From the Journals

ED visits up for acute pancreatitis linked to younger age, alcohol, chronic disease



The number of U.S. emergency department visits for acute pancreatitis associated with alcohol abuse, chronic pancreatitis history, and younger age was on the rise in recent years, an analysis of a nationally representative database has suggested.

A photo of a man with a drink in his hand, head resting on his arms Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/Thinkstock

Meanwhile, hospital admissions and length of stay dropped, but ED and inpatient charges increased, according to the analysis by Sushil K. Garg, MD, of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., and his coauthors.

“This study identifies important patient populations, specifically young patients with alcohol abuse, to target in order to develop programs to assist in reduction of ED utilization for acute pancreatitis,” Dr. Garg and his colleagues reported in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.

The retrospective analysis was focused on nearly 2.2 million ED visits during 2006-2012 in the National Emergency Department Sample (NEDS) database. The cohort was limited to adults at least 18 years of age with a primary diagnosis of acute pancreatitis.

Overall, there was a nonsignificant 5.5% increase in visits per 10,000 U.S. population during 2006-2012, the researchers found. However, the total number of ED visits in this sample increased significantly – from 292,902 in 2006 to a peak of 326,376, an average rate of increase of 7,213 visits per year (P = .0086), according to the report.

Younger patients had a significant increase in the number of pancreatitis-related ED visits over the study period, while older patients had a significant decrease, according to investigators. Visits were up 9.2% for patients aged 18-44 years and 8.6% for those aged 45-64 but down 13.4% for patients aged 65-84 years and 20.1% for those aged 85 years or older.

The incidence of visits secondary to biliary disease was virtually flat over time, Dr. Garg and his coinvestigators found when looking at visits grouped by the most common presenting etiologies. By contrast, there were significant increases in visits for acute pancreatitis associated with alcohol abuse or chronic pancreatitis.

Specifically, acute pancreatitis associated with biliary disease averaged 20.7% of yearly pancreatitis-related ED visits and did not significantly change over time, the researchers reported.

By contrast, acute pancreatitis associated with alcohol abuse, which accounted for 24.1% of visits on average, increased by 15.9% over the study period, an increase driven by an increase among age groups younger than 65 years.

Acute pancreatitis associated with chronic pancreatitis, which made up 11.5% of visits on average, increased “substantially” in all age groups, according to study authors, with the largest increase in the group aged 45-64 years. Overall, the percentage increase over 7 years was 59.5%.

Rates of hospitalization decreased significantly over time, from 76.2% in 2006 to 72.7% in 2012 (P = .0026), and likewise, the length of stay dropped from 5.36 to 4.64 days (P = .0001), according to the analysis.

Inpatient charges, adjusted for inflation and expressed in 2012 dollars, increased from $32,130.63 to $34,652.00 (P = .0011), an average rate of increase of $489/year.

Predictors of hospitalization included age older than 84 years, alcohol use, smoking, and a Charlson comorbidity score of 1 or greater, according to the results of a multivariate regression analysis.

“Factors which may place patients at higher risk for severe or complicated acute pancreatitis requiring admission, such as obesity, alcohol use, and increasing age, are identified and should be explored in further studies and potentially targeted to improve ED and inpatient care,” Dr. Garg and his coauthors said.

Dr. Garg and his coauthors had no disclosures related to the study.

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