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Acute Pancreatitis—Child

Definition

The pancreas is a long, flat organ located behind the stomach. It creates enzymes that help digest food as well as hormones, like insulin, that help control blood sugar.

Acute pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas that occurs suddenly.

The Pancreas

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Causes

The most common cause of pancreatitis in children is trauma to the abdomen. Other causes include:

  • Infections of the pancreas
  • Problems with liver, gallbladder or tubes that connect liver and pancreas

Sometimes the cause is unknown.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your child’s risk of acute pancreatitis include:

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain and swelling in the belly
  • Back pain
  • Nausea and vomiting—vomit may be yellow, green, or brown
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Blood will be taken for testing as well.

Images of the organs in the belly may be taken with:

Treatment

Pancreatitis may get better on its own. Care may be needed for frequent vomiting and poor appetite. Fluids and nutrition may be provided through one of the following:

  • IV fluids
  • Total parenteral nutrition—nutrition given by IV
  • Feeding tube—tube is passed through nose and into stomach

Further treatment may be needed if the pancreatitis is severe or does not pass on its own. Options include:

Medications

Pain medicine may be given. It may be over-the-counter or prescription. Antibiotics may also be given if there is an infection.

Other medicine may need to be stopped or changed if it is making symptoms worse.

Surgery

Surgery may be needed for severe problems. This may include bleeding, large infection, or uncontrolled pain.

Cysts and pseudocysts can also develop because of pancreatitis. Surgery may be needed to remove or drain them.

Prevention

Not all pancreatitis can be prevented. Managing high triglycerides may help to reduce the chance of pancreatitis.

RESOURCES:

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://familydoctor.org

Kid's Health—Nemours Foundation
http://kidshealth.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

Sick Kids—The Hospital for Sick Children
http://www.sickkids.ca

REFERENCES:

Acute pancreatitis in children. The National Pancreas Foundation website. Available at: http://pancreasfoundation.org/patient-information/childrenpediatric-pancreatitis/acute-pancreatitis-in-children. Accessed September 12, 2019.

Acute pancreatitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acute-pancreatitis-in-children. Updated May 5, 2019. Accessed September 12, 2019.

Pancreatitis. Kid's Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/endocrine/pancreatitis.html. Updated April 2014. Accessed September 12, 2019.

8/28/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T127664/Acute-pancreatitis: Johnson CD, Besselink MG, Carter R. Acute pancreatitis. BMJ. 2014;349:g4859.

Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD  Last Updated: 9/12/2019