​Chronic Pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas (gland in the upper abdomen that produces enzymes for digestion and hormones for regulating glucose processing) which occurs over the course of many years. The inflammation is due to the activation of digestive enzymes in the pancreas and an attack of these enzymes on the pancreas.It can also result after a bout of acute pancreatitis. Most of the cases of chronic pancreatitis are due to alcohol indigestion, while the remaining cases can be attributed to:

  • Hereditary pancreatitis

  • Cystic fibrosis

  • Tropical pancreatitis

  • Hyperparathyroidism, which is the presence of abnormally high levels of parathyroid hormone in the blood

  • Pancreatic divisum​

Symptoms for chronic pancreatitis may not become evident for many years. However, when they do occur, they may be very severe. 

If you believe you may be suffering from chronic pancreatitis, you may report of the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen

  • Weight loss, caused by poor absorption

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Increased heart rate

  • Diabetes

  • Oily, smelly stool​

In case of severe abdominal pain, visit the Internal Medicine Service Line​ at the Aga Khan University Hospital for expert advice by our team of doctors.​
Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.​​ ​​ ​

Initially, your doctor may inquire about your medical history and perform a thorough physical exam. Chronic pancreatitis is usually diagnosed using tests to evaluate the structure of the pancreas. These tests include:

  • Computerized Tomography (CT) scan in which a series of detailed images, of the body, will be taken by a computer. This is done to detect the presence of gall stones and pancreatic inflammation

  • Abdominal ultrasound, in which sound waves and a sensor will be used to detect the presence of gallstones and inflammation in the pancreas. Sound waves are sent towards the pancreas by a handheld device that is moved across the abdomen which creates an image on the computer to be studied by the doctor

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the abdomen in which a series of detailed images of the body will be made on the computer using a magnet and radio waves. This is done to look for abnormalities in the gallbladder, pancreas and ducts

  • Stool test to measure the level of fats to check if the digestive system is absorbing the nutrients properly. 

  • Complete Blood count (CBC): One or more parameters related to red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets might be affected in this condition, giving a clue towards etiology and further diagnostic approach. Therefore, it is an ancillary test in the diagnostic workup of this disease.

Disclaimer: Kindly consult your physician before getting the above-mentioned tests.

Treatment for chronic pancreatitis can be difficult. Your doctor’s first priority will be to relieve you of the pain that may be rising from the inflammation of the pancreas. The nutritional and metabolic problems which arise due to pancreatic function loss will also be addressed.

Initial treatments will include:

  • Pain medications, to control the severe pain

  • Intravenous (IV) fluids, for hydration

  • Prescription for pancreatic enzymes and insulin, not being secreted or released by the pancreas

Surgical options will include:

  • Procedure to remove bile duct obstruction if pancreatitis has been caused by narrowed or blocked bile ducts

  • Pancreas surgery to drain fluids from the pancreas or remove diseased tissue

Your recovery will also be aided by taking the correct nutritious diet including plenty of liquids, limited fats and caffeine, ample vitamins and small frequent meals.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.