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Summary

Background  Pain in chronic pancreatitis chronic pancreatitis is a frustrating and challenging symptom for both the patient and clinician. It is the most frequent and most significant symptom. Many patients fail the currently available conservative options and require opiates or endoscopic/surgical therapy.

Aim  To highlight the pathophysiology and management of chronic pancreatitis pain, with an emphasis on recent developments and future directions.

Methods  Expert review, utilizing in addition a comprehensive search of PubMed utilizing the search terms chronic pancreatitis and pain, treatment or management and a manual search of recent conference abstracts for articles describing pain and chronic pancreatitis.

Results  Pancreatic pain is heterogenous in its manifestations and pathophysiology. First-line medical options include abstinence from alcohol and tobacco, pancreatic enzymes, adjunctive agents, antioxidants, and non-opiate or low potency opiate analgesics. Failure of these options is not unusual. More potent opiates, neurolysis and endoscopic and surgical options can be considered in selected patients, but this requires appropriate expertise. New and better options are needed. Future options could include new types of pancreatic enzymes, novel antinociceptive agents nerve growth factors, mast cell-directed therapy, treatments to limit fibrinogenesis and therapies directed at the central component of pain.

Conclusions  Chronic pancreatitis pain remains difficult to treat. An approach utilizing conservative medical therapies is appropriate, with more invasive therapies reserved for failure of this conservative approach. Treatment options will continue to improve with new and novel therapies on the horizon.