The pancreas is responsible for making the body’s digestive enzymes that help break down proteins, sugars and fats from the food we eat. Pancreatitis is a condition in which the pancreas is damaged or inflamed. The board-certified pediatric gastroenterologists with Norton Children’s Gastroenterology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, provide specialized care for children and teens with pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis in children can be chronic or acute. Acute pancreatitis is when the pancreas is damaged or inflamed; this can happen once, or a child can have multiple episodes of acute pancreatitis. Chronic pancreatitis is a condition in which there is permanent damage to pancreas function after several episodes of acute pancreatitis.
There are many causes of pancreatitis, but in as many as 30% of cases, no cause can be identified. Some causes can include:
Pancreatitis can be related to other chronic conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), cystic fibrosis or celiac disease.
A child experiencing acute pancreatitis symptoms should get medical attention immediately. It usually requires hospitalization with close monitoring. Symptoms can include:
Upper abdomen pain and discomfort is one of the most common symptoms of chronic pancreatitis. The pain may extend into the back. The pain can last hours or days, and could be constant or feel like it switches off and on. The pain can increase after eating or drinking. Other symptoms can include:
Care for pancreatitis will be unique to the child’s age and current condition. The goal of treatment is to support the body’s normal function. Treatment for acute pancreatitis may include:
There are no specific medications or cures for chronic pancreatitis. Treatment for chronic pancreatitis may include:
Children with severe chronic pancreatitis and pain may need surgery. Surgical options for severe chronic pancreatitis may include: