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Probiotics May Increase Risk of Death in Those With Acute Pancreatitis
Probiotics May Increase Risk of Death in Those With Acute Pancreatitis

(February 15, 2008 - Insidermedicine) Adding "healthy" bacteria, known as probiotics, to the nutrition of patients with severe, acute pancreatitis provides no benefits and may even increase the risk of death, according to research published in The Lancet.

Here are some facts about severe, acute pancreatitis:

•    A major cause for concern with this condition is the development of complications related to infection. About one-fifth of patients with severe, acute pancreatitis develop an infection called necrotising pancreatitis, which has a 10 to 30% death rate.

•    These infections are believed to be a result of overgrowth of bacteria normally living in the small bowel.

•    Researchers have suggested that supplementing patients with probiotics might help prevent this overgrowth, thus reducing the infection rate.

Researchers from the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands randomly divided nearly 300 patients with severe, acute pancreatitis to one of two groups. The first group received probiotics in combination with the nutrition they were being fed through a tube for four weeks. The second group received a placebo.

While the infection rate was around 30% in both groups, far more patients died in the group receiving the probiotics than the group receiving the placebo. In fact, the death rate in the probiotic group was 16%, compared with only 6% in the placebo group. A common cause of death in the probiotic group was reduced blood flow to the small bowel – a complication that did not occur in any of the patients taking a placebo.

Today's research demonstrates the potential dangers of giving probiotics, once thought to be harmless, through a feeding tube to critically ill patients.

For Insidermedicine in Depth, I'm Dr. Susan Sharma.

 
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