Patients with acute pancreatitis were studied by arginine infusion at 48–72 h, 7–10 days, and 18–21 days after onset of their illness. Plasma glucose, insulin, and glucagon values were determined. Acute pancreatitis was characterized by fasting hyperglycemia and hyperglucagonemia, associated with relative hypoinsulinemia. Arginine stimulation early in the disease (48–72 h) demonstrated hyperglycemia and hyperglucagonemia, which normalized by 18–21 days. Both phases of the normal biphasic insulin response to arginine were decreased during the initial arginine infusion. By 18–21 days, although the first phase was completely normal, the second phase of insulin secretion remained depressed.
Acute pancreatitis is associated with damage to both the endocrine and exocrine pancreas. Glucose intolerance seen with this disease appears to be the result of hyperglucagonemia and relative hypoinsulinemia. Although the healing process at 3 wk is associated with return of plasma glucose and glucagon concentrations to normal, the impaired second phase insulin secretion persists.