Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Oktoberfest does not cause pancreatitis

Well this is a relief. An article in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology followed the occurrence of acute pancreatitis (AP) in Germany. AP is a sudden swelling of the pancreas and is often caused by alcoholism. I have seen a case of AP during my hospital internship; it looked like someone was about to give birth to a keg of beer. Researchers at the University of Munich followed hospital admissions with AP at various times during the year. They found that the incidence of AP did not increase during Oktoberfest. However, the incidence of AP was higher than previously described and there was an increase at another time of year. There was actually an increase in AP before Oktoberfest. This coincided with the last 18 days of the Bavarian summer holidays. This was consistent with another study that found holiday periods increased the incidence of AP in Finland.
There were several theories on these findings. AP is generally caused by chronic alcoholism and might not be increased by a 16 day event. Patients might develop AP after leaving Munich; this is unlikely because AP develops rapidly over 48 hours. High alcohol spirits tend to increase the risk of AP more than low alcohol beverages like beer.

Other interesting facts about acute pancreatitis:
85% of AP cases are mild and resolve on their own
3% of AP cases are fatal
Finland has the highest rates of alcoholic AP
Risk factors for developing AP are being male, younger, taller, chronic intake of alcohol and nicotine and have a lower body mass index.

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