Small gallstones could be the cause of idiopathic pancreatitis in up to 10–20% of cases, a new study from the University of Eastern Finland has found. The multicenter study randomized first-time idiopathic pancreatitis patients into a surgery group containing 39 patients, and a control group containing 46 patients. Pancreatitis recurred in 14 people in the control group and just 4 people in the surgery group, during an average follow up time of 3 years.
The small gallstones — which went undetected during repeated abdominal ultrasounds before surgery — were found in two out of three surgery patients. Idiopathic pancreatitis is mostly attributed to alcohol and cholelithiasis in Finland though the cause of many cases remains unclear. This new research could shed light on such instances in which alcohol nor cholelithiasis don’t appear to be the instigator, resulting in a potential change of treatment for many patients.
The study also analyzed the link between pancreatitis and statins. Statins dissolve gallstones, as previous studies on animals have shown, and may reduce their size in humans enabling them to travel from the gallbladder to the pancreatic duct, manifesting as pancreatitis.
Separate studies have shown further possible risk between statin use and idiopathic pancreatitis. One such study by Kuopio University Hospital, containing a sample of 461 acute pancreatitis patients and 1,140 cholelithiasis patients, as well as 272 statin patients and 272 control patients, found that idiopathic pancreatitis was more common in statin users than non-users. Another study by the Finnish Medicines Agency involved all Finnish cases of pancreatitis between 2008–2010 that was not caused by alcohol or cholelithiasis. Researchers found a significant rise in the risk of acute pancreatitis for statin users especially during the first year.
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