Chronic pancreatitis (CP) is characterized by progressive and ultimately irreversible pancreatic injury. Alcohol abuse is the most common cause of CP in the Western world. As the pathophysiology of this disorder is better understood, it is probable that the treatment will be more successful. Therapeutic efforts for CP are focused on the treatment of maldigestion, pain, and diabetes. Dosage and timing of enteric-coated pancreatic enzymes are important issues in the treatment of malabsorption due to CP. Non-enteric-coated enzyme preparations along with acid suppression (histamine-2 blockers or proton-pump inhibitors) are of limited to modest effectiveness in treating pain caused by CP but are worth a trial in patients with less advanced disease. Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) of calcified stones is sometimes needed to achieve stone fragmentation before endoscopic removal. The role of ESWL alone in relieving calcified CP pain needs further study. Endoscopic therapy is aimed at decompressing the obstructed pancreatic duct and removal of pancreatic stone and is associated with pain relief in many patients. The role of endoscopic ultrasonography-guided celiac plexus block should be limited to treating those patients with CP whose pain has not responded to other modalities. Radiation therapy to the whole pancreas for CP pain relief is a revived treatment option that needs further study to confirm the safety and efficacy. Total pancreatectomy followed by autologous islet cell autotransplantation appears to be a potential therapeutic approach but should be considered as the last option in patients with refractory pain who have failed conventional medical, endoscopic, and surgical options.
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