JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Surgical management of recurrent pancreatitis in children with pancreas divisum.

OBJECTIVE: To analyze an institutional experience with pancreatitis in childhood to clarify the frequency of pancreas divisum in that patient population, the characteristics of pancreatitis in children with pancreas divisum, and the role of surgical management in their treatment.

SUMMARY BACKGROUND DATA: The role of pancreas divisum in causing acute and relapsing pancreatitis and chronic, recurring abdominal pain is controversial. Although the anatomical abnormality is present from birth, most investigators have reported cases with onset of symptoms in adulthood. The reported pediatric experience with this disorder is small, and the natural history of pancreatitis in children with pancreas divisum has not been well elucidated.

METHODS: A retrospective chart review of all children 18 years of age and younger with a discharge diagnosis of pancreatitis identified 135 patients treated in the authors' institution from 1978 to 1998. Ten patients were found to have anatomical variants of pancreas divisum associated with recurrent or chronic pancreatitis. The medical records of these patients were reviewed for data on the presentation, diagnostic findings, imaging studies, treatment, surgical findings, and pathologic findings in these children. Chart review and telephone calls were used to assess the current state of health in nine patients available for follow-up.

RESULTS: Pancreas divisum was identified in 7.4% of all children with pancreatitis and 19.2% of children with relapsing or chronic pancreatitis. Patients had early onset of recurrent episodic epigastric pain and vomiting, at a mean age of 6 years. Three patients had a positive family history of pancreatitis and one was proven by DNA analysis to have hereditary pancreatitis. Pancreatitis was documented by elevated amylase or lipase levels, and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography was the method of diagnosis of pancreas divisum in all patients. Eight patients had complete pancreas divisum and two had incomplete variants. Eight patients underwent surgery to improve ductal drainage. Seven underwent transduodenal sphincteroplasty of the accessory papilla, along with sphincteroplasty of the major papilla in two (plus septoplasty in one). Three patients underwent longitudinal pancreaticojejunostomy, as a primary procedure in one patient with midductal stenosis and in two because of recurring pancreatitis after sphincteroplasty. The surgical findings and histologic examination of five patients undergoing distal pancreatectomy revealed striking changes of advanced chronic pancreatitis. Patients responding to sphincteroplasty alone showed less severe histologic changes. Overall, three of seven patients had excellent results, three were improved, and one had continued disabling attacks of pancreatitis. The mean duration of follow-up was 7.3 years, and there were no deaths. No patients had endocrine or exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, and none required chronic analgesics.

CONCLUSIONS: Pancreas divisum is an important cause of recurrent pancreatitis in childhood and should be sought aggressively in children with more than one episode of pancreatitis or pancreatitis with a history of chronic recurrent abdominal pain. Surgical intervention is directed toward relief of ductal obstruction and may involve accessory duct sphincteroplasty alone or in combination with major sphincteroplasty and septoplasty. Patients with more distal ductal obstruction or ductal ectasia may benefit from pancreaticojejunostomy.

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