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Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. It can be very painful and even life-threatening. Acute pancreatitis is short-term and resolves with intensive treatment. Chronic pancreatitis occurs over a longer period of time and requires specialized treatment as well. At NewYork-Presbyterian, our pancreatic disease experts have a wealth of experience treating both types of pancreatitis, offering in-hospital support, surgery-free therapies, and long-term treatment regimens to reduce inflammation and pain and restore quality of life.
Your Pancreatitis Treatment Team
Pancreatitis can become severe and therefore requires a team of experts to accurately diagnose it and treat it successfully. Your treatment team includes gastroenterologists, surgeons, interventional endoscopists, radiologists, nurses, registered dietitians, and others with the experience and compassion to provide the care you need.
The diagnosis of pancreatitis may require the use of specialized techniques not widely available at many hospitals. We offer all of these approaches at NewYork-Presbyterian, and our pancreatic care teams are exceptionally experienced in using them. In addition to standard imaging tests such as CT, MRI and abdominal ultrasound, we employ:
- Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS). An interventional endoscopist uses a special endoscope with high-energy sound waves ("echoendoscope") to see your pancreas and the pancreatic duct.
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). This technique combines endoscopy and x-rays. An interventional endoscopist guides an endoscope through your mouth to the pancreas and pancreatic duct, releases a dye that assists in imaging, and then x-rays them. ERCP provides a clear image of the structure of your pancreas and can show any abnormalities, as well as identify if gallstones are causing your pancreatitis. NewYork-Presbyterian’s interventional endoscopists routinely perform this procedure and are highly regarded experts in its use.
- Pancreatic function test. We use this endoscopic test to assess the production of secretin, a hormone produced by the small intestine that stimulates the pancreas. Reducing stimulation of the pancreas helps to relieve pancreatitis pain.
Nonsurgical Pancreatitis Treatments
At NewYork-Presbyterian, your team tailors your treatment to your individual medical needs. Your treatment depends on whether your pancreatitis is acute or chronic, and on the severity of your disease. You may have:
- Intravenous hydration and nutritional support. To allow your pancreas to recover and to prevent damage and irritation, you may need to temporarily receive intravenous fluids for hydration. Some people cannot eat regular food, and receive enteral nutrition through a feeding tube (liquid food given through a tube from your nose to your stomach).
- ERCP. Our endoscopists use ERCP to perform a number of procedures to resolve the causes of pancreatitis. They may use ERCP to insert a stent (small tube) to open a blocked bile or pancreatic duct; to perform sphincterotomy (a tiny cut to enlarge a duct opening); to perform balloon dilatation (insertion of a balloon to open a narrowed duct); or to remove or destroy a gallstone using laser or shock wave lithotripsy. Our doctors can also remove dead pancreatic tissue endoscopically.
- Relief of chronic pancreatitis pain. If you have severe pain due to pancreatitis, you may undergo an EUS-guided “celiac plexus block.” Also called neurolysis, this treatment is a form of local anesthesia that we offer to relieve severe or chronic abdominal pain. We also use oral medications and pain pumps implanted in the spine to control chronic pain. Our pain medicine specialists work with you to put together a pain management plan that meets your medical needs and personal preferences.
Pancreatitis Surgery and Islet Cell Transplantation
When other treatment approaches are not sufficiently effective to control your pain, you may need surgery such as total pancreatectomy (removal of all of the pancreas). This surgery causes diabetes, and to reduce the risk of diabetes, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia offers autologous islet cell transplantation. This procedure is an innovative process of extracting your own insulin-producing cells and then reinjecting them into your liver after pancreatectomy. By reinfusing the pancreatic islet cells into your body, this treatment may allow you to retain some of your insulin-producing function and avoid diabetes.
You can learn more about this treatment on our islet cell transplant page.
The Pancreas Center
NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center
Gastroenterology and Hepatology
NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center
Division of Liver Transplantation, Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgery
NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center