Successful conservative management of idiopathic fibrosing pancreatitis in children

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Idiopathic fibrosing pancreatitis, a rare cause of obstructive jaundice and abdominal pain in children, which has certain features in common with the emerging entity of autoimmune pancreatitis as described in adults, has frequently been managed surgically. We present our experience of successful conservative management of this condition in children. Three children (6-12 years; two girls, one boy) presented with a short history of abdominal pain followed by obstructive jaundice. Abdominal ultrasonographic examination in each case showed dilated intrahepatic and common bile ducts with a bulky pancreas, predominantly the head. These findings were confirmed by magnetic resonance imaging. In two cases, the diagnosis of fibrosing pancreatitis was made by exclusion after extensive investigation. The third case had a percutaneous ultrasound-guided pancreatic needle biopsy. Two patients were managed by supportive medical therapy alone, whilst the third, with symptomatic obstructive jaundice, underwent temporary endoscopic stenting of the common bile duct. Cases have been followed-up for 12-49 months. There was complete clinical and biochemical resolution of obstructive jaundice in all three cases. Plasma bilirubin concentrations decreased to normal within 3-8 weeks. Serial abdominal imaging showed a gradual resolution of biliary dilatation and abnormal pancreatic morphology with subsequent pancreatic atrophy. Two children developed steatorrhoea that responded to pancreatic enzyme supplements, and one patient developed diabetes mellitus. None of the cases needed invasive surgery for diagnosis or management. Conclusion: With careful radiological and biochemical assessment and monitoring, invasive surgery can be avoided in the management of fibrosing pancreatitis. The eventual outcome is no different from reported surgically treated cases.

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