Severe upper abdominal pain, with radiation through to the back, is the hallmark of pancreatitis. Nausea and vomiting (emesis) are prominent symptoms.
Findings on the physical exam will vary according to the severity of the pancreatitis, and whether or not it is associated with significant internal bleeding.
The blood pressure may be high (when pain is prominent) or low (if internal bleeding or dehydration has occurred).
Typically, both the heart and respiratory rates are elevated. Abdominal tenderness is usually found but may be less severe than expected given the patient's degree of abdominal pain.
Bowel sounds may be reduced as a reflection of the reflex bowel paralysis (i.e. ileus) that may accompany any abdominal catastrophe.
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