In acute pancreatitis, pancreatic inflammation may be complicated by the development of pancreatic infection with a high associated mortality. Pancreatic infection is related to the extent of pancreatic inflammation and necrosis and typically occurs in the second or third week of severe disease. It may be associated with a wide range of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, notably enterobacteria and also with Candida spp. Current surgical practice in the UK is to use prophylactic antimicrobial therapy in patients with severe disease, with the aim of preventing secondary pancreatic infection. Experimental evidence demonstrates that prophylactic antibacterial therapy prevents pancreatic infection and reduces mortality. Furthermore, studies of antibacterial prophylaxis in patients with acute pancreatitis suggest that prophylactic antibacterial therapy is associated with a reduction in mortality, particularly in those with severe disease. In general, broad-spectrum antibiotics have been used in animal and human studies. However, current evidence does not allow comparisons to be made between different antimicrobial agents. Nutritional strategies may also be important in the prevention of pancreatic infection. Enteral, rather than parenteral, nutrition has been associated with an improved clinical outcome in severe pancreatitis. (C) 2000 The Hospital Infection Society.
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