Disorders of the Pancreas

Published on 06/06/2015 by admin

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Last modified 06/06/2015

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114 Disorders of the Pancreas

Disorders of the pancreas (Figure 114-1) are rare in childhood but can be associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Pancreatitis occurs less frequently in children than in adults and can be either acute or chronic in nature. It can be complicated by shock, hypocalcemia, pseudocyst formation, or necrosis, but these complications are rare. Pancreatic insufficiency (PI), defined as insufficient lipase secretion resulting in fat malabsorption, affects about 80% to 90% of patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). Congenital anomalies of the pancreas, such as pancreas divisum and annular pancreas, are found in approximately 10% of the general population and are generally asymptomatic but can be associated with pancreatitis (pancreas divisum) or duodenal obstruction (annular pancreas).

Etiology and Pathogenesis


The frequency of pancreatitis (i.e., inflammation of the pancreas) in children and adolescents has been increasing over the past 10 to 15 years. There are several common causes of pancreatitis, including blunt abdominal trauma; infections such as enterovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis A, rubella, Coxsackie virus B, cytomegalovirus, HIV, and influenza; congenital anomalies of the pancreas; choledochal cysts; and choledocholithiasis. Medications, including azathioprine, 6-mercaptopurine, glucocorticoids, valproate, and L-asparaginase, can cause pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can also be the result of systemic diseases and metabolic abnormalities, including CF, diabetic ketoacidosis, hypercalcemia, hyperlipidemia, and hemolytic-uremic syndrome.

Pancreatitis occurs when intracellular trypsinogen and other digestive enzymes are activated, leading to damage of the pancreatic acinar cells. This damage leads to pancreatic edema (Figure 114-2), a local inflammatory response, and the initiation of autodigestion of the pancreas. These pancreatic secretions may form a collection that becomes walled off by granulation tissue to form a pseudocyst.

Chronic pancreatitis occurs with recurrent episodes of acute pancreatitis, leading to chronic inflammation as well as end-stage fibrosis (see Figure 114-2). The most common causes of chronic pancreatitis in children are CF, hereditary pancreatitis including mutations in the SPINK1, CFTR, and PRSS1 genes, and idiopathic causes.

Cystic Fibrosis

Pancreatic insufficiency in patients with CF is caused by dysfunction of the CFTR gene (Figure 114-3). This leads to impaired transport of sodium and chloride and subsequent obstruction of the pancreatic ducts with viscous exocrine fluid. These patients have diminished secretion of amylase, lipase, colipase, and phospholipases, as well as a decreased concentration of bicarbonate in their pancreatic secretions.

Clinical Presentation


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