Chronic pancreatitis and maldigestion

John M Petersen, Chris E Forsmark
Seminars in Gastrointestinal Disease 2002, 13 (4): 191-9
Patients with chronic pancreatitis may suffer from maldigestion and malnutrition. Longstanding inflammation and fibrosis in the gland can destroy exocrine tissue, leading to inadequate delivery of digestive enzymes to the duodenum in the prandial and postprandial period and subsequent maldigestion. Maldigestion is augmented by inadequate bicarbonate delivery to the duodenum, with secondary inactivation of enzymes and bile acids by gastric acid. Abdominal pain, sitophobia, nausea, vomiting, postprandial satiety, and on-going alcohol abuse may contribute to poor oral intake. Gastric dysmotility and mechanical gastric outlet obstruction from fibrosis in the pancreatic head may contribute to malnutrition and clinical decline. Patients with chronic pancreatitis may at times experience profound steatorrhea and weight loss. In this article, we examine the natural history of exocrine insufficiency in chronic pancreatitis, outline the important nutritional issues in these patients, review the methods of diagnosis of maldigestion, and discuss the approach to therapy.

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