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Causes of Pancreatitis

This is a favourite question by consultants on ward rounds and examiners. The purpose of this article is to provide you with a list to remember. I would recommend that you make up your own mnemonic so that you can retain it better. I would try and tailor your mnemonic so that the most common causes are presented first and then continue with the rarer causes.

The standard mnemonic for pancreatitis is ‘I GET SMASHED whilst pregnant’

I – idiopathic
G – gallstones – this is the 2nd most common cause behind alcoholism
E – ethanol / alcohol – this is probably the most common cause in western countries.
T – trauma – this in my mind also includes operative trauma (ERPC) as well as non-clinical trauma
S – steroids – rarer
M – Mumps or other virus infections such as EBV, CMV, Hepatitis B, and zoster
A – Autoimmune diseases such as SLE, sjogrens syndrome or PAN.
S – Scorpion bite – this is terribly rare outside of Trinidad where about 50 cases of Tityus trinitatis scorpion bite occurs each year that leads to pancreatitis. Probably not worth mentioning as a cause as you get pancreatitis very quickly after a bite and so it would be very rarely seen outside Trinidad.
H – hereditary such as cystic fibrosis or alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. This is probably more common than using ‘H’ for hyperlipidaemia, hypercalcaemia, hypothermia etc.
E – ERPC which I like to say in the trauma section as its so much more common and should not be at the bottom of the list.
D – drugs – again I try and remember to say this one at the start of the list as its more common than one would expect this low down on the list. Try and remember to say it when you mention steroids. Diuretics, sulfonamides, azathioprine are examples of drugs said to cause pancreatitis.
Whilst Pregnant – you are more likely to get pancreatitis when you are pregnant

Personally I think cancer should be higher up on the list – cancer of the pancreas, stomach, biliary tree can all cause pancreatitis. Try and remember it or make up your own mnemonic.


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