Role of the Gut Barrier in Acute Pancreatitis


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Abstract

The small intestine is one of the distant organs that become damaged during severe acute pancreatitis, due to microcirculation disturbance associated with loss of fluids in the “third space,” hypovolemia, splanchnic vasoconstriction, and finally an ischemia-reperfusion injury. In this scenario, the gut acts as the starter for severe systemic complications, as the failure of the intestinal barrier is associated with translocation of bacteria and inflammatory and toxic products produced in the intestinal wall, which can be responsible for sepsis and infection of the necrotic pancreas and for systemic inflammatory response. Therefore, one of the main goals of treatment in the early phases of severe acute pancreatitis should be to maintain the integrity of the gut barrier in the small intestine. These strategies include appropriate fluid resuscitation to limit the damage due to the relative hypovolemia and early enteral feeding. The role of intravenous antibiotics to prevent infection of the pancreatic necrosis is controversial and the role of probiotics, which seemed a promising tool in vitro and in early clinical trials, needs to be further investigated to better understand the effects of the single specific strains at various doses and timing before designing new clinical trials.

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