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Chronic pancreatitis 

Chronic pancreatitis
Chronic pancreatitis

Marco J. Bruno

, and Djuna L. Cahen

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date: 25 February 2021

Chronic pancreatitis is a major source of morbidity, loss in quality of life, and healthcare expenditure. It is most commonly caused by chronic alcoholism in adults and cystic fibrosis in children, but there are many other causes. Patients typically present with severe abdominal pain, but this may vary and even be absent. Exo- and endocrine insufficiency usually occur late in the disease course and reflect permanent loss of pancreatic parenchyma due to ongoing inflammation and fibrosis, exocrine insufficiency manifesting as steatorrhea and weight loss due to fat maldigestion and endocrine insufficiency as diabetes mellitus. Diagnosis is confirmed by imaging investigations such as CT, MRI, and endoscopic ultrasonography. Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography to diagnose chronic pancreatitis is obsolete. Hormone stimulation tests (e.g. secretin–cholecystokinin stimulation test) to diagnose exocrine insufficiency are largely abandoned because of their complexity and burden to patients. They are replaced by faecal elastase testing, even though this test is less sensitive. Management focuses on the treatment of pain using a stepwise approach. Initially, nonopioid analgesics are prescribed. Next, when feasible, endoscopic therapy is initiated, including pancreatic stone fragmentation by extracorporeal shock-wave lithotripsy, endotherapy to remove stone fragments, and placement of plastic stents to dilate any concomitant pancreatic duct stricture. If that fails or when, for example, the pancreatic head is enlarged, surgical intervention is indicated. Medical management includes enteric-coated pancreatic enzyme preparations and treatment of diabetes mellitus, usually by means of insulin. Abstinence from alcohol and smoking cessation are important predictors of disease and treatment outcome.

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