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Chronic pancreatitis (CP) is characterised by pancreatic inflammation and fibrosis leading eventually to destruction of pancreatic parenchyma and loss of exocrine and endocrine function. A model of interactions between environmental triggers of pancreatic inflammation and disease susceptibility or modifying genes (including PRSS1, SPINK1 and CFTR) provides a framework within which to understand disease pathogenesis. Early in the disease, when fibrosis is mild and pancreatic damage limited, it is difficult to distinguish CP from recurrent acute pancreatitis (RAP) although it is likely these represent opposite ends of a spectrum of disease with a common aetiology in which CP represents either a later disease stage or disease in individuals predisposed to generate a chronic fibrogenic inflammatory response. Pain is a dominant feature resulting in part from neuroimmune interactions within the pancreas. Diagnosis at an early stage of disease is challenging, though in later stages is dependent upon the demonstration of pancreatic fibrosis and duct ectasia using one or more imaging modalities including transabdominal and endoscopic ultrasound, CT and MRCP or ERCP. Current treatments are largely supportive and reactive. The challenge for pediatricians is to achieve diagnosis at an early stage of the disease and to develop treatments that can alter its natural history.
Key wordsChronic pancreatitis Fibrosis Pancreatic insufficiency Hereditary pancreatitis PRSS1 SPINK1 CFTR
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