The association between histopathological changes and the incidence of abdominal pain in patients with chronic pancreatitis was reviewed from published reports, and compared with that in our own series (n = 65). Recurrent tissue necrosis caused by autodigestion, and the formation of pseudocysts, are the likely causes of the intermittent pain that marks the early stages of chronic pancreatitis. In contrast, the persistent pain of advanced chronic pancreatitis is associated with incomplete duct obstruction in a pancreas that is still able to secrete. The cause of persistent pain may therefore be segmental distension of the walls of the duct as a result of focally increased pressure. Perineural scarring has been seen in both painful and painless chronic pancreatitis.