Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) is most commonly caused by excessive and chronic alcohol use. But, this condition can also occur when the duct draining the gallbladder gets blocked by a gallstone. The ducts draining the gallbladder (cystic duct and common bile duct) and pancreas into the duodenum can be quite close and a stone blocking the gallbladder drainage can also block the pancreas from draining. The pancreas is quite sensitive to this backup of fluid and can become inflamed.
Pancreatitis is a serious condition and can be quite painful for the patient. If the cause is a gallstone most surgeons advise that the patient should have a period of bowel rest (nothing by mouth or at the very minimum clear liquids only) until the inflammation subsides and then removal of the gallbladder and stones blocking the ducts. This is done preferably during the same hospitalization when the pancreas became inflamed. Studies have shown that this condition will reoccur in up to 50% of patients within six weeks if the gallbladder and stones are not removed.