Background: A causal relationship between acute pancreatitis and administration of glucocorticoids remains a matter of debate, since most of the reported cases were diagnosed with systemic vascular diseases (including systemic lupus erythematosus and polyarteritis nodosa) that may be responsible for the pancreatitis. Case presentation: We report a case of a 51-year-old woman who developed acute pancreatitis after receiving methylprednisolone pulse therapy for the treatment of fulminant autoimmune hepatitis (AIH). She was admitted to our hospital because of overt jaundice and back pain. Since her liver dysfunction deteriorated progressively, a liver biopsy was performed and a diagnosis of AIH was established. She was given intravenous methylprednisolone pulse therapy at 1000 mg/day for 3 days, and oral prednisolone at 40 mg/day thereafter. While her liver function improved rapidly, she started complaining of mild back pain and serum amylase and lipase levels were elevated from 5 days after the initiation of steroid therapy. A CT scan revealed mildly edematous changes around the pancreas, leading to a diagnosis of acute pancreatitis. After tapering off prednisolone, back pain disappeared, and elevated serum amylase was normalized without exacerbation of AIH. A systematic literature review identified 8 cases of acute pancreatitis developing after administration of corticosteroid pulse therapy with a median latent period of 5 days. Conclusions: The present case and reports in the literature suggest that steroid pulse therapy may cause acute pancreatitis in patients having no signs of systemic vasculitis. Keywords: Steroid pulse therapy, Autoimmune hepatitis, Acute pancreatitis, Short-term tapering Background with pancreatitis  or given medications known to Acute pancreatitis has been reported to be a rare, albeit cause pancreatitis (such as anticancer drugs) . Here, severe, adverse reaction associated with administration we report a 51-year-old woman who developed acute of corticosteroids . However, the causal relationship pancreatitis after receiving steroid pulse therapy for the between corticosteroid treatment and pancreatitis re- treatment of fulminant autoimmune hepatitis (AIH), mains controversial, since many reported cases were ei- which is not known to cause pancreatitis. We also dis- ther diagnosed with systemic vasculitis [such as systemic cuss the causal relationship in the light of previous re- lupus erythematosus (SLE)] that may be complicated ports retrieved by a systematic literature survey. * Correspondence: email@example.com Departments of Pharmacy, Shin-Yurigaoka General Hospital, 255 Case presentation Furusawa-tsuko, Asao-ku, Kawasaki, Kanagawa 215-0026, Japan A well-nourished 51-year-old woman visited our hospital Department of Pharmacotherapy, Meiji Pharmaceutical University, 2-522-1 because of fatigue, overt jaundice, and back pain on Noshio, Kiyose, Tokyo 204-8588, Japan Full list of author information is available at the end of the article March 2016 (day 1). In the present article, each of the © The Author(s). 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated. Nango et al. Journal of Pharmaceutical Health Care and Sciences (2018) 4:14 Page 2 of 5 important clinical events occurred during the clinical alanine aminotransferase, serum aspartate aminotransfer- course of the patient was described by “days” after the pa- ase, and serum alkaline phosphatase were 17.48 mg/dL, tient’s first visit to our hospital. The patient was afebrile 1099 U/L, 708 U/L, and 460 U/L, respectively. Percent and had no arthralgia. Physical examination revealed ic- prothrombin time (PT%) also decreased to 77%, indicating teric sclera but no signs of facial erythema. No lymph- ongoing acute hepatic decompensation. A CT scan re- adenopathy was detected. Chest and abdominal findings vealed no signs of bile duct stenosis, cholelithiasis, and were noncontributory. No bruise was observed on the ab- neoplasms in the hepato-pancreatic region. domen. She was taking no medications. Laboratory data Figure 1 shows the time courses of clinical