Pancreas divisum is not a cause of pancreatitis by itself but acts as a partner of genetic mutations

Caroline Bertin, Anne-Laure Pelletier, Marie Pierre Vullierme, Thierry Bienvenu, Vinciane Rebours, Olivia Hentic, Frédérique Maire, Pascal Hammel, Valérie Vilgrain, Philippe Ruszniewski, Philippe Lévy
American Journal of Gastroenterology 2012, 107 (2): 311-7

OBJECTIVES: The role of pancreas divisum (PD) as a cause of acute recurrent or chronic pancreatitis (AR/CP) is still a matter of debate.

METHODS: The aims of this study were to evaluate the frequency of PD diagnosed using magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) in patients with AR/CP of unknown origin (n=40) after careful exclusion of all known causes and to test the hypothesis of an interaction between anatomical (PD) and functional genetic anomalies (SPINK1, PRSS1, or CFTR gene mutations or polymorphisms (n=19, 25, and 30, respectively)) that could result in AR/CP. Patients with alcohol-induced pancreatitis (n=29) and subjects who had MRCP for a nonpancreatic disease (n=45) served as controls.

RESULTS: PD frequency was 7% in subjects without pancreatic disease, 7% in patients with alcohol-induced pancreatitis, and 5, 16, 16, and 47% in those with idiopathic, and PRSS1-, SPINK1-, and CFTR-associated pancreatitis, respectively (P<0.0001). There was no significant difference between idiopathic pancreatitis and the two control groups. The frequency of PD was higher in patients with CFTR gene-associated pancreatitis as compared with those with idiopathic and alcoholic pancreatitis (P<0.0001) and with those with SPINK1 and PRSS1 gene-associated pancreatitis (P<0.02).

CONCLUSIONS: The frequency of PD was not different in patients with idiopathic pancreatitis as compared with controls, demonstrating that PD by itself is not a cause of pancreatitis. PD frequency was higher in patients with genetic pancreatitis, especially in those with CFTR mutations or polymorphisms, suggesting a cumulative effect of these two cofactors.

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