancreatitis complications. Acute pancreatitis has a number of causes, including endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). ERCP is a medical procedure that can aid in the diagnosis and treatment of certain conditions that affect a patient’s pancreatic and bile ducts. If left untreated, pancreatitis complications after ERCP can be fatal.

Pancreatitis Bleeding and Infection

Pancreatitis complications can lead to internal bleeding. This is often caused by erosion of blood vessels due to the growth of abscesses and pseudocysts. Abscesses are collections of pus that accumulate within tissue as a result of inflammation. Pseudocysts are collections of fluid that become walled off by tissue. These growths may become infected, rupture, and hemorrhage. This rupture and hemorrhage can lead to pancreatitis complications such as massive internal bleeding that requires medical intervention.


Infection is among possible pancreatitis complications, as inflamed tissue is more susceptible to infection. If an infection develops, it may quickly spread through the blood. This can lead to blood poisoning. Failure to treat this condition as soon as possible will typically result in death.

Pancreatic Necrosis

Pancreatitis complications include pancreatic necrosis. Pancreatic necrosis is a condition that causes tissue death in the pancreas. The condition is caused by severe inflammation of the pancreas. During pancreatic inflammation, blood flow is obstructed and certain areas of the pancreas receive limited or no blood supply. This results in death of pancreatic tissue.

Peripancreatic necrosis may also occur. Peripancreatic necrosis is the death of fatty tissue that surrounds the pancreas. The dead pancreatic and fatty tissue caused by pancreatic necrosis is extremely vulnerable to infection and other pancreatitis complications. This condition is referred to as infected pancreatic necrosis.

Systemic Pancreatitis Complications

SIRS and Organ Failure

Systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) occurs when pancreatic inflammation spreads throughout the body. This can lead to pancreatitis complications that cause the failure of one or more organs. Kidney failure is a common pancreatitis complication. Organ failure may also occur in a patient’s pulmonary, cardiovascular, and renal systems.


Pancreatitis complications may cause chemical changes in the body that affect respiratory function. Among these pancreatitis complications is hypoxia, or lack of oxygen in the blood. This in turn affects the body’s tissues and cells. Hypoxia can lead to respiratory problems such as difficulty breathing. In extreme cases, lung failure may occur.


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