When Pancreatitis Isn’t Just a GI Condition: A Nursing Guide with Nurse Mo

In this episode,  Nurse Mo from the Straight A Nursing will delve into pancreatitis – its definition, causes, pathophysiology, and its impact on various systems of the body despite being categorized as a gastrointestinal condition. Additionally, we will discuss significant assessment findings, diagnostic procedures, and treatment options related to pancreatitis.

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What is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the pancreas. It can be acute or chronic, and is often caused by alcohol abuse, gallstones, or certain medications. Pancreatitis can lead to a range of complications, such as severe pain, fluid loss, and even organ failure.

Why does pancreatitis cause fluid loss?

  1. Inflammation can cause the blood vessels in and around the pancreas to become damaged, leading to leakage of fluid from the bloodstream into the abdominal cavity and other tissues in the body.
  2. Severe vomiting and diarrhea can cause significant fluid loss from the body.

Signs and Symptoms of Pancreatitis

  • Severe pain in the upper abdomen that may radiate to the back or chest
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever and chills
  • ↑HR
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cullen’s sign and Turner’s sign in severe cases


  • Imaging: Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), CT, ultrasound
  • Chem panel to assess for elevated levels of pancreatic enzymes (amylase and lipase)


  • NPO
  • NGT for gastric decompression
  • Pain management
  • IV fluids for fluid resuscitation