- Pancreatitis facts*
- What is pancreatitis?
- What are the causes of acute pancreatitis?
- What are the symptoms of acute pancreatitis?
- How is acute pancreatitis diagnosed?
- How is acute pancreatitis treated?
- What is chronic pancreatitis?
- What are the symptoms of chronic pancreatitis?
- How is chronic pancreatitis diagnosed?
- How is chronic pancreatitis treated?
- How common is pancreatitis in children?
- Hope through research
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- Patient Comments: Pancreatitis - Describe Your Experience
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*Pancreatitis facts medical author: Charles P. Davis, MD, PhD
- Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, the organ that secretes
digestive enzymes into the gastrointestinal tract; it also synthesizes and
secretes insulin and
- Pancreatitis may be caused by
gallstones (by blocking the pancreatic duct
outlet), chronic alcohol use, trauma, medications, infections, tumors, and
- Acute pancreatitis with upper
abdominal pain that is often severe and
constant over several days, and may be accompanied by
tachycardia, and abdominal swelling; severe cases can develop
blood pressure, shock, organ failure, and death.
- Acute pancreatitis is diagnosed preliminarily by the patient's history,
physical exam and the levels of amylase and lipase in the blood (elevated in
pancreatitis patients); other tests such as abdominal
endoscopic ultrasound, or MCRP (Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography) may
be done to detect gallstones or to identify the damaged pancreas and other blood
tests may need to be done (glucose and
- Acute pancreatitis is usually treated by hospitalization for IV fluid
administration (and often antibiotics) as the patient is not to eat or drink for
a few days; many patients will require an
ERCP, a procedure that allows a
flexible tube with attachments, including a camera, to be inserted into the
ducts that empty into the GI tract and can be used to do several procedures such
as gallstone removal, sphincterotomy, and others to help treat the patient.
- Chronic pancreatitis is pancreatic inflammation that does not heal, gets
worse over time and results in permanent pancreatic damage; the most common
cause is heavy alcohol use over years, but conditions such as hereditary
disorders, cystic fibrosis, autoimmune problems and other causes result in
- Chronic pancreatitis has many of the same symptoms of acute, but may
oily stools and
- Chronic pancreatitis is diagnosed essentially the same way acute is
diagnosed and is often confused with acute pancreatitis; a good history of
chronic problems that includes an accurate alcohol intake history, weight loss
history or family history can help make the differential diagnosis.
- Chronic pancreatitis is treated similar to acute, but the hospital stay may
be prolonged because of the need for pain, fluid and nutritional support;
synthetic enzymes may be prescribed when a more normal diet can be consumed by
- Pancreatitis in children is rare, but can occur secondary to hereditary
disease or trauma to the pancreas; often in these rare instances, the cause is
- Research is ongoing at the NIH (National Institutes of Health) to further understand causes and develop treatments for all types of pancreatitis.
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