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Pancreatitis in children is an inflammatory condition of the pancreas that's often painful.
The pancreas has two main functions.
There are two types of pancreatitis: chronic and acute recurrent.
Chronic pancreatitis is when your child’s pancreas is progressively irritated and sometimes becomes irreversibly damaged.
This damage causes scarring in the pancreas and leads to the loss of a part of digestive function. It may cause diabetes, as well.
Often there are genetic risk factors that increase the chances of getting chronic pancreatitis.
Acute recurrent pancreatitis is not a chronic disease. It can come and go and has different causes than chronic pancreatitis.
Some issues that can cause acute recurrent pancreatitis such as:
Sometimes, doctors don't know the cause.
Often, genetic risk factors can increase the chances of getting acute recurrent pancreatitis.
Some children may not have physical symptoms, and others may be hard to notice.
Some symptoms of chronic pancreatitis are:
Chronic pancreatitis is a lifelong disorder, although its symptoms may come and go in some kids.
But, because it prevents proper food digestion, children with pancreatitis may not gain weight easily or may grow slowly. Some children have severe stomach pain that isn't easy to control with medicine.
Chronic pancreatitis may lead to diabetes since the pancreas might not make enough insulin to control the body's blood sugar.
It may also increase the risk for pancreatic cancer.
Your doctor will need to examine your child and learn about his or her medical history. Blood tests can often confirm a pancreatitis diagnosis.
If your doctor diagnoses pancreatitis, your child may need more tests to learn the extent of damage to the pancreas. Testing can also confirm what type of pancreatitis your child has.
Your child's doctor may order one or more of these tests:
The goal of treating both chronic and acute recurrent pancreatitis is to relieve the symptoms of this disease.
Pancreatitis treatments your doctor may suggest include:
If a fixable defect is the cause of your child's pancreatitis, surgery can sometimes cure it. Genetic chronic pancreatitis is normally not curable.
If medicine and supplements don't relieve symptoms and improve your child's health, a surgeon may need to remove the pancreas.
At Children’s, we sometimes treat chronic and acute recurrent pancreatitis with a total pancreatectomy and auto islet transplant (TPAIT).
A total pancreatectomy is surgery to remove the entire pancreas.
An auto islet transplant means surgeons use your child's own cells from the pancreas and inject them back into the body.
With TPIAT, doctors take your child's pancreatic islet cells that make hormones the body needs and transplant them back into the liver.
If a doctor diagnosed your child with chronic pancreatitis or acute recurrent pancreatitis, we want you to know you're not alone. The Center for Rare Disease Therapy is here to help.
To make an appointment for your child or refer a patient for pancreatitis care, contact us by:
Here’s what you can expect when you come to us for your child's first pancreatitis consult.
We can usually get new patients in to see one of our pancreas disorder experts within 1 to 2 weeks.
We'll ask the referring doctor to send your child's medical records so we can review them before your visit.
Your first visit will take at least 2 hours, based on what diagnostic tests and exams your child has already had.
If we're doing a surgical consult on this visit, your child will see other experts from the Center for Rare Disease Therapy. This will take about 8 hours over 2 days.
Your child will receive a complete exam to confirm a precise diagnosis of chronic or acute recurrent pancreatitis. We'll also look at how much the disease has affected the child.
Because we work as a team here at the center, other doctors and staff might see your child during your visit.
These may include a:
During your visit, we'll talk with you about:
If the doctor thinks pancreatic surgery might be a good option for your child, we'll discuss the details. We want to make sure you know what the surgery entails and what you may need to do to prepare.
By the end of your visit, you will have a care plan tailored to your child’s needs. We'll also schedule a follow-up visit in 3 months.
Before you leave, please feel free to ask us about your child's pancreatitis diagnosis, treatment, or anything else on your mind.
You will get a phone call within 2 weeks to discuss the test results and next steps for your child's pancreatitis care.
You can also find your child's test results if you signed up for myCHP — Children's patient portal.
myCHP lets you manage your child's health online. It's a free service for patients, parents, and guardians of UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
When a child has a rare disease like chronic or acute recurrent pancreatitis, it affects the whole family.
At the Center for Rare Disease Therapy, we see each family member as our partners.
The best care approach happens when we merge our expertise in pancreatitis with your knowledge of what’s best for your child.
Contact us to make an appointment or learn more about your child's chronic or acute recurrent pancreatitis:
Learn how families are finding help and hope through the expertise of the Center for Rare Disease Therapy at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
View patient stories »
Pediatric Longitudinal Cohort Study of Chronic Pancreatitis (INSPPIRE 2)
Children's Hospital's main campus is located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. Our main hospital address is:
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
One Children’s Hospital Way
4401 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
In addition to the main hospital, Children's has many convenient locations in other neighborhoods throughout the greater Pittsburgh region.
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