Pancreatic Disorders Treatment Options

At the Pancreatic Disorders Center, we know every child's pancreatitis is unique.

Many kids have one pancreatitis attack and never have another. For some, pancreatitis attacks happen more than once.

After an acute pancreatitis attack, your child's doctor may refer them to the Pancreatic Disorders Center.

If your child has repeated attacks, this is acute recurrent pancreatitis. A small number of kids go on to get chronic or lifelong pancreatitis.

Our team will tailor treatment to meet your child's needs. Your child will get the best treatment for their symptoms and type of pancreatitis. We aim to reduce your child's pain and improve their quality of life.

Treatments for Your Child's Pancreas Disorder

Childhood doesn't last long. Your child shouldn't spend time worrying about their pain or health. We can help them take control of their illness to enjoy their youth.

No single medicine or treatment can make your kid get better from pancreatitis.

Treatment focuses on helping your child manage their symptoms. We focus on getting them a good quality of life.

Medicines to treat pancreatitis

Your child may need medicines to keep symptoms from getting in the way of life. These include:

  • Pain medicine. Depending on your child's pain level, we may suggest pain medication or have you see a pain specialist.
  • Anti-nausea medicine. Your child may need this medicine if they feel sick and want to vomit. This can help settle their stomach.
  • Pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy, or PERT. These prescription pills give your child the enzymes they need to digest food and get nutrients. PERT can also help reduce pain.

If your child has diabetes related to their pancreatitis, UPMC's Pediatric Endocrinology team can help control their blood sugar.

Nutrition therapy

When your child has pancreatitis, they may not get the nutrients their body needs to grow and thrive. Through the Pancreatic Disorders Center, your family can access UPMC-registered dietitians. They can help your child get the food and nutrients they need.

Nutritional therapy may include:

  • Vitamin supplements. Your child may lack specific vitamins. We can suggest which vitamins and what dose your child should take.
  • Nutritional supplements. These include special shakes or drinks that can give nutrients and calories your child needs.

Therapeutic endoscopy

Therapeutic endoscopy can help diagnose and treat pancreatitis. These are minimally invasive treatments.

We use them to drain the pancreas or take out gall- and bile duct stones that cause your child pain.

This type of treatment includes:

  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS).
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP).

Pancreas surgery

In rare cases, your child may need surgery for their pancreatitis. Surgical options include:

  • Pancreas resection.
  • Surgical drainage.
  • Total pancreatectomy with islet cell autotransplantation (TPIAT).

TPIAT at UPMC Children's

TPIAT is an option for kids with advanced pancreatitis who have not improved after other medicines and treatments. This is a major surgery that removes the pancreas and associated organs.

During the surgery, the doctor takes islet cells from the child's pancreas and puts them into the liver. These are the cells that make insulin to control blood sugar. Without them, the child would have diabetes.

Putting the islet cells in the liver reduces the likelihood of diabetes.

UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh is one of the few centers in the country to offer this surgery for kids.

They will do a full workup to see if your child might benefit from TPIAT. This will include:

  • Meeting with several different health care workers.
  • Getting lab or blood work.
  • Getting imaging tests, such as CT scans or an MRI.

Once this review is complete, team members will meet to see if your child can safely have this surgery.

What happens during a TPIAT?

TPIAT is major surgery. It involves several steps.

  • First, the surgeon removes the entire pancreas, the appendix, and the gallbladder.
  • Then they remove the spleen, which shares blood vessels with the pancreas.
  • Doctors may then place a feeding tube in the child's stomach. This will make sure they get the proper nutrition in the months after surgery.
  • After the surgeon removes the pancreas, the team takes it to a laboratory where a team isolates the islet cells.
  • In the surgery room, they put the islet cells back into your child's liver. It may take several months to know if they are making insulin.

What happens after TPIAT surgery?

After surgery, you can expect your child to stay in the hospital for a few weeks.

After your child goes home, they will have regular office visits with the hormone and digestive health teams.

Your child will also need to watch their blood sugar closely. They will need to take insulin regularly. Children who undergo TPIAT can sometimes come off insulin in the weeks following surgery.

Your child will also need to take enzyme capsules with each meal. These medicines replace the digestive work of the pancreas. This is a lifelong therapy — they must take these capsules for the rest of their lives with each meal.

Contact the Pancreatic Disorders Center

The Pancreatic Center at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh is here for your family.

Your child doesn't need a doctor's referral to come to us for care.

Call us at 412-692-5180 to learn more.

Our address:

UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh
4401 Penn Ave., Floor 3
Pittsburgh, PA 15224