Patients with acute pancreatitis should receive “goal-directed” fluid therapy with normal saline or Ringer’s lactate solution rather than hydroxyethyl starch (HES) fluids, states a new guideline from the AGA Institute.

In a single-center randomized trial , hydroxyethyl starch fluids conferred a 3.9-fold increase in the odds of multiorgan failure (95% confidence interval for odds ratio, 1.2-12.0) compared with normal saline in patients with acute pancreatitis, wrote guideline authors Seth D. Crockett, MD, MPH, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and his associates. This trial and another randomized study found no mortality benefit for HES compared with fluid resuscitation. The evidence is “very low quality” but mirrors the critical care literature, according to the experts. So far, Ringer’s lactate solution and normal saline have shown similar effects on the risk of organ failure, necrosis, and mortality, but ongoing trials should better clarify this choice, they noted (Gastroenterology. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2018.01.032 ).

The guideline addresses the initial 2-week period of treating acute pancreatitis. It defines goal-directed fluid therapy as titration based on meaningful targets, such as heart rate, mean arterial pressure, central venous pressure, urine output, blood urea nitrogen concentration, and hematocrit. Studies of goal-directed fluid therapy in acute pancreatitis have been unblinded, have used inconsistent outcome measures, and have found no definite benefits over nontargeted fluid therapy, note the guideline authors. Nevertheless, they conditionally recommend goal-directed fluid therapy, partly because a randomized, blinded trial of patients with severe sepsis or septic shock (which physiologically resembles acute pancreatitis) had in-hospital mortality rates of 31% when they received goal-directed fluid therapy and 47% when they received standard fluid therapy (P = .0009).

The guideline recommends against routine use of two interventions: prophylactic antibiotics and urgent endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) for patients with acute pancreatitis. The authors note that no evidence supports routine prophylactic antibiotics for acute pancreatitis patients without cholangitis, and that urgent ERCP did not significantly affect the risk of mortality, multiorgan failure, single-organ failure, infected pancreatic and peripancreatic necrosis, or necrotizing pancreatitis in eight randomized controlled trials of patients with acute gallstone pancreatitis.

The guideline strongly recommends early oral feeding and enteral rather than parenteral nutrition for all patients with acute pancreatitis. In 11 randomized controlled trials, early and delayed feeding led to similar rates of mortality, but delayed feeding produced a 2.5-fold higher risk of necrosis (95% CI for OR, 1.4-4.4) and tended to increase the risk of infected peripancreatic necrosis, multiorgan failure, and total necrotizing pancreatitis, the authors wrote. In another 12 trials, enteral nutrition significantly reduced the risk of infected peripancreatic necrosis, single-organ failure, and multiorgan failure compared with parenteral nutrition.

Clinicians continue to debate cholecystectomy timing in patients with biliary or gallstone pancreatitis. The guidelines strongly recommend same-admission cholecystectomy, citing a randomized controlled trial in which this approach markedly reduced the combined risk of mortality and gallstone-related complications (OR, 0.2, 95% CI, 0.1-0.6), readmission for recurrent pancreatitis (OR, 0.3, 95% CI, 0.1-0.9), and pancreaticobiliary complications (OR, 0.2, 95% CI, 0.1-0.6). “The AGA issued a strong recommendation due to the quality of available evidence and the high likelihood of benefit from early versus delayed cholecystectomy in this patient population,” the experts stated.

Patients with biliary pancreatitis should be evaluated for cholecystectomy during the same admission, while those with alcohol-induced pancreatitis should receive a brief alcohol intervention, according to the guidelines, which also call for better studies of how alcohol and tobacco cessation measures affect risk of recurrent acute pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis, and pancreatic cancer, as well as quality of life, health care utilization, and mortality.

The authors also noted knowledge gaps concerning the relative benefits of risk stratification tools, the use of prophylactic antibiotics in patients with severe acute pancreatitis or necrotizing pancreatitis, and the timing of ERCP in patients with severe biliary pancreatitis with persistent biliary obstruction.

The guideline was developed with sole funding by the AGA Institute with no external funding. The authors disclosed no relevant conflicts of interest.

Source: Crockett SD et al. Gastroenterology. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2018.01.032.