What is pancreatitis?
Pancreatitis is a condition that can cause severe belly pain. The pancreas is an organ that makes hormones and juices that help break down food. Pancreatitis is the term doctors and nurses use when this organ gets irritated or swollen. Most people get over pancreatitis without any long-lasting effects. But a few people get very sick.
What causes pancreatitis?
There are many causes of pancreatitis. But most cases are caused by gallstones or alcohol abuse:
- Gallstones – Gallstones are hard lumps that form inside an organ called the gallbladder. Both the pancreas and the gallbladder drain into a single tube. If that tube gets clogged by a gallstone, neither of the organs can drain. When that happens, the fluids from both organs get backed up. That can cause pain.
- Alcohol abuse – People who drink too much alcohol for too long sometimes get alcohol-related pancreatitis. People with this form of pancreatitis usually start to feel pain 1 to 3 days after drinking a lot of alcohol or after they suddenly stop drinking. They usually also have nausea and vomiting (throwing up). People with this form of pancreatitis must learn to give up alcohol to keep from getting pancreatitis again.
Is there a test for pancreatitis?
There are a few blood tests that can help your doctor figure out if you have pancreatitis. It’s also possible that your doctor will order a special kind of x-ray called a “CT scan” of your belly to check if belly pain is due to pancreatitis or other conditions.
How is pancreatitis treated?
Pancreatitis is usually treated in the hospital. There, your doctor can give you fluids and pain medicines to help you feel better. If you cannot eat, he can give you food through a tube. Some people with pancreatitis get an infection. Your doctor may give you antibiotics to treat or prevent infection.
The most important part of treatment is to get rid of the cause of the pancreatitis. For example, if your pancreatitis is caused by gallstones, your doctor will need to treat them.
Chronic pancreatic pain is usually multifactorial with a complex interplay of factors contributing to a varying degree to the pain in an individual patient. Complete pain relief is often difficult to achieve due to a variety of reasons. Coeliac plexus blocks have less than 50% efficacy with a duration often less than 6 months. Splanchnic nerve PRF treatments have shown promise but long term studies are limited. They do however offer a safer alternative to coeliac plexus injections.