Objective: Both the pancreas and salivary glands show many histological and functional similarities. Recently, autoimmune pathogenesis has been postulated in some chronic pancreatitis cases. To examine whether a cell-mediated phenomenon involving the pancreas has a secondary effect on the salivary glands, we assessed the frequency of salivary gland dysfunction in patients with chronic pancreatitis of various etiologies.
Methods: Function of the salivary glands was examined by sialochemistry and salivary gland scintigraphy in patients with chronic pancreatitis (n = 33), Sjogren's syndrome (n = 45), and controls (n = 28). Etiologies of chronic pancreatitis were alcoholic (19 cases), idiopathic (seven cases), and autoimmune (seven cases).
Results: Concentrations of Na+, amylase, and beta2-microglobulin in saliva were investigated. In submandibular and parotid gland scintigraphy, time-activity curves were generated, and the ratios of peak count density and washout were calculated. Concentrations of Na+ in saliva of patients with idiopathic chronic pancreatitis and of beta2-microglobulin in saliva of patients with idiopathic and autoimmune chronic pancreatitis were significantly elevated than those of the control group. In submandibular and parotid gland scintigraphy, the peak count density ratio of patients with all chronic pancreatitis and washout ratio of patients with alcoholic and idiopathic chronic pancreatitis were significantly lower than those of the control group.
Conclusions: Salivary gland function was frequently impaired in the course of chronic pancreatitis of various etiologies. Salivary gland dysfunction might be the result of a common pathophysiological effect of alcohol in patients with alcoholic chronic pancreatitis and the aggressive immune mechanism against the pancreatic and the salivary ducts in patients with autoimmune and idiopathic chronic pancreatitis.