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The Pancreas  

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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.

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Causes  

The most common cause of pancreatitis in children is trauma to the abdomen.

Other causes include:

  • The use of certain medications
  • Specific viral infections
  • Ischemia—lack of blood supply to the pancreas

Sometimes the cause of acute pancreatitis in children is unknown.

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Risk Factors  

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

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Symptoms  

Symptoms may include:

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

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

Images may be taken of your child’s bodily structures. This can be done with:

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Treatment  

Pancreatitis may resolve on its own. Supportive care may be needed if your child has frequent vomiting and poor appetite. To replace fluids and provide nutrition, your child’s doctor may advise:

  • IV fluids
  • Total parenteral nutrition—nutrition given by IV
  • A feeding tube

Your child may also be given supplemental oxygen.

If your child’s condition does not improve on its own or is severe, your child’s doctor will talk to you about a treatment plan. Options include:

Dietary Changes  

Your child’s doctor may advise dietary change and plenty of fluids to promote healing of the pancreas.

Medications  

Your child’s doctor may advise the following medication:

  • Over-the-counter pain medication
  • Prescription pain medication
  • Antibiotics if an infection is present or possible
  • Anti-nausea medication

Talk to your child’s doctor about the medications that your child takes. Certain medications may need to be stopped or changed if they are the cause of the acute pancreatitis.

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Prevention  

If your child has very high triglyceride levels, talk to your doctor about treatment options to help reduce the chance of pancreatitis.