events, la- obtained at the first visit are shown in Table 1.Serum boratory data and medications given to the patient during amylase and calcium levels were normal. The titers of an- her hospitalization. On the 12th day, a percutaneous tinuclear antibody and anti-mitochondrial antibody were fine-needle aspiration biopsy of the liver was performed. within normal limits. IgM antibodies for hepatitis viruses Histopathological examination revealed minimal to mild Bc, A and E were negative. Her medical history included portal inflammation, mild interface hepatitis, and serious cholecystectomy due to gall bladder polyps and cholelith- intralobular focal necrosis with plasmocytic infiltration. iasis one year earlier, uterine myoma left untreated, and Inflammation was also seen around biliary canaliculi. Ac- undefined complaints tentatively diagnosed as autonomic cording to the current diagnostic criteria of AIH [4, 5], the imbalance. She did not smoke or drink alcohol. When she patient had an AIH score of 12 points. AIH scores of 10 revisited for follow-up first days later, she was admitted to 15 points are consistent with a probable diagnosis, and emergently because of severely deteriorated liver function scores ≥ 16 points with a definite diagnosis. (day 5). Serum concentrations of total bilirubin, serum Since we judged that development of liver failure was imminent, we began corticosteroid pulse therapy with 1000 mg/day of methylprednisolone for 3 days under a diagnosis of fulminant AIH (day 17). After completion Table 1 Laboratory data of the patient at the first visit of the pulse therapy, oral prednisolone was started at Peripheral blood Blood chemistry Serological tests 40 mg/day. Famotidine (40 mg/day) was also given to counts prevent gastric mucosal injury. Five days after the com- WBC 3700 (/μL) TP 7.6 (g/dL) HBs antigen (−) mencement of steroid pulse therapy (day 21), the patient RBC 451 (10 /μL) Alb 4.1 (g/dL) HCV antibody (−) developed mild back pain. And then, serum amylase and lipase levels abruptly increased to 575 U/L and 582 U/L, Hb 13.7 (g/dL) T-Bil 5.54 (mg/dL) ANA ×20 (normal range < × 20) respectively. Since a plain CT scan revealed mild swell- Ht 40.7 (%) D-Bil 4.14 (mg/dL) IgG 2010 (mg/dL) ing around the pancreatic head (Fig. 2), a diagnosis of acute pancreatitis was made (day 23). Assuming that the MCV 90 (fl) AST 577 (U/L) IgA 283 (mg/dL) development of acute pancreatitis was associated with MCH 30.4 (pg) ALT 1055 (U/L) IgM 215 (mg/dL) administration of corticosteroids, we started tapering off MCHC 33.7 (g/dL) ALP 503 (U/L) AMA-M2 1.6 prednisolone (day 24). Since we were concerned that an (normal range < 7) abrupt withdrawal of prednisolone might have exacer- Platelet 8.8 (10 /μL) LDH 338 (U/L) IgM-HBc (−) bated AIH, we underwent an accelerated tapering off of CRP 0.17 (mg/dL) γ-GTP 241 (U/L) IgM-HA (−) the prednisolone doses according to the schedule shown Amylase 82 (U/L) IgA-HE (−) in Fig. 1. Specifically, we reduced 5 to 10 mg/day every 1 BUN 10.8 (mg/dL) to 3 days from 40 mg/day to 10 mg/day. We monitored serum liver enzymes frequently over the following Creatinine 0.42 (mg/dL) 10 days and detected no signs of reactivation of AIH. Na 140 (mEq/L) After an uneventful clinical course, the patient was dis- charged from hospital with a maintenance dose of pred- K 4.1 (mEq/L) nisolone (10 mg/day) on the 33rd day after admission. Cl 106 (mEq/L) Calcium 8.7 (mg/dL) Literature search Abbreviations: WBC white blood cell, RBC red blood cell, Hb hemoglobin, Ht We searched the MEDLINE® database and the medical hematocrit, MCV mean cell volume, MCH mean corpuscular hemoglobin, MCHC mean cell hemoglobin concentration, Alb serum albumin, T-Bil serum total journal database of Japan Medical Abstracts Society for bilirubin, D-Bil serum direct bilirubin, AST serum aspartate aminotransferase, case reports describing the development of acute pan- ALT serum alanine aminotransferase, ALP serum alkaline phosphatase, LDH creatitis after administration of corticosteroid pulse ther- serum lactate dehydrogenase, γ-GTP serum γ-glutamyl transpeptidase, BUN