Progression of Structural Brain Changes in Patients With Chronic Pancreatitis and Its Association to Chronic Pain: A 7-Year Longitudinal Follow-up Study

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Abstract

Objectives

Temporal information about the structural brain changes in chronic pancreatitis (CP) and its relation to the clinical manifestations is lacking. This study investigated changes in morphological brain parameters over 7 years in painful CP patients, compared with controls.

Methods

In this 7-year longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging study, we included 23 CP patients and 14 controls. Gray matter volume (GMV) and cortical thickness were examined using voxel-based and surface-based morphometry. In addition, patients completed pain questionnaires and diary.

Results

At baseline, patients had reduced GMV and cortical thickness in widespread brain areas compared with controls. After 7 years of follow-up, the GMV loss was more pronounced in patients compared with controls, particularly in precentral gyrus and putamen. Moreover, an increase in pain scores was associated with a less reduction of thalamic GMV (P = 0.046), whereas an increase in brief pain inventory score was associated with more reduction in cortical thickness of precentral (P = 0.005) and superior temporal gyri (P = 0.019), indicating that brain morphological alterations are associated with the pain.

Conclusions

Chronic pancreatitis pain is associated with morphological brain changes over time in several areas, reflecting that brain plasticity may be a consequence of repeated long-term nociceptive signaling.

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