Patients with chronic pancreatitis have persistent inflammation of the
pancreas. Over time, permanent damage occurs, often leading to fibrosis
(scarring) and loss of function of the organ. Complications include pseudocyst
formation, narrowing or blockage of bile ducts, and bile duct leaks.
Chronic pancreatitis most often is caused by heavy alcohol use, but it
also may develop as a result of structural damage caused by an episode
of acute pancreatitis. Inherited and autoimmune diseases are other
Symptoms vary, but most patients will have persistent upper abdominal
pain. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, oily and
foul-smelling stools, and weight loss.
If chronic pancreatitis is suspected, our specialists perform a thorough
evaluation to confirm the diagnosis and pinpoint a cause. In addition to
a detailed history and physical examination, blood tests, urine and
stool tests, and imaging studies, one or more of the following tests may
Specific tests for inherited and autoimmune causes of
Treatment is tailored to the specific cause of chronic pancreatitis and
the severity of the condition. The goals are to relieve pain, improve
the function of the pancreas, and prevent or treat complications.
General therapy. General treatment
recommendations for all patients are to avoid alcohol, eat
smaller and more frequent meals, avoid high-fat foods, and stop
smoking (if patients smoke).
Medical therapy consists of the use of
pancreatic enzyme supplements and, if needed, pain medications.
Endoscopic therapy. Lankenau specialists have
expertise in a wide range of advanced endoscopy procedures for
treating underlying causes or complications of chronic
pancreatitis. For example, procedures are available to crush or
remove stones lodged in the pancreatic duct, close a pancreatic
duct leak, or relieve obstructions (balloon dilation and stent
For more information, call 1.866.CALL.MLH.