Helping Kids and Teens Understand Acute Pancreatitis

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

Your pancreas is an important part of your body.

It is a large organ found just behind your stomach.

It makes special “juices” that help you to digest the food you eat.

Your doctor calls these juices “enzymes” and they are very important to your health.

When you eat, the nutrients from your food are turned into sugar which goes into your blood. Your doctor will call this “blood sugar” and it needs to be just the right amount – not too high and not too low.

To help control how much blood sugar stays in your blood after you eat, your pancreas also makes "hormones", such as "insulin".

Unfortunately, sometimes your pancreas does not work so well.

Your doctor might say, “You have Acute Pancreatitis”.

This animation will help you to understand what that means and how you can stay as healthy as possible!

Acute pancreatitis can happen quickly.

When your pancreas gets swollen because there is a problem, your doctor will talk about it being “inflamed”.

Usually it's like something you have never experienced before.

But don’t worry, your doctor can help!

You might be thinking, “Why did I get acute pancreatitis?”

Pancreatitis can be common in teenagers but even happens in younger kids.

You might also be thinking, “Why does Acute Pancreatitis happen?”

There can be lots of reasons.

Sometimes it can happen after an injury.

Sometimes it happens after a viral infection, which is when a virus gets inside your pancreas.

Sometimes it happens because there is a blockage within your pancreas.

It can even happen if it runs in your family – meaning someone else in your family has had it before you and that makes it more likely for you to get it.

Sometimes it happens because there are high levels of fat or calcium in your blood.

Even some medicines can cause acute pancreatitis.

Sometimes, doctors cannot find the cause.

So what does pancreatitis feel like?

If you have had it, you will probably never forget the feeling.

Acute pancreatitis feels like a very bad pain in your belly or sharp pain that is deep.

You might also have back pain.

You might feel like you're sick to your stomach – like being on a roller coaster for too long and you want to throw up!

The MOST important thing is to tell your parents when you think this is happening, or your teacher if you are at school. Or your doctor or nurse.

The good news is that if you tell someone quickly, they can help you get better!

You might need to visit the hospital for tests.

Finding acute pancreatitis early is important because getting treatment can make it less inflamed and help you get better faster.

A pancreas that stays inflamed can make you even more sick.

Your doctor might test your blood to learn if you have pancreatitis.

He or she may also check a sample of your stool after you go to the toilet.

Your doctor might also do other tests. Don’t worry however, as he or she will sit down with you and explain everything and you'll be able to ask any questions you may have.

Sometimes when you are at the hospital you might have to go into a room with a large machine.

There is a machine that can see inside your body to show your doctor if your pancreas is swollen or if it has a lot of liquid around it.

If the tests done by your doctor find that you have acute pancreatitis you will probably need to stay in the hospital for a few days.

Remember that your pancreas will get better if you get lots of rest.

Some medicines will also be given to you to help you.

Your doctor might tell you about special foods to eat.

After you get better, remember that there are things you can do to take care of yourself and stop this from happening again.

Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and water.

Seeing your doctor for a checkup is important after you leave the hospital.

Having acute pancreatitis can be scary.

However, most kids usually have just one attack.

And remember: Your doctor and medical team will always be there to help you.

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Module Content

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Slide Notes

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Slide Show - Helping Kids and Teens Understand Acute Pancreatitis
This slide show will help you understand what acute pancreatitis is, including its causes, symptoms, how it is diagnosed, and what to expect. It also describes how you can stay as healthy as possible to stop acute pancreatitis from happening again.

