Digestive Diseases

NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital

Digestive Diseases


The pancreas is a small but very important organ in the abdominal area. It releases hormones and enzymes that help to break down food, and regulate blood sugar.

Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed or swollen. This can cause pain in the abdomen, which radiates to the back, on the right side. Pancreatitis is most frequently caused by either excessive alcohol or stones in the tubes in which the pancreas releases its enzymes and hormones. It is very important for people who have had pancreatitis to stop consuming alcohol because this can cause the inflammation to reoccur.

If pancreatitis occurs multiple times, chronic pancreatitis can develop. Chronic pancreatitis increases risk for stones, chronic pain, diabetes and pancreatic cancer.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Pancreatitis can be a life-threatening disease with many complications and requires emergent hospitalization. Pancreatitis can be detected in blood work and CT scan. An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ECRP) is a very specialized procedure that is performed if pancreatitis is caused by a stone blocking the ducts. The benefit of an ERCP is that it can not only reveal the presence of stones, but can also remove them and, if necessary, be used to place stents to keep the ducts open. At NYPBMH, experts in the field of gastroenterology, are specially trained to perform this procedure.

Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is another diagnostic procedure performed at NYPBMH. If cancer of the pancreas is suspected, it can be used to take a biopsy without performing open surgery. A small needle is used to aspirate tissue from the lesion, which is then examined under a microscope. EUS is very adept at detecting pancreatic cancer. Early detection may lead to a better prognosis.

Like ERCP, EUS is very specialized procedure. At NYPBMH, we have highly trained specialists who are proficient in this technique.

The goal of treatment for pancreatitis is to give the bowel rest and manage pain. Usually, the swelling resolves by itself, but there can be complications, such as infections. Antibiotics may be needed if there is an infection.