The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes through the pancreatic duct. Digestive enzymes mix with bile from the gallbladder to digest food. Acute pancreatitis, most often occurs when gallstones lodge in the common bile duct, the duct that connects the liver, gallbladder and pancreas to the small intestine. Blockage in the common bile duct can cause liver enzymes to rise and can lead to inflammation of the pancreas.
Inflammation in the liver develops if gallstones block the common bile duct and bile backs up into the liver, causing damage. Damage to liver and bone tissues causes an increase in blood levels of alkaline phosphatase, and enzyme produced mainly in liver and bone.
Rising alkaline phosphatase levels require investigation to determine the cause. Symptoms of pancreatitis include pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen that may also extend to your back. Nausea and vomiting often occur with possible swelling and tenderness in the abdomen, making it tender when touched. Fever and a rapid pulse may also occur. People with pancreatitis look and feel quite ill.
Blood tests can diagnose high alkaline phosphatase levels. Elevated alkaline phosphatase levels can occur in a number of diseases, not just pancreatitis. In pancreatitis, liver enzymes, including alkaline phosphatase, may rise rapidly when the pain first begins and then fall over the next one to two days, according to Christopher E. Forsmark in “Pancreatitis and Its Complications.” Elevated levels of amylase and lipase, two enzymes produced in the pancreas, also occurs. The pancreas lies deep within the abdominal cavity, making pancreatitis difficult to diagnose, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders. Abdominal ultrasound, a CT scan or an MRI help diagnose pancreatitis, along with clinical symptoms and lab work.
If a gallstone blocks the common bile duct, removal of the gallbladder and any stones will remove the blockage and allow inflammation of the pancreas to heal. Acute pancreatitis could cause acute kidney failure, which could lead to a need for dialysis or a kidney transplant. Pancreatitis can also lead to pseudocysts -- tissue and debris buildup in the pancreas that can push toxins into the bloodstream, heart, lungs or other organs.