New Clinic Offers Care for Children with Pancreatitis

Children with chronic pancreatitis are at increased risk for multiple issues.

While pancreatitis is not as prevalent in children as in adults, it can be an aggressive disease resulting in significant morbidity and even death. Now, children with this condition have access to a multidisciplinary clinic at Children’s of Alabama designed to manage their medical, physical and emotional health needs.

Chinenye Dike, M.D. M.S, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Children’s, started the Pancreatic Disorders Center of Excellence clinic in January 2023. It serves children with any type of pancreatitis, whether it be a single episode or recurrent attacks and chronic pancreatitis. It also serves children with pancreatic ductal anomalies and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency from other causes such as Shwachman-Diamond syndrome. The clinic is the only National Pancreas Foundation Pediatric Center of Excellence in Alabama.

“A major advantage of the multidisciplinary format is the ability to address the diverse medical and psychosocial effects of chronic pancreatic diseases all in one place,” Dike said. “Children with chronic pancreatitis are at increased risk for multiple issues including constant pain, missed school, diabetes, poor nutrition and reduced quality of life.” By bringing together physicians, nutritionists, pain specialists, psychologists and other providers to evaluate and create integrated treatment plans for these patients, Dike says the clinic aims to improve long-term outcomes and reduce repeat hospitalizations.

The multidisciplinary team also includes a genetic counselor—because many children with chronic pancreatitis have genetic mutations—and a pediatric endocrinologist to address endocrine complications from chronic pancreatitis, such as Type 3c diabetes, which develops when the pancreas experiences damage, such as from chronic pancreatitis or cystic fibrosis.

The clinic sees patients once a month. “We have the potential to grow,” Dike said, “given the increasing need for specialized pediatric pancreatic care in Alabama and surrounding states.” Data shows that some children can develop chronic pancreatitis even without a first episode of acute pancreatitis, she says, while some children with a severe first episode of acute pancreatitis can progress to chronic pancreatitis within four years. Additionally, a child’s quality of life can be impaired, and complications can develop after just a single episode of acute pancreatitis.

Dike and her team also track outcomes, including patient-reported outcomes such as quality of life.

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