OBJECTIVES: We aimed to determine whether early trends in the serum pancreatic enzymes and liver tests of patients with gallstone pancreatitis predict persistent common bile duct (CBD) stones and complications. METHODS: Medical records of patients with gallstone pancreatitis were reviewed retrospectively. Serial serum pancreatic enzymes and liver tests were recorded until the time of cholangiography. Laboratory trends were analyzed by comparing initial results obtained in the emergency department to subsequent results obtained 8-24 h, 24-48 h, and 48-72 h after presentation. RESULTS: Of 154 patients with gallstone pancreatitis, 28 (18%) had persistent CBD stones at cholangiography. Complications and death were more frequent in patients with persistent CBD stones than in those without CBD stones (29% and 11% vs 12% and 1%, respectively; p < 0.05). Laboratory trends predicted both persistent CBD stones and complications of pancreatitis. When any laboratory value rose between admission and 24-48 h of hospitalization, persistent CBD stones were present in 31% of cases, versus 8% of those in whom all laboratory values remained constant or fell (p = 0.001). Likewise, complications occurred in 21% of those with any rising laboratory value, versus 8% of those in whom all values remained constant or fell (p < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Patients with gallstone pancreatitis and rising serum chemistries had a 4-fold risk of persistent CBD stones and a nearly 3-fold risk of complications compared to patients in whom all chemistry values remained constant or fell. This simple prediction rule may identify patients with biliary pancreatitis who are most likely to benefit from early interventions to diagnose and remove persistent CBD stones.
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