Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) has many presentations in children and adolescents, ranging from intrauterine congenital onset with sequelae of early exocrine pancreatic insufficiency as in the diseases of cystic fibrosis and Shwachman-Diamond syndrome to postnatal onset as a consequence of embryologic anomalies affecting pancreatic drainage postulated to exist in pancreas divisum, or of traumatic, obstructive, hemodynamic, metabolic or biochemical insults. The etiology is often elusive with up to 30% of cases being idiopathic. Modern imaging modalities of endoscopic ultrasonography and magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography extend the diagnostic power of conventional abdominal ultrasonography and computed tomography. In addition, there is increasing pediatric experience with endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. Medical management remains supportive, with optimal timing and indications for surgery in cases of pancreatic necrosis and pseudocyst assessed. Three temporal patterns of pancreatitis appear in children: acute pancreatitis, recurrent acute pancreatitis, and chronic pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis is of abrupt onset, often attributable to a specific cause, and of variable severity and duration but self-limited with eventual resolution. Acute attacks of pancreatitis recurring after periods of remission characterize acute recurrent pancreatitis and indicate an intrinsic problem or susceptibility. Chronic pancreatitis is present in most of these cases in which pancreatic inflammation and destruction never completely remits.
Associate Professor, Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Department of Pediatrics, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
Correspondence to W. Daniel Jackson, MD, Primary Children's Medical Center, 100 N. Medical Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84113-1100; e-mail: email@example.com