What is chronic pancreatitis? How is chronic pancreatitis diagnosed?
Chronic pancreatitis refers to progressive inflammation of the pancreas leading to irreversible structural damage. Similar to acute pancreatitis, the pain of chronic pancreatitis is typically epigastric, radiates to the back, is worse after eating and is improved with sitting forward. Early in the disease course, the pain may be intermittent, but as the process progresses, the pain may become constant. In addition to pain, patients with chronic pancreatitis often have evidence of pancreatic dysfunction such as hyperglycemia and fat malabsorption complicated by diarrhea.
The diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis is not as straightforward as the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis. It often involves the combination of clinical history, laboratory findings, and imaging studies. Occasionally, special pancreatic function testing is used to support the diagnosis.