The pancreas is a long, flat organ located behind the stomach. It creates enzymes that help digest food as well as hormones, like insulin, that help control blood sugar.
Acute pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas that occurs suddenly.
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The most common cause of pancreatitis in children is trauma to the abdomen.
Other causes include:
- The use of certain medications
- Specific viral infections
- Ischemia—lack of blood supply to the pancreas
Sometimes the cause of acute pancreatitis in children is unknown.
Factors that may increase your child’s risk of acute pancreatitis include:
Symptoms may include:
- Pain and swelling in the abdomen
- Back pain or left shoulder pain
- Nausea and vomiting—vomit may be yellow, green, or brown
- Loss of appetite
You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Blood will be taken for testing as well.
Images may be taken of your child’s bodily structures. This can be done with:
Pancreatitis may resolve on its own. Supportive care may be needed if your child has frequent vomiting and poor appetite. To replace fluids and provide nutrition, your child’s doctor may advise:
- IV fluids
- Total parenteral nutrition—nutrition given by IV
- A feeding tube
Your child may also be given supplemental oxygen.
If your child’s condition does not improve on its own or is severe, your child’s doctor will talk to you about a treatment plan. Options include:
Your child’s doctor may advise dietary change and plenty of fluids to promote healing of the pancreas.
Your child’s doctor may advise the following medication:
- Over-the-counter pain medication
- Prescription pain medication
- Antibiotics if an infection is present or possible
- Anti-nausea medication
Talk to your child’s doctor about the medications that your child takes. Certain medications may need to be stopped or changed if they are the cause of the acute pancreatitis.
Surgery may be needed if your child has complications, such as bleeding, infection, or uncontrolled pain.
Another complication is the formation of cysts and pseudocysts. Cysts are fluid-filled sacs in or on the pancreas. A pseudocyst contains enzymes or semi-solid material that form in spaces inside the pancreas. Cysts and pseudocysts may cause pain, nausea, vomiting, or become infected. Treatment may include:
If your child has very high triglycerides or other known causes of pancreatitis, talk to their doctor about treatment options to help reduce the chance of pancreatitis.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org
Kid's Health—Nemours Foundation http://kidshealth.org
Health Canada https://www.canada.ca
Sick Kids—The Hospital for Sick Children http://www.sickkids.ca
Acute pancreatitis in children. The National Pancreas Foundation website. Available at: http://pancreasfoundation.org/patient-information/childrenpediatric-pancreatitis/acute-pancreatitis-in-children. Accessed December 21, 2017.
Acute pancreatitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T127664/Acute-pancreatitis . Updated June 5, 2017. Accessed December 21, 2017.
Pancreatic cysts and pseudocysts. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases%5Fconditions/hic%5FPancreatitis/hic-pancreatic-cysts-and-pseudocysts. Updated April 24, 2014. Accessed December 21, 2017.
Pancreatitis. Johns Hopkins Children’s Center website. Available at: http://www.hopkinschildrens.org/Pancreatitis.aspx. Accessed December 21, 2017.
Pancreatitis. Kid's Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/endocrine/pancreatitis.html. Updated April 2014. Accessed December 21, 2017.
Pancreatitis in children. Boston Children’s Hospital website. Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/pancreatitis. Accessed December 21, 2017.
Uretsky G, Goldschmiedt M, James K. Childhood pancreatitis. Am Fam Physician. 1999;59(9):2507-2512.
8/28/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T127664/Acute-pancreatitis : Johnson CD, Besselink MG, Carter R. Acute pancreatitis. BMJ. 2014;349:g4859.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD
- Review Date: 11/2018
- Update Date: 12/28/2015