Management and Treatment of Chronic Pancreatitis

*Please note: This slide set represents a visual interpretation and is not intended to provide, nor substitute as, medical and/or clinical advice.

The pancreas is a digestive system organ that has two important functions. It produces hormones that regulate blood sugar, as well as enzymes that break down food in the digestive tract.

In chronic pancreatitis, the pancreas is slowly destroyed due to chronic inflammation…

… often triggered by lifestyle factors in predisposed patients, such as long-standing heavy alcohol or tobacco use. Although this is not always the case.

Left untreated or inadequately treated, chronic pancreatitis can lead to pancreatic insufficiency as the pancreas continues to be slowly damaged. This may result in inability to digest and absorb food, nutrition-related disease, and even diabetes.

There is no cure for chronic pancreatitis…

…so the goals of treatment are supportive, such as managing pain, avoiding weight loss, and ensuring adequate nutrition.

Lifestyle changes are also recommended to slow the progression of the disease.

Ensuring adequate nutrition is possibly the most important treatment goal. When the pancreas doesn’t work properly, it affects the body’s ability to get essential nutrients from food.

This can lead to nutrition-related diseases such as weak bones, vision problems, easy bruising, and skin rashes.

The ability to digest fat and protein is the most affected. Therefore, patients are advised to follow a nutrient-rich, low-fat diet, stay well-hydrated, and avoid high fat foods.

Patients may also be prescribed oral pancreas enzymes in a pill form, to aid in the digestion of food. This is known as pancreas enzyme replacement therapy, or PERT.

Vitamin and mineral supplements are also commonly prescribed, as well as painkillers. Sometimes pain is severe enough that narcotics are used…

… or that surgery or endoscopic procedures may be required.

Surgery or endoscopic procedures may also be performed to remove stones that occasionally form and block the pancreatic duct.

Lifestyle changes can slow the progression of chronic pancreatitis.

In addition to a nutrient-rich and low-fat diet, alcohol must be completely eliminated and patients must quit smoking. Environments with second-hand smoke should also be avoided. As well, medications for other conditions may be changed to reduce the burden on the pancreas. In some patients, triglyceride levels must be maintained in a healthy range through diet or medication.

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Module Content

Management and Treatment of Acute Pancreatitis Management and Treatment of Chronic Pancreatitis

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Slide Show - Management and Treatment of Chronic Pancreatitis
This slide show describes the goals of management and treatment of chronic pancreatitis.

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Animation - Management and Treatment of Chronic Pancreatitis
This animation describes the goals of management and treatment of chronic pancreatitis.
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Expert Video - How is chronic pancreatitis treated?
Physicians discuss the goals of treatment for chronic pancreatitis and how these are achieved. Approaches to pain management and the importance lifestyle changes such as stopping drinking and avoiding high-fat foods are discussed.
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Expert Video - How will I know if I’m not absorbing nutrients well?
Physicians describe the most common nutrition-related diseases that patients with chronic pancreatitis are at risk for, what symptoms to look out for, and what tests can help diagnose nutrition-related disease.
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Expert Video - What is pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT)?
Physicians discuss PERT, why it is needed, when they prescribe it, and how patients should take it.
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Expert Video - What can I expect following diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis?
Physicians discuss outcomes and disease progression in chronic pancreatitis, as well as the nutritional and lifestyle changes that need to be made following diagnosis.
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Expert Video - What are pancreatic stones and how are they treated?
Physicians describe pancreatic stones, why they form, and how they are treated, including the various types of surgeries.
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Expert Video - Chronic Pancreatitis: What foods and beverages should I avoid?
Physicians describe in a fair amount of detail what foods and beverages should be avoided to reduce stress on the pancreas, and which ones are always good to include in the diet.
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Expert Video - Why are we seeing increases in pediatric pancreatitis?
Physicians discuss the increase in pancreatitis in children, and the diagnosis of the disease in young people.
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Patient Video - How is your chronic pancreatitis managed and treated?
Patients discuss their personal experiences and treatment plans for chronic pancreatitis. The patients discuss experiences related to their diet, lifestyle, pain medications, and surgeries.
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Patient Video - What role does medication play in your life?
Patients with chronic pancreatitis discuss pancreas enzyme replacement therapy (PERT), dietary supplements, and pain medication, including when they had to start these, and how they fit the pill schedule into their routines.
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Patient Video - How did your chronic pancreatitis progress? What lifestyle changes did you make?
Patients discuss their disease progression, as well as the lifestyle changes that need to be made following diagnosis.
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Patient Video - What nutritional changes did you make after your diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis?
Patients discuss the nutritional changes that need to be made following the diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis.
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This educational activity has been developed by: The National Pancreas Foundation and Mechanisms in Medicine Inc.

This educational activity is supported by:

This website is part of the Animated Patient™ series that provides highly visual formats of learning for patients to improve their understanding, make informed decisions, and partner with their health care professionals for optimal outcomes.