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Drug May Prevent Pancreatitis After Digestive Procedure
Date:4/11/2012

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 11 (HealthDay News) -- A simple anti-inflammatory drug significantly cuts the risk of painful pancreatitis after patients undergo a specialized scope exam of the digestive tract, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that a single dose of indomethacin administered rectally after the procedure -- known as ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) -- slashed the incidence of pancreatitis to 9.2 percent, compared with 16.9 percent in patients who received a placebo.

It also reduced the severity of post-ERCP infection. Of the 602 patients studied, moderate-to-severe pancreatitis developed in only 4.4 percent of the indomethacin group, compared with 8.8 percent among placebo patients.

"This is a very specific type of pancreatitis that occurs as a result of the ERCP, which is done an estimated 500,000 times annually," said study author Dr. B. Joseph Elmunzer, an assistant professor of internal medicine in the division of gastroenterology at the University of Michigan. "This is not something that's on everybody's radar . . . but these problems are surprisingly common."

The study is published April 12 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Each year, about 210,000 Americans are hospitalized with acute pancreatitis, a sometimes-deadly infection, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The main symptom is severe abdominal pain in the upper left or middle regions, and the most common cause of the inflammation is the presence of gallstones, followed by heavy alcohol use.

Patients undergoing ERCPs typically have problems with the flow of bile and pancreatic juices into the small intestine, where they aid digestion. A significant percentage of these patients develop pancreatitis after the procedure, Elmunzer said. This happens for a variety of reasons, including patient risk factors and irritation to the bile duct or
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