The pancreas is an organ about 6 inches long, located behind the stomach and near the small intestine.
Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) can occur because of a gallstone complication and/or without a known cause in pediatric patients.
Acute pancreatitis is acute inflammation of the pancreas most commonly due to complications of gallstone disease.
Chronic pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas that does not heal, or gets worse over time and can lead to permanent damage.
To diagnose acute pancreatitis, doctors use different tests, including ultrasound or CT scans that look for signs of inflammation of the organ. Various lab tests that look at the health of the digestive tract also can detect pancreatitis.
No one knows exactly what causes pancreatitis. Genetic problems can make children more likely to develop the disease, and trauma following an accident also can increase the risk that pancreatitis will occur.
The treatment for chronic pancreatitis may be the same as the treatment for acute pancreatitis, especially in the early stages. If the doctors find something abnormal in the structure of your child’s pancreas, then endoscopic treatment surgery may cure the problem.
The treatment your child undergoes will depend on how severe the pancreatitis is. If there are no other organs involved, no severe infections occurring, and the enzymes of the pancreas aren’t causing a hole, acute pancreatitis usually improves on its own. Treatment, in general, is designed to support vital bodily functions and prevent complications.
For many children, treatment will focus on the symptoms – for example, medicine might be given to help with nausea or vomiting. The doctor may also prescribe pain relievers to help make your child more comfortable. A large percentage of kids can be successfully treated this way and the pancreatitis goes away after a week or so. Sometimes your child will need to be admitted to the hospital so that the fluids they lose can be replaced intravenously.
Your doctor may prescribe medications or recommend changes in diet to reverse these elevated levels. Physicians may prescribe pills containing pancreatic digestive enzymes to patients who experience chronic pain. It is also possible that your child will benefit from an advanced endoscopic procedure known as ERCP.
Most often, acute pancreatitis in children is managed without surgery. For children with chronic pancreatitis, the likelihood of surgery is increased. We are able to bring the latest in minimally invasive surgical techniques to the treatment of your child’s pancreatitis. This means the incision is smaller with a shorter recovery time, less scarring, less pain and stress afterwards. The specific kind of surgery to be used for your child will be discussed with you by the surgeon.