Chronic Pancreatitis: Epidemiology, Diagnosis, and Management Updates

Link to article at PubMed

Drugs. 2020 Jul 9. doi: 10.1007/s40265-020-01360-6. Online ahead of print.


Chronic pancreatitis is a clinical entity that results from the progressive inflammation and irreversible fibrosis of the pancreas resulting from the cumulative injury sustained by the pancreas over time. It is an illness with variable presentations that can severely impact quality of life, while its long-term complications such as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), diabetes mellitus, and risk of pancreatic cancer can become life threatening. The diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis can be challenging as despite the recent advancements in imaging technology, the radiographic findings do not become prominent until late stages of disease. Thus, the physicians' clinical acumen in obtaining thorough history taking focusing on risk factors, clinical symptoms, in addition to high-quality imaging, often guide to the accurate diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis. Endoscopy also plays a pivotal role in the diagnosis and management of chronic pancreatitis. Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is believed to be the most sensitive modality for diagnosing chronic pancreatitis. Despite efforts, however, natural history studies have demonstrated that 61% of individuals with chronic pancreatitis will require at least one endoscopic intervention, while 31% will require a surgical procedure as part of their management strategy. Recent advancements in genomic studies have furthered our understanding of the genetic polymorphisms that are associated with the pathogenesis of chronic pancreatitis. Genetic testing offers the potential to reveal treatable pancreatitis-related disorders, and can inform decision making with regard to radical therapies for persistent or severe disease such as total pancreatectomy with islet autotransplantation (TPIAT). The management of patients suffering from chronic pancreatitis often requires a multi-disciplinary approach, addressing pertinent symptoms as well as the sequelae of chronic inflammation and fibrosis. Abdominal pain is the prevailing symptom and most common complication of chronic pancreatitis, and impairs quality of life. Although heavily dependent on a wide range of analgesia, endoscopic treatment such as endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) and surgical intervention can offer long-lasting relief of symptoms. For EPI, treatment with pancreatic enzyme supplements offers marginal-to-moderate relief. The most feared complication of chronic pancreatitis-the development of pancreatic cancer-has no known prevention measure to date.

PMID:32647920 | DOI:10.1007/s40265-020-01360-6

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