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Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ that lies behind the stomach and next to part of the small intestine. The pancreas aids in digestion of proteins, fats and carbohydrates by secreting digestive enzymes into the first part of the small intestine (duodenum). When the pancreas becomes inflamed, these digestive enzymes are activated before they leave the pancreas and cause damage to the pancreatic tissue.
Acute pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes rapidly inflamed. Chronic pancreatitis occurs when there is long-standing inflammation in the pancreas.
Acute pancreatitis can be caused by:
Chronic pancreatitis can be caused by:
In almost half of pediatric pancreatitis cases, no cause is identified.
The most common sign of pancreatitis is severe abdominal pain, which usually occurs rapidly and is located above the belly button and on the left side of the abdomen. Sometimes the pain is felt in the middle of the back. Often a child will not want to move and will lie on his or her side with the knees pulled to the chest.
Other symptoms of pancreatitis include:
If your child experiences symptoms of pancreatitis, a pediatric gastroenterologist may perform the following exams and tests to help make a diagnosis:
Treatments for pancreatitis involve giving the body time to heal. Most children recover completely without any complications. Symptoms usually last for days, but severe cases can last for weeks.
Treatments for mild pancreatitis include:
Treatments for chronic pancreatitis include:
Visit the websites below to find support groups and services and learn more about pancreatitis.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
This site from the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition offers resources for patients and families living with pancreatitis.
This National Institutes of Health website provides information on the causes of and treatments for pancreatitis, including research and clinical trials.