For the pediatric pancreatologists

Pancreatitis is a terrible affliction whether acute, recurrent or chronic.  While pediatric patients often have “mild” problems from acute pancreatitis, even in these cases the pain is usually severe and the treatment, which consists mainly of holding feedings and providing pain relief, does not impress anyone.

A few recent references do provide more data on several aspects of pancreatitis.

The first reference, J Pediatr 2013; 162: 788-92, provides data on the rare problem of acute necrotizing pancreatitis in children.  This retrospective study encompassing 21 years identified seven children.  CT scan showed necrosis of more than 30% and/or more than a 3 cm area in all of these patients.  Etiologies included medications (L-asparaginase, Valproate, Minocycline), diabetes (n=1), and gallstones (n=1).  No patients needed surgery or died.  After discharge, 5 patients had complications which included pseudocysts, diabetes, and pancreatic exocrine insufficiency.

Key points:

  • CT scan (with contrast) is useful in diagnosis and assessment of severity.
  • Initial presentation is similar to cases of acute pancreatitis without necrosis.  Long-term complications are increased.

The second reference: Gastroenterol 2013; 144; issue 6.  The entire issue is devoted to pancreas issues.  Pages 1272-81 review acute pancreatitis, pages 1282-91 review chronic pancreatitis, and pages 1292-1302 review genetic risk factors.

Page 1288 provides a suggested management algorithm for chronic pancreatitis:

Medical therapy recommendations include alcohol/smoking cessation, counsel regarding nutrition/vitamin D/calcium, consider analgesics (start with tramadol), consider adjuncts for pain (e.g.. neuron tin, SSRI, SSNRI, TCAs), assess exocrine and endocrine function (elastase and HgbA1C), use steroids if autoimmune pancreatitis.

If medical therapy ineffective, assessment of pancreatic duct is recommended.  Based on this information, discussion of endoscopic and surgical treatment is outlined as well.

Related blog entries:

How helpful are antioxidants for chronic pancreatitis pain?

The ‘ANTICiPaTE’ study shows that antioxidants are not helpful in the typical patient with chronic pancreatitis (Gastroenterol 2012: 143: 655-63).  While chronic pancreatitis is a rare problem for the pediatric population, I was drawn to this study because I had to see what the acronym stood for: ANTI-oxidant therapy for painful Chronic Pancreatitis Therapy Evaluation.

In brief, this study was a double-blind placebo-controlled single-center randomized trila of Antox version 1.2 in patients with painful chronic pancreatitis.  The ingredients of this antioxidant included selenium, ascorbic acid, d-α-tocopherol and multiple secondary ingredients.  Antioxidant levels were measured as well and did increase on study medication.

Results: after 6 months, pain scores were reduced by 1.97 from baseline in placebo group and 2.33 in the antioxidant group.  The -0.36 difference was within the 95% confidence interval (-1.44 to 0.72).  Quality of life measures were similar as well.

The discussion points out that the largest randomized study (Bhardwaj et al) found that antioxidants were effective in relieving pain in chronic pancreatitis.  So why the discrepancy? Possible reasons:

  • 1. Different populations: Bhardwaj study had a younger population: 31 years compared with 50 years in current study
  • 2. Different etiologies: The Bhardwaj study had only 31% with alcoholic etiology for chronic pancreatitits compared with 72% in current study
  • 3. Comorbid conditions:  The Bhardwaj study had 28% smokers compared with 80% in current study
  • 4. Antioxidant constituents differed
  • 5. Chance

Take-home message: While there are notable differences between this study and the Bhardwaj study, the present study is more indicative of typical chronic pancreatitis patients in the U.S. and indicates that antioxidants are not effective in this population. For the pediatric population, the Bhardwaj study has more applicability; however, the present study diminishes optimism that antioxidants will be effective.

What are the alternatives? Both surgical and endoscopic treatments can be considered for chronic pancreatitis, though neither has consistently been effective at reducing pain.

Additional references:

  • -Bhardwaj P, et al. Gastroenterology 2009; 136: 149-59.  Antioxidants for chronic pancreatitis pain.  antioxidant included 600mcg selenium, 0.54g ascorbic acid
  • -Gastroenterol 2011; 141: 1690.  Surgical Rx outperformed medical Rx. n=79.  Only 5% of surgical pts needed more Rx.  47% of endoscopic pts eventually needed surgery, 68% of endoscopic pts had repeated procedures.
  • -NASPGHAN Postgraduate Course 2011: Exercise helpful in reducing pain/depression, coffee/green tea may help. Surgery (eg Puestow) -most commonly for pain —>75-80% good outcome.  Rarely Frey procedure & investigational pancreatectomy (harvesting islet cells) -n=24 in Minnesota. May benefit from dual sphincterotomy -bilary/pancreatitic (33% improve) but increased complications (pancreatitis, cholangitis, restenosis)
  • -Am J Gastro 2010 105: 1884.  –cleaning out ducts w ERCP-1/3rdimprove (some worsen)
  • -Clinical Gastro & Hep 2011; 9: 541.  steatorrhea (w pancreatitis) typical adult dosing of pancreatic enzymes: 40,000-50,000 IU lipase/meal & 1/2 dose for snacks.
  • -Gastroenterol 2011; 141: 536.  Pregabalin reduces pain in chronic pancreatitis -randomized control trial.