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Animation - Helping Kids and Teens Understand Acute Pancreatitis
This animation will help you understand what acute pancreatitis is, including its causes, symptoms, how it is diagnosed, and what to expect. It also describes how you can stay as healthy as possible to stop acute pancreatitis from happening again.
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Expert Video - What is the function of the pancreas?
Physicians describe the pancreas and the role it plays in the body. They describe the pancreas as the organ responsible for the secretion of enzymes to aid in the digestion of food and for the production of the hormone, insulin, which aids in the absorbing of nutrients from the blood.
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Expert Video - What is acute pancreatitis?
Physicians describe what acute pancreatitis is and how it is more prevalent in children than was previously understood. They mention that acute pancreatitis is typically reversible and symptoms usually go away with time.
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Expert Video - What causes acute pancreatitis in children and teenagers?
Physicians discuss how acute pancreatitis in children can stem from numerous factors, including those children who may have a systemic illness, viral infection, or trauma. Other causes they discuss may include being due to medication, a metabolic issue, or even abnormal kidney functioning. Genetic risk factors such as a family history of the disease, as well as environmental factors can also be responsible.
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Expert Video - Why did my child get pancreatitis?
Physicians discuss how a child's first attack of acute pancreatitis can originate from a range of causes, which unlike adult cases is typically due to two major causes. They note that doctors look at all of the possible risk factors when dealing with children, in order to help prevent future episodes of acute pancreatitis.
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Expert Video - Can children get gallstone pancreatitis?
Physicians discuss how 15-20% of cases of acute pancreatitis in children are due to gallstones, which may indicate the need for the child to have a surgical intervention.
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Expert Video - What are the symptoms of acute pancreatitis in children?
Physicians discuss how the symptoms of acute pancreatitis can be quite non-specific and can make it challenging to diagnose. They discuss how symptoms can range from abdominal pain, vomiting, fever, jaundice, and irritability but how such symptoms will differ depending on the age group of the child.
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Expert Video - How long do the symptoms of acute pancreatitis last in children?
Physicians discuss how the course of acute pancreatitis in children can be quite variable, ranging from a week or less in some instances, and up to 2 weeks in more rare cases. They mention that if the symptoms are severe, the child may require hospitalization for however long the symptoms last.
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Expert Video - What to expect after the child's symptoms of pancreatitis go away?
Physicians discuss how symptoms of acute pancreatitis may resolve in children, but that up to 1/3 of these children could still experience another attack and families need to be aware of this. They note that symptoms of a subsequent attack may or may not necessarily resemble those from a previous attack.
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Expert Video - What complications may occur during an episode of acute pancreatitis?
Physicians discuss the types of complications that may arise in children with acute pancreatitis. These can involve the accumulation of fluid - either around the pancreas or within the left-side of the chest - and the draining of that fluid to prevent the issues that can arise if left untreated. They note that while kidney failure is rare in children, physicians need to monitor for it.
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Expert Video - How is acute pancreatitis diagnosed?
Physicians discuss how acute pancreatitis is diagnosed in patients who meet at least 2 of the 3 following criteria: 1) displaying the typical symptoms of pancreatitis; 2) having elevated blood levels of the enzymes lipase or amylase; and 3) having findings of pancreatitis from ultrasound or CAT scans.
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Expert Video - How is acute pancreatitis in children treated?
Physicians discuss about "supportive care" as a treatment option for acute pancreatitis in children. As there is no cure for acute pancreatitis, they describe supportive care as providing children with therapies to aid them with getting through their illness. Methods for managing pancreatitis in children (such as IV therapy, pain medication, and fasting for blood work) have changed over time, with families being able to treat mild episodes of acute pancreatitis at home while remaining in close communication with their physicians.
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Expert Video - How can repeat attacks of acute pancreatitis be prevented?
Physicians discuss about how recurring episodes of acute pancreatitis may be prevented by first aiming to isolate the cause and removing it to see if that resolves the issue. They explain how in cases where no cause can be found, different treatment regiments, such as pancreatic enzyme supplementation, antioxident cocktails, or a low-fat diet, may be recommended, although neither of these may be more effective than no medication. Despite this, physicians remain committed to understanding and finding a solution to cases where there is no obvious cause of acute pancreatitis.
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Expert Video - What diet or supplements are recommended for children recovering from acute pancreatitis?
Physicians discuss whether families should consider special diets, supplements, vitamins, or medications for their child following recovery from acute pancreatitis in order to prevent future episodes from recurring. They describe that most children will be able to, and should, return to their regular diet, supplements, and medication prior to having had their episode. In rarer and more severe cases however, they recommend a low-fat diet for a week or so. At present, there is no clear evidence of any specific diet, vitamins, or medications that will prevent future episodes of acute pancreatitis.
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This educational activity has been developed by: The National Pancreas Foundation and Mechanisms in Medicine Inc.

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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.