Pain and Opioid Use in Chronic Pancreatitis

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Opioid therapy for pain in chronic pancreatitis (CP) is associated with tolerance and possibly opioid-induced hyperalgesia. We thus examined opioid use and pain rating in CP patients.


Medical records of patients with established CP treated at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Digestive Disorders Center between April 2008 and December 2009 were retrospectively reviewed.


Two hundred nineteen unique patients (53% men; age, 50 ± 1 years) were identified. At least moderate pain was initially present in 37% of the patients. Half (51%) of the patients received opioids (average morphine equivalent, 78.1 ± 12.4 mg/d). Pain severity correlated with age (r2 = −0.22), history of alcohol abuse (r2 = 0.14), affective spectrum disorders (r2 = 0.14), presence of coexisting pain syndromes (r2 = 0.24), opioid use (r2 = 0.49), and days with concerns about physical (r2 = 0.55) or mental problems (r2 = 0.35). In contrast, computed tomography–defined pancreatic abnormalities (calcification, pseudocysts, ductal stones, or dilation) did not correlate with pain rating. Regression analysis identified age, days with physical problems, and a coexisting chronic pain syndrome as best independent predictors of pain.


Chronic pancreatitis etiology, especially alcohol use, and psychosocial factors are important determinants of pain severity in CP. Successful management thus needs to go beyond treatment of changes in pancreatic morphology to effectively improve quality of life and utilization of medical resources.

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