Introduction: The most common symptoms of chronic pancreatitis are abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss. The abdominal pain has no consistent pattern, and nausea and vomiting commonly occur simultaneously. Gastroparesis may produce similar symptoms. These similar symptoms may cause diagnostic confusion, particularly with regard to patients with small-duct chronic pancreatitis, for whom diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis is most difficult. We have observed that coexistent gastroparesis may also interfere with the effectiveness of pancreatic enzyme therapy by failing to deliver proteases into the duodenum and therefore not restoring feedback control of pancreatic secretion.
Aim: To estimate the prevalence of gastroparesis in patients with minimal-change chronic pancreatitis.
Methodology: Patients with chronic pancreatitis diagnosed on the basis of secretin test results but with otherwise normal pancreatic imaging (ultrasonographic or computed tomographic) findings who had also undergone a gastric emptying study were retrospectively identified. An abnormal secretin test value was defined as a peak bicarbonate concentration in pancreatic secretions of <80 mEq/L after secretin stimulation. Gastroparesis was defined as an emptying half-time greater than 90 minutes.
Results: Fifty-six patients were identified. Twenty-five of the 56 patients (44%) had concomitant gastroparesis and small-duct chronic pancreatitis. Twenty-four of these 25 were women, and 22 of the 25 had idiopathic small-duct chronic pancreatitis.
Conclusion: In our referral population, gastroparesis is frequently seen in patients with small-duct chronic pancreatitis. For patients with small-duct disease whose abdominal pain does not respond to pancreatic enzyme therapy, clinicians should consider an evaluation for gastroparesis.