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PATHOPHYSIOLOGY OF CHRONIC PANCREATITIS

Chronic pancreatitis is a disease process characterized by irreversible damage to the pancreas as distinct from the reversible changes noted in acute pancreatitis (Table 341-4). The events that initiate and then perpetuate the inflammatory process in the pancreas are becoming more clearly understood. Irrespective of the mechanism of injury, it is becoming apparent that stellate cell activation that results in cytokine expression and production of extracellular matrix proteins cause acute and chronic inflammation and collagen deposition in the pancreas. Thus, the condition is defined by the presence of histologic abnormalities, including chronic inflammation, fibrosis, and progressive destruction of both exocrine and eventually endocrine tissue (atrophy). A number of etiologies have been associated with chronic pancreatitis resulting in the cardinal manifestations of the disease such as abdominal pain, steatorrhea, weight loss, and diabetes mellitus (Table 341-5).

TABLE 341-4Complications of Acute Pancreatitis
TABLE 341-5Chronic Pancreatitis and Pancreatic Exocrine Insufficiency: Tigar-O Classification System

Although alcohol has been believed to be the primary cause of chronic pancreatitis, other factors contribute to the disease because not all heavy consumers of alcohol develop pancreatic disease. There is also ...

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