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Before delving into the topic of pancreatitis, here is some background on the pancreas. The pancreas is one of the major digestive organs producing digestive juice, which is capable of digesting meat and protein. It is situated deep behind the upper abdominal cavity and we are normally not aware of its existence. It has a dual function for the body: on the one hand it helps to digest food by sending its digestive enzymes through the pancreatic duct into the duodenum. This is achieved via the major duodenal papilla, also known as ampulla of Vater (thanks to for this image) where the common bile duct goes through as well. When a person has gallstones and one of the stone migrates through the common bile duct, it can get stuck in the ampulla of Vater, which causes gall fluid to get backed up to the liver causing jaundice, and can get pancreatic juices backed up causing acute pancreatitis.

On the other hand the pancreas is an important endocrinological organ as it produces insulin and thereby regulates the sugar metabolism (endocrine function), but also the fat metabolisms through digestive enzymes (exocrine function).



When the pancreas gets inflamed, the exocrine function suffers first. The two important inflammatory conditions are acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis, diseases that occur in middle age. Below I will describe each of these entities in detail. Autoantibodies against the insulin producing cells cause a lack of insulin production, diabetes (type I), which usually occurs in children.



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Last modified: October 23, 2014

This outline is only a teaching aid to patients and should stimulate you to ask the right questions when seeing your doctor. However, the responsibility of treatment stays in the hands of your doctor and you.