The incidence of acute pancreatitis (AP) has been increasing worldwide, but the major etiologies remain gallstones and alcohol. Several studies have reported that smoking is an independent risk factor for developing AP. Classification of AP has traditionally used the categories of mild and severe disease. However, a new intermediate category of moderately severe AP has been described with intermediate characteristics including a high incidence of local complications but a low mortality. Assessment criteria that can serve as early predictors of AP severity are often complex and not sufficiently accurate. However, several recently described criteria that rely on criteria such as the body mass index, physical findings, and simple laboratory measurements could prove useful if validated in large prospective studies. Many issues related to the therapy of AP are still unresolved. Although preliminary studies support the importance of early volume expansion for the treatment of acute pancreatitis, optimization of the amount and type of fluids will require further studies. Similarly, preliminary studies suggest that enteral nutrition might benefit patients with AP and could even be useful early in the course of disease. However, the timing and type of fluids as well as the intestinal infusion site require further study. Finally, issues related to the prophylactic use of antibiotics in patients with severe AP have not been resolved. While the process of clinical investigation moves slowly, progress has been made in clinical studies of AP.
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