Chronic Pancreatitis: Diagnosis and Staging



Ann. Ital. Chir., LXXI, 1, 2000

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Chronic pancreatitis is a dynamic disease characterized on one side by a progressive destruction of the pancreatic parenchyma and change in the architecture of the gland and on the other by the impairment of its function. Diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis may be a quite easy or a very difficult attempt according to the severity and evolutive stage of disease. In fact, while most patients present with a typical history of alcohol abuse, recurrent abdominal pain and steatorrhea, in the late stage of disease it is not rare to see patients with symptoms and signs which may be not typical for pancreatitis. A large number of morphological and functional methods has been developed to allow an easy andearly diagnosis of disease. However, while in the advanced stages of disease, where pancreatic insufficiency, calcifications, or pseudocysts are present, diagnosis is easy and most of the procedures show high sensitivity and specificity, in the early disease the degree of pancreatic dysfunction and structural change are too small to be detected by current methods. The present article aims to evaluate the different morphological and functional methods with their advantages and shortcomings, as well as to establish their role in the diagnostic assessment of chronic pancreatitis.