Pancreatic stones are not really all that uncommon, as many as 30% of the people that suffer with pancreatic problems will develop this disease. These stones can block the duct of the pancreas and prevent this organ from releasing the enzymes needed for food digestion. The pancreas also creates the hormones needed to control the blood sugar levels in the body, and if this hormone isn’t released into the body properly, it can lead to diabetes. It is easy to see why the development of these hard deposits in the pancreas can cause severe health problems.
Acute pancreatitis is an inflammatory condition of the pancreas that is painful and at times deadly. Despite the great advances in critical care medicine over the past 20 years, the mortality rate of acute pancreatitis has remained at about 10%. Diagnosis of pancreatic problems is often difficult and treatments are therefore delayed because the organ is relatively inaccessible. There are no easy ways to see the pancreas directly without surgery, and available imaging studies are often inadequate. In addition to the acute form, there are hereditary and chronic forms of pancreatitis which can devastate a person over many years. Sufferers often endure pain and malnutrition, and are most likely left with a higher risk of pancreatic cancer.
Diagnosing acute pancreatitis can be difficult because the signs and symptoms of pancreatitis are similar to other medical conditions. The diagnosis is usually based upon a medical history, physical examination, and the results of diagnostic tests. Two of the following three are required to make a diagnosis: (1) typical abdominal pain; (2) threefold or more elevation of pancreatic enzyme values in the blood; and (3) inflammation of the gland on computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. The number and type of tests is tailored to the severity of acute pancreatitis and the most likely underlying causes. (See "Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of acute pancreatitis" .)