Pancreatic ascites and Pleural Effusion in Children: Clinical Profile, Management and Outcomes

Pancreatology. 2021 Jan;21(1):98-102. doi: 10.1016/j.pan.2020.12.010. Epub 2020 Dec 14.


Background: Pancreatic ascites (PA) and pleural effusion (PPE) are rarely encountered in children. They develop due to disruption of the pancreatic duct (PD) or leakage from an associated pancreatic fluid collection (PFC). The literature on childhood PA/PPE and its management is scarce.

Methods: A retrospective review of children with PA/PPE diagnosed and managed at our center over the last 4 years was performed. The clinical, biochemical, radiological and management profiles were analyzed. Conservative management included nil per oral, octreotide and drainage using either percutaneous catheter or repeated paracentesis. Endotherapy included endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) and transpapillary stenting.

Results: Of the 214 children with pancreatitis, 15 (7%) had PA/PPE. Median age was 9 years with a third under 2 years. Median ascitic fluid amylase was 8840 U/L and all had elevated protein (>2.5 g/dl) and low serum ascites-albumin gradient ascites (<1.1). While PA/PPE was the first manifestation of underlying chronic pancreatitis (CP) in 10 children (67%), trauma was seen in 4 (26%) and hypertriglyceridemia in 1 (7%). On imaging, PD disruption could be identified in 10 (67%) children. ERCP and stenting was done in 10 children. Conservative management alone (n = 4) and endotherapy (n = 10) was successful in 93% with only one requiring surgery. The younger children (n = 4), were managed conservatively and only 1 of them required surgery. Resolution of PA/PPE was achieved in all with no recurrences.

Conclusions: Conservative management and ERCP plus transpapillary stenting results in resolution of majority of pediatric PA/PPE. Children presenting with PA/PPE needs to be evaluated for CP.

Keywords: Calcific pancreatitis; Children; Chronic pancreatitis; Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography; Pancreatic duct.

MeSH terms

  • Ascites / complications*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drainage / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Pancreatic Ducts / pathology
  • Pancreatitis / complications*
  • Pancreatitis / therapy
  • Pleural Effusion / complications*
  • Pleural Effusion / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies