You were in the hospital because you have pancreatitis, or swelling of the pancreas
You may have had blood tests and imaging exams, such as a CT scan or ultrasound. You may have been given drugs to help your pain or fight and prevent infections. You likely were given fluids through an intravenous (IV) tube in your vein and nutrition through a feeding tube or IV. You may have had a tube inserted through your nose that helped remove the contents of your stomach.
If your pancreatitis was caused by gallstones or a blocked duct, you may have had surgery. Your doctor may also have drained a cyst (collection of fluid) in your pancreas.
After an episode of pain from pancreatitis, you should start off with drinking only clear liquids, such as soup broth or gelatin. Your doctor will ask you to follow this diet until your symptoms get better. Slowly add other foods back to your diet when you are better.
Talk with your doctor about:
Eating a healthy diet that is low in fat -- no more than 30 grams of fat per day
Eating foods that are high in protein and carbohydrates, but low in fat. Eat smaller meals, and eat more often. Your doctor or nurse will help make sure you are getting enough calories to not lose weight.
Quitting smoking, if you smoke (or chewing tobacco)
Losing weight, if you need to
Always talk to your doctor before taking any medicines or herbs.
Do NOT drink any alcohol.
If your body can no longer absorb fats that you eat, your doctor may ask you to take extra capsules, called pancreatic enzymes. These will help your body absorb fats in your food better.
You will need to take these pills with every meal. Your doctor or nurse will tell you how many.
When you take these enzymes, you may also need to take another medicine to decrease the acid in your stomach.
If your pancreas has a lot of damage, you may also develop diabetes. Your doctor will check for this problem.
Managing Your Pain
Avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and foods that make your symptoms worse is the first step to controlling pain.
Use acetaminophen (Tylenol) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), at first to try and control your pain.
Your doctor will also give you a prescription for pain medicines. Get it filled when you go home so you have it available. If the pain is getting worse, take your pain medicine to help before the pain becomes very bad.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your doctor or nurse if you have:
Very bad pain that is not relieved by over-the-counter drugs
Problems eating, drinking, or taking your drugs because of nausea or vomiting
Problems breathing or a very fast heartbeat
Pain with fever, chills, frequent vomiting, or with feeling faint, weak, or tired
Weight loss or problems digesting your food
Yellow color to your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
Banks PA, Freeman ML; Practice Parameters Committee of the American College of Gastroenterology. Practice guidelines in acute pancreatitis. Am J Gastroenterol. 2006 Oct;101(10):2379-400.
Frossard JL, Steer ML, Pastor CM. Acute pancreatitis. Lancet. 2008;371:143-152
Tenner S. Steinberg WM. Acute pancreatitis. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 58.
George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.