Pancreatic duct stones usually develop from cholesterol or bile salts and can block the flow of digestive enzymes from the pancreas to the small intestine. They occur mostly in individuals who suffer from chronic pancreatitis. When the stones block the pancreatic duct, which connects the pancreas with the small intestine, the pancreas loses its ability to release digestive enzymes; the secretion of hormones that regulate blood sugar levels can also be affected.
In addition to the stones that form in the pancreas, stones that form in the gallbladder (gallstones) may become lodged in the common bile duct, which merges with the pancreatic duct. If either type of stone blocks the pancreatic duct pancreatic enzymes can back up inside of the pancreas, resulting in inflammation and pancreatitis.
Causes - Pancreatic duct stones often result from pancreatitis associated with alcohol abuse, hyperparathyroidism or Islet cell tumors.
Symptoms - Pancreatic duct stones often occur during episodes of pancreatitis. The signs and symptoms of acute pancreatitis may vary by person but is most commonly characterized by:
- Abdominal pain that is felt in the upper left side or the middle of the abdomen. The pain may be worse after drinking or eating (especially foods that have a high fat content) or when lying on your back, and may radiate to the back or below the left shoulder blade.
- Clay-colored stools
- Abdominal swelling or tenderness
Diagnosis – In addition to a physical examination your physician may also order one or more of the following tests:
- Blood Tests
- Abdominal Ultrasound
- Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS)
- Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
Treatment - Effective treatment requires that the stones be removed. Small pancreatic duct stones can be removed using endoscopic retrograde choloangiopancreatography (ERCP); larger stones may require surgery.
Tulane University, Department of Surgery, 1430 Tulane Ave. SL-22 New Orleans, LA 70112 504-988-5128 email@example.com