Background: Pathologic changes of the pancreas have been observed as early as the recognition of the disease termed initially "cystic fibrosis of the pancreas". Atrophy of the gland and its fatty infiltration were considered as usual features. The aim of this study was to follow-up the evolution of cystic fibrosis pancreas and to define its successive stages in correlation with the clinical, biochemical, and imaging findings.
Methods: Fifty-five patients were followed up during 9 years. The patients' genetic backgrounds were systematically performed. Blood lipase levels were analyzed systematically at each consultation of the patients and in the event of bouts of abdominal pains. Imaging using mainly echograms and tomodensitometric scans were regularly performed: echograms every 6 months, and tomodensitometric scans every 1 to 2 years. Magnetic resonance imaging was performed in four patients.
Results: Five groups of patients were identified on the basis of tomodensitometric scan findings: normal pancreas (n = 4), incomplete lipomatosis of the pancreas (n = 9), complete lipomatosis of the pancreas (n = 23), cystic pancreas (n = 5), macrocystic pancreas (n = 1), atrophic pancreas (n = 13). Pancreas exocrine function was not correlated with findings. Forty episodes of pancreatitis were observed in seven patients. They had bouts of abdominal pain and elevation of lipase levels. Five of these patients were composite heterozygotes (D508/other). Incomplete lipomatosis represents an intermediate stage leading toward complete lipomatosis or toward atrophy after pancreatitis.
Conclusions: Studies of pancreatic function should be performed routinely in cystic fibrosis, especially in pancreatic sufficiency or in patients with normal pancreas images. Acute pancreatitis should be diagnosed and properly identified to be differentiated from other acute abdominal syndromes occurring in cystic fibrosis.