Chronic pancreatitis

Beyer, G., Habtezion, A., Werner, J., Lerch, M. M., and Mayerle, J. (2020). Lancet 396, 499-512. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31318-0


Chronic pancreatitis is a multifactorial, fibroinflammatory syndrome in which repetitive episodes of pancreatic inflammation lead to extensive fibrotic tissue replacement, resulting in chronic pain, exocrine and endocrine pancreatic insufficiency, reduced quality of life, and a shorter life expectancy. The incidence and prevalence of chronic pancreatitis is rising and no curative treatment is available. Using novel diagnostic algorithms, definitive chronic pancreatitis can be diagnosed by imaging criteria alone, whereas probable chronic pancreatitis requires clinical features and imaging criteria. Criteria for the diagnosis of early chronic pancreatitis are still under discussion and need prospective validation in clinical trials. Cross-sectional imaging should be used first; endoscopic ultrasound is needed only when CT or MRI are inconclusive or to plan therapeutic interventions. Management of chronic pancreatitis requires an interdisciplinary approach including primary care practitioners, gastroenterologists, surgeons, radiologists, pain specialists, and nutritional therapists. Patients with chronic pancreatitis should be seen at least once a year and re-evaluated for causal risk factors, symptom control, and complications such as malnutrition, pancreatic exocrine insufficiency, and diabetes; refer to a specialised centre if symptoms are poorly controlled or there is risk of deterioration. Scoring systems to monitor disease progression have been developed and validated internationally. Interventional treatments for pain or cholestasis should be done by specialists only, and early discussion of treatment approaches should include all medical disciplines involved in care. Throughout this Seminar, we address research needs such as staging of pancreatitis, aspects of malnutrition and pain, and cancer surveillance, to help improve the care of patients.