From the Journals

Obesity interactions complex in acute pancreatitis



Obesity, in combination with other risk factors, is associated with increased morbidity and mortality in acute pancreatitis (AP); however, body mass index (BMI) alone is not a successful predictor of disease severity, new research shows.

“As there was no agreement or consistency between BMI and AP severity, it can be concluded that AP severity cannot be predicted successfully by examining BMI only,” reported the authors in research published recently in Pancreatology.

Illustration of pancreas iStock/ThinkStock

The course of acute pancreatitis is typically mild in the majority (80%-85%) of cases; however, in severe cases, permanent organ failure can occur, with much worse outcomes and mortality rates of up to 35%.

Research has previously shown not only a link between obesity and acute pancreatitis but also an increased risk for complications and in-hospital mortality in obese patients with severe cases of acute pancreatitis – though a wide range of factors and comorbidities may complicate the association.

To more closely evaluate the course and outcomes of acute pancreatitis based on BMI classification, study authors led by Ali Tuzun Ince, MD, of the department of internal medicine, Gastroenterology Clinic of Bezmialem Vakif University, Istanbul, analyzed retrospective data from 2010 to 2020 on 1,334 adult patients (720 female, 614 male) who were diagnosed with acute pancreatitis per the Revised Atlanta Classification (RAC) criteria.

The patients were stratified based on their BMI as normal weight, overweight, or obese and whether they had mild, moderate, or severe (with permanent organ failure) acute pancreatitis.

In terms of acute pancreatitis severity, based on RAC criteria, 57.1% of patients had mild disease, 20.4% had moderate disease, and 22.5% had severe disease.

The overall mortality rate was 9.9% (n = 132); half of these patients were obese, and 87% had severe acute pancreatitis.

The overall rate of complications was 42.9%, including 20.8% in the normal weight group, 40.6% in the overweight group, and 38.6% in the obese group.

Patients in the overweight and obese groups also had higher mortality rates (3.7% and 4.9%, respectively), interventional procedures (36% and 39%, respectively), and length of hospital stay (11.6% and 9.8%, respectively), compared with the normal-weight group.

Other factors that were significantly associated with an increased mortality risk, in addition to obesity (P = .046), included old age (P = .000), male sex (P = .05), alcohol use (P = .014), low hematocrit (P = .044), high C-reactive protein (P = .024), moderate to severe and severe acute pancreatitis (P = .02 and P < .001, respectively), and any complications (P < .001).

Risk factors associated with increased admission to the ICU differed from those for mortality, and included female gender (P = .024), smoking (P = .021), hypertriglyceridemia (P = .047), idiopathic etiology (P = .023), and moderate to severe and severe acute pancreatitis (P < .001).

Of note, there were no significant associations between BMI and either the RAC score or Balthazar CT severity index (Balthazar CTSI) groups.

Specifically, among patients considered to have severe acute pancreatitis per Balthazar CTSI, 6.3% were of normal weight, 5% were overweight, and 7.1% were obese.

“In addition, since agreement and consistency between BMI and Balthazar score cannot be determined, the Balthazar score cannot be estimated from BMI,” the authors reported.

While the prediction of prognosis in acute pancreatitis is gaining interest, the findings underscore the role of combined factors, they added.

“Although many scoring systems are currently in use attempt to estimate the severity [in acute pancreatitis], none is 100% accurate yet,” the authors noted. “Each risk factor exacerbates the course of disease. Therefore, it would be better to consider the combined effects of risk factors.”

That being said, the findings show “mortality is increased significantly by the combined presence of risk factors such as male sex, OB [obesity], alcohol, MSAP [moderate to severe acute pancreatitis] and SAP [severe acute pancreatitis], all kinds of complications, old age, low Hct, and high CRP,” they wrote.


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