Study Finds A Healthy Lifestyle Is Key To Living With Chronic Pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis sends more than 86,000 people to the hospital each year, according to Cleveland Clinic. Complications that accompany pancreatitis include malnutrition, hypo- or hyperglycemia, Type 1 diabetes, and chronic pain. The pancreas makes enzymes that help the small intestine break down food, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. It also makes insulin and glucagon to control blood sugar. Pancreatitis occurs when digestive enzymes attack the pancreas and cause inflammation. Alcohol abuse, gallstones, high triglycerides, cigarette smoking, and genetics can all cause pancreatitis.

Although lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking and alcohol, can slow the progression of the disease, surgery is sometimes necessary to remove all or part of the pancreas. However, a recent study in the Journal of American College of Surgeons found that managing chronic pancreatitis involves long-term care well after surgery. The study tracked 493 people who had surgery for pancreatitis from 2000 to 2020 to determine the overall survival rate after pancreatitis-related surgery. 

Factors that contributed to lower survival rates after pancreatitis procedures

After about five years, although 73% of the patients were opioid-free after their procedure, almost 59% of patients were dependent on insulin, according to the study

Within the follow-up, 165 people died from infections, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes. The researchers determined that the five-year survival rate after pancreatitis surgery was 81.3%, and the 10-year rate was 63.5%. However, survival rates were lower in patients who were persistent smokers and/or drank alcohol. Persistent opioid use contributed to the lowest survival rate among people who had a pancreatitis procedure.

The researchers emphasized how important it is for people recovering from pancreatitis surgery to receive continuing care in managing their health, including maintaining their cardiovascular health and diabetes ( per U.S. News & World Report). The researchers also said patients need psychosocial care, particularly in weaning people off opioids. "It can't just be go to your primary care provider once a year," said lead researcher Dr. Gregory Wilson via U.S. News & World Report. With that being said, people should keep consistently going to the doctor, especially with this condition.