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Johns Hopkins Health - Help for an Unhappy Pancreas

Fall 2016
Issue No. 34

Help for an Unhappy Pancreas

Date: October 4, 2016

There's New Relief For Those With Chronic Pancreatitis

chronic pancreatitis

Each year, chronic pancreatitis—a painful condition that affects the gland responsible for producing insulin—disrupts the lives of nearly 150,000 people. Fortunately, several new breakthroughs are bringing welcome relief.

  • A blueprint for diagnosis. Currently, there are no standardized diagnostic guidelines. This often leads to missed diagnoses and misdiagnoses, says gastroenterologist Vikesh Singh, M.D. Experts at the Johns Hopkins Pancreatitis Center, however, are writing guidelines that rely on an individual’s history, as well as blood tests and scans that check for visible changes.
  • Addressing related nerve pain. Long-term pancreatic pain can damage nerve cells so badly that the brain continues to register pain even after the body has healed. In addition to treating the physical causes of pain, nonopioid medications should be used, says Singh. This is key, since opioids, which can be habit forming, aren’t best for treating pain caused by nerve damage.
  • A no-scar surgical option. Two Johns Hopkins pancreas surgeons pioneered a laparoscopic version of an operation that removes the pancreas and injects insulin-producing cells into the liver. New research shows this surgery may be most effective if performed within three years of symptom onset, before permanent nerve damage occurs. Singh notes that Johns Hopkins is the only center in the United States that is performing this procedure using a fully laparoscopic approach.

Learn More About Chronic Pancreatitis

Watch Johns Hopkins gastroenterologist Vikesh Singh, M.D., and pancreas surgeon Kenzo Hirose, M.D., formerly of Johns Hopkins, discuss the diagnosis and treatment of chronic pancreatitis in a recorded webinar