blood urea nitrogen, HBs hepatitis B surface, HCV hepatitis C virus, ANA apy. For MEDLINE® search the following combinations antinuclear antibody, IgG immunoglobulin G, IgA immunoglobulin a, IgM of MeSH® vocabulary terms were used: “adrenal cortex immunoglobulin M, AMA anti-mitochondrial antibody, HBc hepatitis B core, HA hepatitis a, HE hepatitis E hormones”[MeSH Terms] OR “steroids”[MeSH Terms]) Nango et al. Journal of Pharmaceutical Health Care and Sciences (2018) 4:14 Page 3 of 5 Fig. 1 The clinical course of the present patient, with laboratory data and details of methylprednisolone pulse therapy and subsequent oral prednisolone. Each of the important clinical events occurred during the clinical course of the patient was described by “days” after the patient’s first visit to our hospital. Abbreviations: CT = computed tomography, T-Bil = serum total bilirubin, ALT = serum alanine aminotransferase, Amy = serum amylase, mPSL = methylprednisolone, PSL = prednisolone, PT = prothrombin time and “pancreatitis”[MeSH Terms] AND Case Reports Abstracts Society). The synopses of the cases including [ptyp] and “humans”[MeSH Terms] and (English [lang] the present case are summarized in Table 2. OR Japanese [lang]). For the search of Japan Medical Abstracts Society, the following combinations of search Discussion terms were used: (((pancreatitis / TH) AND (adrenal We believe that the present case report provides another cortex hormone / TH)) and (PT = case report)) and line of evidence supporting the causality between the ad- (“pulse therapy (drug treatment)” / TH). We retrieved ministration of corticosteroid pulse therapy and the de- eight relevant cases of acute pancreatitis (2 from MED- velopment of acute pancreatitis. In the present case, the LINE® and 6 from the database of Japan Medical diagnosis of acute pancreatitis was definite, since it was made not only based on clinical symptoms and bio- chemical data but was confirmed by CT images. In con- trast, the causal relationship between the administration of corticosteroid and the development of acute pancrea- titis can only be inferred by exclusion of other possible causes. Acute pancreatitis has been reported to be asso- ciated with diverse clinical conditions such as cholelith- iasis, heavy alcohol consumption, hypertriglyceridemia, hypercalcemia, pancreatic divisum, systemic vasculitis such as SLE, polyarteritis nodosa, trauma, viral infection (such as mumps) and drug use. While our patient had a medical history of cholelithiasis and gallbladder polyps, she underwent cholecystectomy one year earlier and the possibility of recurrent cholelithiasis or malignancy at the hepato-pancreatic region was excluded by the find- Fig. 2 The CT image taken on Day 23 showing edematous changes ings obtained from repeated CT scan examinations. In around the head of pancreas (denoted by arrows). The finding is addition, she had never consumed alcohol or smoked compatible with a diagnosis of acute pancreatitis before developing acute pancreatitis. While she took Nango et al. Journal of Pharmaceutical Health Care and Sciences (2018) 4:14 Page 4 of 5 Table 2 Previously reported cases and the present case of acute pancreatitis developing after administration of corticosteroid pulse therapy References Age (yr) / Primary Disease Cardinal Doses of steroids Peak serum Period for Concomitant drugs Outcome (year) Sex symptoms amylase (U/L) treatment at the episode (day) The present 51/F Autoimmune Back pain mPSL 1000 mg/day, 436 5 Famotidine Survived case hepatitis then PSL 60 mg/day Nishimoto 18/M Acute monocytic Abdominal mPSL 1000 mg/day 451 5 Cytarabine, imipenem/ Survived et al.  leukemia pain cilastatin, piperacillin/ (2014) tazobactam, vancomycin, meropenem Jimi et al.  70/F ANCA-associated Epigastric mPSL 1000 mg/day, 2400 5 NA Survived (2013) nephritis pain then PSL 35 mg/day Suganuma 2/M Kawasaki Disease Abdominal mPSL 15 mg/kg/day 2075 7 Flurbiprofen Survived et al.  pain (BW, 13.5 kg), then (2012) PSL 10 mg/day for 3 days, then 5 mg/day for 3 days Iwata et al. 9/F MPO-ANCA-associated Abdominal mPSL 