, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 96-100

Alcoholic pancreatitis: New insights into an old disease

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Alcoholic pancreatitis is an old disease that continues to present controversial issues. One of the most hotly debated issues is whether alcoholic pancreatitis is a chronic disease from the beginning or if instead it becomes chronic after repeated episodes of acute pancreatitis. Histologic studies, including very large series of patients with alcoholic pancreatitis, have clearly shown that this disease is chronic from the beginning and that, if acute necrotic pancreatitis occurs, it is associated with chronic lesions. The possibility that acute alcoholic pancreatitis can occur in the absence of chronic lesions cannot be excluded, but, if this occurs, it is rare. In addition to alcohol, genetic factors certainly play a determining role. Until now many genetic studies have been made on chronic pancreatitis; the first dealt with hereditary pancreatitis. In this disease it has been shown that mutations of the cationic trypsinogen gene and of SPINK1 are implicated in its pathogenesis. Concerning alcoholic pancreatitis, several studies have been made, but the results so far are disappointing.