Abdominal pain is considered a cardinal feature of acute pancreatitis (AP), and abdominal imaging is only required to diagnose AP when the pain is atypical, or serum enzyme elevation does not match the clinical picture. While painless lipase elevation is being increasingly associated with worse outcomes in various diseases, the diagnostic approach to such elevation is so-far unclear. We thus aimed to learn the impact of pain on the diagnosis of AP. Methods: All patients presenting to the Mayo Clinic Arizona Hospital emergency department with a serum lipase ≥3x upper limit of normal between April 2016 and January 2020 were prospectively followed. Their charts were reviewed for the nature of pain, serum lipase levels on presentation, abdominal imaging, and whether a diagnosis of AP was made. Chronic pancreatitis was excluded. Results: Among 320 patients, 85 (26.5%) had painless lipase elevation. These patients had abdominal imaging less often (56/85, 66%) than in those with abdominal pain (201/235, 83%; p = 0.001). The diagnosis of AP increased overall from 31/63 (49%) without imaging to 198/257 (77%) with imaging (P < 0.001). Imaging increased the diagnosis of AP in patients with painless lipase elevation from 2/29 (7%) without imaging to 16/56 (29%; p = 0.025) among those who were imaged. Conclusions: Painless lipase elevation >3-fold the upper limit of normal is common in emergency department patients. 1/3 to 1/4 of these may have AP. Abdominal imaging increases the diagnosis of AP in patients with painless lipase elevation. Therefore, abdominal imaging in such patients may help detect AP that otherwise eludes diagnosis.
- Emergency department
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism