Does pancreas divisum cause pancreatitis?

The role of pancreas divisum (PD) as a cause of either acute recurrent or chronic pancreatitis (AR/CP) remains a matter of debate.  A recent study suggests that pancreas divisum serves as a cofactor but does not cause pancreatitis independently (Am J Gastroenterol 2012; 107: 311-17).

PD occurs due to failure of fusion of the dorsal and ventral pancreatic buds during gestation.  The frequency of PD has been estimated to be between 5-10% of the general population based on large post-mortem studies.  There is an increased frequency of PD in patients with idiopathic pancreatitis (12-26%).  The referenced study from France examined the frequency of genetic mutations vis-a-vis relationship with PD.  PD was determined using MRCP.

Findings–percentage with PD among subgroups:

  • 7% of subjects without pancreatic disease, n=45
  • 7% of alcohol-associated pancreatitis patients, n=29
  • 5% of idiopathic pancreatitis patients, n=40
  • 16% of patients with PRSS-1-associated pancreatitis, n=19
  • 16% of patients with SPINK-1-associated pancreatitis, n=25
  • 47% of patients with CFTR-associated pancreatitis, n=30

The study has several limitations.  Overall, the numbers of patients with pancreatitis are fairly low.  In addition, these genetic mutations are not typically examined in individuals without pancreatitis.  As such, the effect of these mutations with PD still is difficult to know in comparison to a larger population.

Additional references:

  • Recurrent pancreatitis and genetic underpinnings (previous blog post)
  • -Clin Gastro & Hep 2009; 7:141.  Review -case of recurrent pancreatitis -suggests checking ANA, Trig, IgG4 (also TTG)
  • – J Pediatr 2008; 152: 106.  Acute pancreatitis in young children; 109 cases.  systemic dz in 29, drugs in 7, gallstones in 3, annular pancreas in 1, trauma in 7, infections in 16, CF in 2, Idiopathic in 15.
  • -NEJM 2006; 354: 2142.  Review of acute pancreatitis mgt.
  • -Clin Gastro & Hep 2006; 4: 455.  Elevated pancreatic enzymes frequently identified in celiac disease.
  • -Clin Gastro & Hep 2007; 5: 1347. Celiac is a risk factor for acute & chronic pancreatitis. n=14,239 & 69,381 reference population (Sweden).
  • -Pediatrics 2005; 115: e463. CF & pancreatitis
  • -JPGN 2003; 37: 5591. Systemic dz 14%, Trauma 14%, drugs 12%, metabolic 6%, structural 5%, infectious 8%, ERCP 6%, Biliary 12%, Familial 3% (but accounted for 20% of episodes) Transplant 8%, idiopathic 8%
  • -Clin Perspectives in Gastro 2002; 5: 73. Pancreas divisum