The most common causes of acute pancreatitis are biliary tract disease and alcoholism, but other causes account for about 10% of cases. Acute pancreatitis can be divided clinically into mild and severe (necrotic) disease. Risk of complications and death varies with the etiology, severity, and number of episodes and is highest in severe cases and biliary tract-related disease. Amylase determination is the best diagnostic serum screening test. Ultrasonography, computed tomography, and endoscopic retrograde pancreatography are also extremely useful in diagnosis. Treatment of acute pancreatitis usually consists of supportive measures; the roles of peritoneal lavage and surgery remain controversial. Pseudocysts occur in about 25% of patients but can be treated successfully with appropriate therapy.
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