30 mg/kg/day 159 5 Mizoribine Survived  (2010) glomerulonephritis pain (BW, 22.8 kg), then PSL 25 mg/day Tsuruoka 72/F ANCA-associated Back pain, mPSL 500 mg/day, 306 20 NA Died et al.  glomerulonephritis epigastric then PSL 20 mg/day (2008) pain Nakayama et al. 60/F MPO-ANCA-associated Epigastric mPSL 500 mg/day, 1519 5 Cyclophosphamide Survived  (2004) glomerulonephritis pain then PSL 40 mg/day Kotaka et al. 67/F Myasthenia gravis Back pain, mPSL 1 g/day 3593 2 NA Survived  (2002) vomiting Yoshizawa et al. 80/F Bullous pemphigoid Nausea, mPSL 1 g/day, then 1195 4 Alfacalcidol, Survived  (1999) epigastric PSL 30 mg/day calcium lactate, pain propentofylline, vinpocetine, omeprazole NA no information was available in original report, mPSL methylprednisolone, PSL prednisolone, BW body weight famotidine 40 mg/day during the corticosteroid pulse these cases remains inconclusive, since the patients treated therapy, a previous nested case-control study performed with corticosteroids were diagnosed with autoimmune dis- in UK reported no cases of idiopathic pancreatitis eases manifesting systemic vasculitis (such as SLE and poly- among current users of famotidine . Previous studies arthritis nodosa), which are sometimes complicated with suggested a dose-dependent risk of developing pancrea- pancreatitis irrespective of the administration of corticoste- titis during corticosteroid treatment, with thresholds of roids. Patients with antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody 25 mg/day for prednisolone . In this context, patients (ANCA)-associated glomerulonephritis have been reported receiving corticosteroid pulse therapy may have a higher to be complicated with acute pancreatitis [15–17]. In risk of developing pancreatitis than those receiving lower addition, patients affected by autoimmune diseases receive doses of corticosteroids. In addition, a previous population corticosteroids as well as immunosuppressive drugs (such based-cohort study suggested that acute pancreatitis de- as azathioprine) that are associated with high risk of devel- veloped between 4 and 14 days after the initiation of corti- oping pancreatitis. Our literature survey revealed that many costeroids . Our literature survey showed that 87.5% of cases of acute pancreatitis developing after administration the cases (7 out of 8 cases) developed pancreatitis within of corticosteroid pulse therapy were diagnosed with sys- 14 days after the initiation of corticosteroids. In our case, temic vasculitis (such as ANCA-associated glomeruloneph- pancreatitis developed 7 days after the initiation of steroid ritis) or were given pancreatitis-inducing drugs (such as therapy. Collectively, we consider that the development of cyclophosphamide). In contrast, the present case had pri- acute pancreatitis in the present case was most likely due mary diseases that are unlikely to be associated with pan- to the methylprednisolone pulse therapy. creatitis and received no drugs that may induce Many cases of acute pancreatitis in patients receiving cor- pancreatitis. Collectively, we considered that administration ticosteroids combined with other drugs have been reported of methylprednisolone pulse therapy rather than the pri- [9–14]. However, the causality between the administration mary disease was responsible for the pancreatitis. Based on of corticosteroids and development of acute pancreatitis in this clinical judgement, we withdrew prednisolone using a Nango et al. Journal of Pharmaceutical Health Care and Sciences (2018) 4:14 Page 5 of 5 short-term tapering method. No signs of exacerbation in 4. Alvarez F, Berg PA, Bianchi FB, Bianchi L, Burroughs AK, Cancado EL, et al. International autoimmune hepatitis group report: review of criteria for AIH activity were detected, probably because corticoste- diagnosis of autoimmune hepatitis. J Hepatol. 1999;31:929–38. roids are highly effective in suppressing the disease activity 5. Onji Morikazu, Zeniya M, Yamamoto K, Tsubouchi H. Diagnosis and treatment of AIH. 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Published: May 31, 2018