CHICAGO (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Despite its intermittent and unpredictable nature, recurrent acute pancreatitis exacts a significant toll on patients’ physical and mental quality of life.
It is well-known that patients with chronic pancreatitis suffer physically and emotionally. However, the same understanding has not been engendered for those who experience recurrent acute pancreatitis (RAP), Gregory A. Cote, MD , said at the annual Digestive Disease Week®. Sporadic episodes of acute pancreatitis may cause persistent declines in quality of life.
An analysis of patient data obtained through the North American Pancreatitis Studies starkly clarified this issue, said Dr. Cote of the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston.
“RAP clearly leads to a significant reduction in physical and mental quality of life, despite its erratic and sporadic nature,” Dr. Cote said. “Smoking and self-reported disability are very important drivers of these reductions, and a concomitant diagnosis of diabetes exacerbates that even further.”
To explore RAP’s impact on mental and physical quality of life, Dr. Cote examined data from three related cross-sectional North American Pancreatitis Studies (NAPS): the NAPS2, NAPS2-CV (Continuation and Validation), and NAPS2-AS (Ancillary Study).
These studies comprised 2,619 subjects who were enrolled at 27 U.S. sites from 2000 to 2014. Both patients and their physicians completed detailed baseline questionnaires that included personal and family history, risk factors, symptoms, and the 12-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-12), a detailed quality of life measure.
A score of 50 is the mean for the U.S. general population, and a difference of 3 points or more is considered clinically relevant, Dr. Cote noted.
He parsed the cohort into three groups: those with RAP (508), those with chronic pancreatitis (1,086), and a reference group of healthy controls who were also in the database (1,025).
Some significant between-group differences were immediately obvious, Dr. Cote said. Patients with RAP were significantly younger than both chronic pancreatitis patients (CP) and controls (45 vs. 51 and 49 years, respectively). They also experienced their first bout of acute pancreatitis sooner than CP patients became symptomatic (40 vs. 44 years). Gender was a factor as well: CP patients were more often men (55% vs. 46%).
The pattern of alcohol use between the groups was difficult to interpret, he said. About one-quarter of RAP patients abstained, another fourth were light drinkers, and another fourth moderate drinkers – 12% drank heavily and 7% very heavily. In contrast, frequent drinking was more common among CP patients, with 12% reporting that they drank heavily and 33% very heavily.
CP patients were significantly more likely to be smokers, with 75% reporting current or past tobacco use, compared with 55% of RAP patients. More RAP patients reported never smoking (44% vs. 25%).
RAP patients fell between CP patients and controls in terms of medical comorbidities, including diabetes, renal disease or kidney failure, heart disease, and liver disease.
On the SF-12 physical component section, RAP patients scored a mean of 41 points – significantly worse than controls (51) but significantly better than CP patients (37). The findings were similar for the mental component score: RAP patients scored a mean of 45, compared with 52 in controls and 43 in CP patients.
Dr. Cote performed a multivariate analysis that controlled for age, sex, tobacco and alcohol use, and diabetes. Again, he found that, compared with controls, RAP was associated with significantly reduced scores on both the physical and mental components (mean 8.5 and 6.5 points, respectively).
“The magnitude of reduction was even greater for chronic pancreatitis, with an 11-point reduction on the physical component score and a 7.6-point reduction on the mental component score.
He then sought to identify which clinical characteristics most contributed to this impact on quality of life.
On the physical component score, several were significant, including female sex, which was associated with a 4.4-point decrease; prior pancreatic surgery (–3.3); endocrine insufficiency (–4.6); past smoking (–2.5); current smoking (–3.6); and self-reported physical disability (–9.5).
The mental component score breakdown echoed some of these. Self-reported disability exerted the largest impact, bringing the mental score down by a mean of 5.4 points. Other significant factors were smoking less than a pack a day (–2.5) and smoking more than a pack a day (–4.6). Any suspicion of chronic pancreatitis by the treating physician was associated with a 2.9-point decrease on the score.
“Our findings stress that this is not a disease that can be followed conservatively. We have to investigate interventions that will attenuate it, not only because these patients may go on to develop chronic pancreatitis but because, in their current state, most are experiencing significant reductions in their quality of life.”
Dr Cote had no financial disclosures.
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