A Promising Non-Invasive Test for Pancreatitis

A study from the University of Minnesota’s Department of Surgery has identified a urine test that promises to identify acute and chronic pancreatitis.

After evaluating sixty different biomarkers, researchers identified two — citrate and adenosine — that were significant in identifying the disease after validation.  Interestingly, the markers could not differentiate between chronic and acute pancreatitis.

The study was limited by the small sample size — 15 total patients, 5 each with acute and chronic pancreatitis and 5 healthy patients.  But the authors concluded that larger studies could validate use of a urine test.  Given the difficulty of diagnosing the disease without invasive procedures such as endoscopic ultrasound, such a test would be of immense value.  (Personally it took about five years for my condition to be diagnosed accurately, during which the condition worsened significantly.)

An abstract of the study, which was published this year, can be found here.


One Acute Pancreatitis Attack Can Lead to Chronic Problems

A study just published in this month’s Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery has found that a single episode of acute alcoholic pancreatitis can have effects that last for years, often leading to further attacks or to chronic pancreatitis.

The study, conducted in Finland, followed 44 patients who suffered an acute attack, tracking them 3 months later, as well as 2, 7 and 9 years after the attack. After three months, 32% of the patients had recovered to the point of showing normal findings; 52% still had acute symptoms, and 16% showed chronic change.  Given how serious an acute episode is, that is not unexpected.  What is surprising is that, seven years after the attack, only about half (53%) had recovered; the other 47% exhibited chronic changes, including pancreatic cysts in over a third of that population (36%).  By year seven 22% had experienced another acute attack and 11% had been diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis.

Notably, only six of the 44 patients had abstained from alcohol during the seven year period.  Of those, only one had chronic effects — a small number to draw statistical significance from but certainly logical.

This study certainly supports the idea that people who suffer from even one episode of acute pancreatitis need ongoing, long-term care — something they do not always get.

You can find an abstract of the study here.