Gardner TB, et al. Am J Gastroenterol 2020.
Chronic pancreatitis (CP) is historically defined as an irreversible inflammatory condition of the pancreas leading to varying degrees of exocrine and endocrine dysfunction. Recently however, the paradigm for the diagnosis has changed in that it breaks with the traditional clinicopathologic-based definition of disease, focusing instead on diagnosing the underlying pathologic process early in the disease course and managing the syndrome more holistically to change the natural course of disease and minimize adverse disease effects. Currently, the most accepted mechanistically derived definition of CP is a pathologic fibroinflammatory syndrome of the pancreas in individuals with genetic, environmental, and/or other risk factors who develop persistent pathologic responses to parenchymal injury or stress. The most common symptom of CP is abdominal pain, with other symptoms such as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency and diabetes developing at highly variable rates. CP is most commonly caused by toxins such as alcohol or tobacco use, genetic polymorphisms, and recurrent attacks of acute pancreatitis, although no history of acute pancreatitis is seen in many patients. Diagnosis is made usually on cross-sectional imaging, with modalities such as endoscopic ultrasonography and pancreatic function tests playing a secondary role. Total pancreatectomy represents the only known cure for CP, although difficulty in patient selection and the complications inherent to this intervention make it usually an unattractive option. This guideline will provide an evidence-based practical approach to the diagnosis and management of CP for the general gastroenterologist.