Pancreatic Panniculitis and Polyarthritis

Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2017 Aug 26;19(10):62. doi: 10.1007/s11926-017-0690-4.


Purpose of review: Polyarthritis can have numerous reasons and may thus constitute a challenge for differential diagnosis. One rare potential reason for sterile polyarthritis is underlying pancreatic disease with systemic hyperlipasemia, most often accompanied by painful skin lesions caused by a subcutaneous inflammatory process known as panniculitis. Systematic evidence on pancreatic panniculitis and polyarthritis is limited, particularly regarding its feature as facultative paraneoplasia with underlying intra- or even extra-pancreatic malignancy. Therefore, we will summarize the current knowledge about this orphan disease including epidemiological, pathophysiological, diagnostic, and treatment aspects in the present review.

Recent findings: Although direct evidence is lacking, it is highly probable that pancreatic polyarthritis and panniculitis are caused by peripheral lipolytic activity of lipase systemically circulating due to benign (e.g., acute or chronic pancreatitis) or malign (e.g., acinar cell carcinoma (ACC) or adenocarcinoma) pancreatic disease. In the latter case, pancreatic polyarthritis and panniculitis are associated with poor outcome. Pancreatic polyarthritis and panniculitis should always be included into diagnostic considerations, and once suspected, a thorough work-up to identify the underlying disease has to be performed.

Keywords: Acinar cell carcinoma; Hyperlipasemia; Pancreatic panniculitis; Polyarthritis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis / diagnosis
  • Arthritis / epidemiology
  • Arthritis / physiopathology*
  • Arthritis / therapy
  • Humans
  • Lipase / blood
  • Pancreatic Diseases / diagnosis
  • Pancreatic Diseases / epidemiology
  • Pancreatic Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Pancreatic Diseases / therapy
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / therapy
  • Panniculitis / diagnosis
  • Panniculitis / epidemiology
  • Panniculitis / physiopathology*
  • Panniculitis / therapy
  • Prognosis


  • Lipase