Chronic pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease: true or coincidental association?

Am J Gastroenterol. 1999 Aug;94(8):2141-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.1999.01287.x.


Objective: Several cases of pancreatitis have been described during the course of Crohn's disease (CD) or ulcerative colitis (UC), but many of them were related to either biliary lithiasis or drug intake. We tried to evaluate the clinical and morphological features of so-called idiopathic pancreatitis associated with inflammatory bowel disease and to define their pathological characteristics.

Methods: Chronic idiopathic pancreatitis was diagnosed on the basis of abnormal pancreatograms suggestive of chronic pancreatitis associated with or without impaired exocrine pancreatic function, or pathological examination in patients undergoing pancreatic resection. We found 6 patients presenting with features of chronic idiopathic pancreatitis and UC and 2 patients with CD seen between 1981 and 1996 in three hospital centers of the south of France. A review of the literature has identified 6 cases of pancreatitis associated with UC and 14 cases of pancreatitis associated with CD based on the above criteria.

Results: Hyperamylasemia was not a sensitive test since it was present in 44% and 64% of patients with UC or CD. In UC, pancreatitis was a prior manifestation in 58% of patients. In contrast, the pancreatitis appeared after the onset of CD in 56% of the cases. In patients with UC, pancreatitis were associated with severe disease revealed by pancolitis (42%) and subsequent surgery. Bile duct involvement was more frequent in patients with UC than with CD (58% vs 12%) mostly in the absence of sclerosing cholangitis (16% vs 6%). Weight loss and pancreatic duct stenosis were also more frequent in UC than in CD (41% vs 12% and 50% vs 23%, respectively). Pathological specimens were analyzed in 5 patients and demonstrated the presence of inter- and intralobular fibrosis with marked acinar regression in 3 and the presence of granulomas in 2 patients, both with CD.

Conclusions: Pancreatitis is a rare extraintestinal manifestation of inflammatory bowel disease. Chronic pancreatitis associated with UC differs from that observed in CD by the presence of more frequent bile duct involvement, weight loss, and pancreatic duct stenosis, possibly giving a pseudotumor pattern.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Amylases / blood
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Fibrosis
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / complications*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / diagnosis
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / pathology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pancreas / pathology
  • Pancreatitis / diagnosis
  • Pancreatitis / etiology*
  • Pancreatitis / pathology
  • Risk Factors


  • Amylases