OBJECTIVE: A great number of studies have been published on acute pancreatitis, but few have focused on the recurrent form. In this study, we have sought to determine the relative frequency and mortality of recurrent acute pancreatitis, and also to update our knowledge of its etiological factors. METHODS: Patients were selected from a total of 1068 persons included in a previous European study of acute pancreatitis. All were admitted to a hospital with an attack of acute pancreatitis between January, 1990 and December, 1994. Data for each patient was recorded on a standardized form. RESULTS: Of the 1068 with acute pancreatitis, 288 (27%) had recurrent pancreatitis; the majority (78.8%) were men, with a mean age of 43 yr (range 16-95 yr). Regarding etiology, alcohol was the most frequent factor (57%), followed by gallstones (25%), other factors (7.6%), and no identified factor (10.4%). Of the 288 patients, 17 (5.9%) died, all of whom had necrotizing pancreatitis; among all of the patients with necrotizing pancreatitis (141 of 288), the mortality was 12.1%. These percentages are lower than those for patients who had a single attack (8.5% and 18.6%, respectively), but not to a statistically significant degree. Mortality was significantly lower among patients with alcoholic pancreatitis (6.9%) than among those with biliary (30%) (p < 0.002) or idiopathic pancreatitis (25%) (p < 0.04). Most of the deaths (82.4%) occurred at the second attack of pancreatitis. CONCLUSION: Acute recurrent pancreatitis remains a frequent disease, with alcohol being the most frequent etiological factor. Mortality is similar to that of a single episode of acute pancreatitis, and it is significantly lower among patients with alcohol as the etiology.
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