|Video: Chronic Pancreatitis Overview|
Overview Chronic pancreatitis is characterised by recurrent or persistent abdominal pain arising from the pancreas. The inflammatory process results in irreversible destruction and fibrosis of the pancreas. Often associated with exocrine or endocrine pancreatic insufficiency.
Acute Pancreatitis: An inflammatory process in which pancreatic enzymes are activated and cause autodigestion of the gland.
Chronic Pancreatitis: Irreversible damage causing fibrosis and scarring to the pancreas, resulting in exocrine and endocrine dysfunction
Pancreatic pseudocyst: Cystic space within the pancreas not lined by epithelial cells, often associated with chronic pancreatitis.
Pancreas anatomy and physiology
Pancreatic anatomy Pancreas extends retroperitoneally across posterior abdominal wall. It means “All (pan) Flesh (Kreas)”. The pancreas consists of the following parts:
The head is encircled by duodenum and tail in contact with spleen. Pancreas has a poorly developed capsule & therefore adjacent structures (common bile duct, duodenum, splenic vein, transverse colon) are commonly involved in inflammatory process.
- Pancreatic branches of the splenic artery
- Superior pancreaticoduodenal artery
- Inferior pancreaticoduodenal artery
- Drains with the splenic vein → Superior Mesenteric → Portal vein
- Parasympathetic → Vagus nerve → Stimulates pancreatic juice secretion
- Head and Neck → Pancreticoduodenal nodes →
- Body and Tail → Pancreaticosplenic nodes →
- Fusion of the ventral and doral outpounchings of forgut
Pancreatic physiology exocrine (98%) & endocrine (2%) functions
Exocrine: Pancreatic acinar cells produce digestive enzymes, which are stored in secretory granules. The Pancreatic exocrine secretion is regulated by cephalic, gastric & intestinal stimuli. Acinar cells secrete pancreatic juice made up the enzymes:
- Amylase → Carbohydrate digestion
- Lipase → Lipid digestion after bile has emulsified the fat
- Proteases (MANY!) → Protein digestion
Exocrine section is stimulated by:
- Vagus nerve
- Secretin (hormone)
Endocrine: Islets of Langerhans – clusters of hormone-producing cells secreted directly into circulation. Endocrine cells of the pancreas:
- Beta cells → Insulin
- Alpha cells → Glucagon
- D cells → Somatostatin.
|Cells of the Pancreas||Secretion||Function|
|Acinar cells secrete enzymes
into the duodenum
|Islets of Lagerhan secrete hormones
into the bloodstream
|Glucagon||Stimulates glucose release into the bloodstream from glucose stores|
|Insulin||Increases cell uptake and storage of glucose|
Signs and Symptoms
- Abdominal – X-ray may show pancreatic calcification
- Abdominal ultrasound – may show cystic changes and duct dilatation within the pancreas.
- Bloods – glucose (to assess pancreatic exocrine function) and serum amylase/lipase (which tend to be normal in chronic pancreatitis)
- Pancreatic CT scan
- Recurrent acute pancreatitis of any cause, especially alcohol
- Secondary to pancreatic ductal obstruction
- Pancreatic head cyst, tumours
- Cystic fibrosis
- Associated with autoimmune disease (primary biliary cirrhosis, primary sclerosing cholangitis)
- The process may affect the whole or part of the gland
- The head tends to be the most severely involved part in chronic alcoholic pancreatitis
- Features of acute pancreatitis may be present (fat necrosis, haemorrhage and/or oedema)
- Chronic inflammatory changes include atropy, duct dilation, microcalcification and intraductal stone formation with cystic changes secondary to ductal occlusion.
Difference between acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis
Complications and Prognosis
Resectional surgery is associated with increasing risk of exocrine and endocrine pancreatic failure and high risk of complications
- Portal hypertension
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Pancreatic calcification
- Opiod addiction
- Generally, pain decreases or disappears over time, regardless of aetiology
- Ten-year survival after diagnosis is 20% to 30% lower than the general population.