Background: The clinical course of chronic pancreatitis is still unpredictable, which relates to the lack of the availability of a clinical classification. Therefore, patient populations cannot be compared, the course and the outcome of the disease remain undetermined in the individual patient, and treatment is not standardized.
Aim: To establish a clinical classification for chronic pancreatitis which is user friendly, transparent, relevant, prognosis- as well as treatment-related and offers a frame for future disease evaluation.
Methods: Diagnostic requirements will include one clinical criterion, in combination with well defined imaging or functional abnormalities.
Results: A classification system consisting of three stages (A, B and C) is presented, which fulfils the above-mentioned criteria. Clinical criteria are: pain, recurrent attacks of pancreatitis, complications of chronic pancreatitis (e.g. bile duct stenosis), steatorrhea, and diabetes mellitus. Imaging criteria consist of ductal or parenchymal changes observed by ultrasonography, ERCP, CT, MRI, and/or endosonography.
Conclusion: A new classification of chronic pancreatitis, based on combination of clinical signs, morphology and function, is presented. It is easy to handle and an instrument to study and to compare the natural course, the prognosis and treatment of patients with chronic pancreatitis.