Last reviewed 01/2021

Pancreatitis is an inflammatory disorder of the pancreas.

Acute pancreatitis varies in severity and may be life-threatening. Patients present with characteristic, acute abdominal pain.

Some experience persistent abdominal pain similar in nature to that of acute pancreatitis but without other the other associated features. The burden on the patient of this chronic pancreatitis should not be underestimated. It often persists for years before finally burning out.

A subgroup of patients suffer an initial acute attack followed by a prolonged relapsing and remitting clinical course. This type of chronic pancreatitis is known as chronic relapsing pancreatitis.

Chronic and acute pancreatitis are distinguished pathologically because 'in acute pancreatitis, the gland is normal before the attack and can return to normal after resolution of the attack, whereas in chronic pancreatitis , the gland is abnormal before or after the attack, or both.'

Ref: Steer ML et al (1995). Chronic pancreatitis. NEJM, 332, 1482-9.