Related blog entries:

Does pancreas divisum cause pancreatitis?

Recurrent pancreatitis and genetic underpinnings

Pain changes brain

Recurrent pancreatitis and genetic underpinnings

While the absolute number of patients with genetic causes of pancreatitis is small, due to frequent hospitalizations, this remains a significant problem.  This month additional information on genetic predisposition for pancreatitis is available (JPGN 2012; 54: 645-50).

Sultan et al (Milwaukee, WI) reviewed the charts of children <18 years with recurrent acute pancreatitis (RAP) and patients with chronic pancreatitis (CP) from 2000-2009.   RAP was considered if patient had a minimum of two distinct episodes of acute pancreatitis.  Acute pancreatitis was considered the diagnosis if patient had typical symptoms associated with 3-fold elevation of amylase or lipase or imaging changes consistent with acute pancreatitis. CP was defined as a minimum of 2 episodes of acute pancreatitis associated with pancreatic duct abnormalities or pancreatic insufficiency.

Among this cohort of 29 children, 23 (79%) had mutations which have been associated with genetic pancreatitis (GP).  Family history was positive in only five patients.

  • CFTR mutation in 14 (48%): two had homozygous mutations, six heterozygous, and four had 5 T variants.  The importance of a single CFTR mutation in contributing towards pancreatitis is unclear.  However, the Wisconsin population has a carrier frequency of 1:32; the striking difference in frequency  indicates that even a single mutation may be important in the pathogenesis of RAP.
  • SPINK1 (serine protease inhibitor Kazal type 1) in 8 (27%).  SPINK1 mutations occur in 1-3% of the general population.  It is often a modifying factor rather than an isolated causal factor in the development of RAP.  Four of the patients with SPINK1 mutations also had a CFTR mutation.
  • PRSS1 (cationic trypsinogen gene) in 7 (24%).  Individuals with these mutations are considered to have hereditary pancreatitis, an autosomal disease with incomplete penetrance.
  • Only one patient was tested for chymotrypsin C gene (CTRC) –tested negative.

Seven patients with RAP did not undergo genetic testing & were excluded from the study.  These patients had other known causes of RAP: 3 had gallstones, 2 had pancreas divisum, 1 had a metabolic disorder, and 1 had a medication-induced pancreatitis.  The authors note, however, that patients with pancreas divisum have had genetic mutations identified in other studies.

Additional References:

  • This link will take you to the hereditary pancreatitis database where you can search for the specific mutation you identified and find articles dealing with a variety of aspects of that particular mutation.
  • 2011 Naspghan Postgraduate Course:
    Pancreatitis Workup
    -1st bout, check U/S, trig
    -if 2nd bout, suggested to check MRI, genetics (SPINK1, PRSS1, CFTR), sweat test, fecal elastase, possibly IgG4/ANA
  • OMIM#167800/276000
  • -Gastroenterology 2006; 131: 1844.  Mouse model w R122H Trypsiongen expression.
  • -Whitcomb DC. Gut 2004; 53: 1710-17. test for PRSS1 (cationic trypsinogen), SPINK1 (Serine protease inhibitor, Kazal Type 1), and CFTR gene.
  • -JPGN 2002; 34: 1A pg 444. n=108 with hereditary or idiopathic pancreatitis. (28% had + fhx)  12 c PRSS1 mutation, 24 c SPINK1 (21 s fhx); 22 had + CFTR mutation.
    -Pancreatology 2001; 1: 405-415.  Consensus guidelines for testing for H. Pancreatitis. PRSS1 gene -cationic trypsinogen
  •  David Whitcomb’s laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh. The test is commercially available there. Their web site for the forms is:
  • -JPGN 2011; 52: 262. Review.
  • -J Pediatrics 2011; 158: 612.  Acute pancreatitis can result in diabetes.
  • -Clin Gastro & Hep 2010; 8: 410-416, 417. REVIEW of acute pancreatitis.  Rec NJ generally over TPN.
  • -Clin Gastro Hep 2010; 8: xxii.  Anomalous pancreatobiliary jxn as a cause.
  • -JPGN 2009; 49: 137.  Pancreatitis assoc w celiac
  • -Clin Gastro & Hep 2009; 7: 702.  Harmless Acute pancreatitis score.  Nonsevere when NL hgb, NL creatitine, and no rebound tenderness/guarding
  • -Alim Pharm Ther 2008; 28: 777-781.  Use of a low fat diet helped shorten hospital stay among adult pts with acute pancreatitis.
  • -Clin Gastro & Hep 2008; 6: 1070, 1077.   Fluids and imaging in acute pancreatitis.  With imaging, CT probably best.
  • – J Pediatrics 2008; 152: 106.  Acute pancreatitis in young children

Related blog entry:

Indomethacin to prevent post-ERCP pancreatitis