Tropical pancreatitis

Dig Dis. 2004;22(3):258-66. doi: 10.1159/000082797.


Tropical pancreatitis is a special type of chronic pancreatitis that is seen mainly in tropical countries. The prevalence of tropical pancreatitis is about 126/100,000 population in southern India. It occurs usually in young people, involves the main pancreatic duct and results in large ductal calculi. The etiology is not known, but genetic mutations such as the SPINK1 gene mutation and environmental factors are likely causes. Clinically, >90% of patients present with abdominal pain. About 25% of patients develop diabetes which generally requires insulin for its control but is ketosis-resistant. Painless diabetes is another clinical presentation in some patients. Most patients develop malnutrition during the course of the disease. Steatorrhea is less common. Patients with tropical pancreatitis may develop pancreatic cancer as a long-term complication. The diagnosis can be established by plain radiography of the abdomen, ultrasonography, computerized tomography scan of the abdomen or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. Management is directed towards relief from pain and control of diabetes and steatorrhea. Pain relief can be obtained by analgesics and enzyme supplementation with preparations rich in proteases. Endotherapy coupled with stone fragmentation by extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy is an effective therapy for those who fail to respond to medical therapy. Surgical decompression of the main pancreatic duct by lateral pancreato-jejunostomy is reserved for patients with severe pain non-responsive to other forms of therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Cholangiopancreatography, Endoscopic Retrograde
  • Cholangiopancreatography, Magnetic Resonance
  • Chronic Disease
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Mutation
  • Pancreas / diagnostic imaging
  • Pancreas / pathology
  • Pancreatitis* / diagnosis
  • Pancreatitis* / epidemiology
  • Pancreatitis* / etiology
  • Prevalence
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Trypsin Inhibitor, Kazal Pancreatic
  • Ultrasonography


  • Carrier Proteins
  • SPINK1 protein, human
  • Trypsin Inhibitor, Kazal Pancreatic