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Pancreatitis in Children: New Hope through Research

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What is pancreatitis? Pancreatitis is a disease that causes inflammation in the pancreas, which can lead to vomiting, pain and many other issues. What causes it? Many things! Physical injury, viral infections, medications, high triglycerides, abnormal formation of the pancreas, genetic causes and many other things can all cause episodes. Pancreatitis is rare among children, but recent studies have shown an increase. One in 10,000 adults are susceptible to the disease, and children are now almost just as susceptible.

Ochsner Hospital for Children has been recognized as a National Pancreas Foundation Center of Excellence. This designation is reserved for healthcare facilities that focus on “multidisciplinary treatment of pancreas disease which treat the whole patient to ensure the best possible quality of life and improve outcomes.’’ We are the only such pediatric center in the Gulf South.

I’m also thrilled to announce that Ochsner Hospital for Children has a new research opportunity for children with recurrent or chronic pancreatitis. The Pediatric Pancreatitis Research Project, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, includes 25 international centers that are investigating better ways to diagnose, evaluate and treat children who suffer with these conditions. Patients aged 0-17 years with recurrent or chronic pancreatitis may qualify for this study.

I was lead author of a 2017 study in The Journal of Pediatrics that suggested early onset pancreatitis in children has a strong association with certain genetic risk factors. This study examined three age groups with a sample of 342 children.

Based on previous findings, patients with a certain genetic mutation are more likely to have an aggressive disease course. In addition to family history, studies like this help us discover important details and aid in developing treatments that could change and improve a patient’s quality of life.

Recurrent and chronic pancreatitis treatments have evolved over the years, yet we still need more research to guide our treatments and decisions. If you, a friend, or a family member has been affected by recurrent or chronic pancreatitis, there is new hope and help that can be offered along this difficult journey.

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