What is chronic pancreatitis?
Chronic pancreatitis is a chronic inflammation of the pancreas, an organ found in the abdominal cavity, and can be painful.
In 70-80% of cases, chronic pancreatitis is caused by alcohol consumption (in some cases excessive). It is not yet known how alcohol causes pancreatitis. A large number of alcoholics do not develop pancreatitis; a genetic factor may also be involved. In one-third of patients, there is no alcohol involvement.
The underlying cause is found in about fifty percent of patients with chronic pancreatitis. In the remaining patients, the cause is unknown.
Signs and symptoms
In contrast to acute pancreatitis, which is always painful, 20% of patients with chronic pancreatitis may have prolonged pain-free periods. Patients complain of diarrhoea, foul smelling stools that are difficult to flush, and weight loss. When there is too much fat in the stools, this type of diarrhoea is called steatorrhoea (fatty stools); and can lead to vitamin deficiencies (A, D, E, K, B12). Chronic pancreatitis can also lead to diabetes. This usually occurs late in the progression of the disease. If pain is present, patients usually experience this in the area of the stomach radiating to the back. The pain can get worse 20 to 30 minutes after a meal. It may also be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
How is chronic pancreatitis diagnosed?
A physical examination does not usually reveal much more than tenderness in the area of the stomach.
Do I need additional examinations?
- Diagnostic examination for other non-physical factors important for your pain, have already been done by yourself trough filling out your pain questionnaires.
- Routine blood examination does not play an important role in the diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis.
- Referral to a gastroenterologist is frequently necessary.
What are my treatment possibilities?
Depending on the cause of your pain, your pain specialist will decide whether or not to embark on physical treatment. Based on the results of the completed pain questionnaire, additional examinations can be carried out and, apart from physical treatment, other methods of treatment will be suggested.
If the results of your pain questionnaire are abnormal, your pain specialist will offer you one of the non-physical treatments listed below:
Interventional Pain Treatments
- RF treatment splanchnic nerve
- Spinal cord test stimulation (only in a research setting)
- Spinal cord stimulation (only in a research setting)