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Pancreatic Diseases

National Pancreas Foundation Center Click here to learn more about the National Pancreas Foundation

UI Health is dedicated to providing world-class care for diseases of the pancreas including pancreatitis (also called: pancreas inflammation). We combine decades of experience, a compassionate approach, and the use of new technologies to improve the health and lives of our patients. Care for pancreatic disorders often requires a team of gastroenterologists, surgeons, radiologists, and other providers. We take pride in communicating with our patients and using a multidisciplinary approach to develop a care plan that focuses on each patient as an individual.


Acute pancreatitis is a painful disorder that usually requires treatment in the hospital with intravenous fluids and medications. In some cases, pancreatitis can be life-threatening due to its effect on other organs or severe infection. The GI specialists at UI Health are skilled at both identifying the cause of pancreatitis and treating its effects on the body.

Pancreatitis can have many different causes, such as gallstones, alcohol use or smoking, genetic disorders, or other reasons. Some patients have recurrent attacks of acute pancreatitis with the need for multiple trips to the hospital. When we treat a patient with acute pancreatitis, the UI Health team seeks to investigate the cause and, if possible, fix the underlying problem to put an end to the attacks.

Acute or chronic pancreatitis can result in complications, such as fluid collections known as pseudocysts, or damage to the pancreatic duct from scarring or stones. These complications can result in more pain or difficulty eating. Our specialists are skilled at management of pancreatic fluid collections and use minimally invasive strategies to treat these complications.

Chronic pancreatitis can severely impact a patient’s quality of life due to pain, poor nutrition, and risk of diabetes and pancreatic cancer. Our providers work with patients to address all of these factors. Some patients respond to simple medical treatment, while others require advanced treatments with endoscopic or surgical techniques. We consider all options for patients with recurrent acute pancreatitis or chronic pancreatitis, including total pancreatectomy with auto islet cell transplantation to eliminate the pain of chronic pancreatitis while avoiding severe diabetes when the pancreas is removed.

We have expertise in the following treatments and procedures:

  • Endoscopic ultrasound for detailed evaluation of pancreas anatomy, including cysts
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) for treatment of pancreatic duct stones and strictures
  • Genetic studies and counseling for hereditary pancreatitis
  • Endoscopic or surgical drainage of pancreatic pseudocysts or walled-off pancreatic necrosis
  • Multidisciplinary pain management for chronic pancreatitis
  • Surgical treatment of severe pancreatic-duct strictures
  • Total pancreatectomy with auto islet cell transplantation (TPIAT) for recurrent or chronic pancreatitis

Pancreatic Cancer

The endoscopists at UI Health specialize in diagnosis of pancreatic cancer via endoscopic ultrasound with fine needle aspiration (EUS-FNA). We also can relieve jaundice and pain using tools such as biliary stents or celiac plexus neurolysis (CPN). We work as part of a team with medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists to determine the best treatment for each patient.

Our medical oncology and radiation oncology teams provide treatments to try to shrink pancreatic tumors before surgery and allow the highest change at surgical removal of the tumor. When a curative surgery is not possible, our medical oncologists can provide treatments designed to improve both length and quality of life.

UI Health surgeons use minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques or robotic-assisted surgery to effectively remove pancreatic tumors, resulting in the need for less recovery time than traditional open surgery.

Pancreatic Fluid Collections and Cysts

UI Health gastroenterologists can use endoscopic ultrasound to closely examine pancreatic cysts and determine whether they are benign, requiring monitoring, or should be removed. This may involve sampling the cyst fluid to analyze it in the laboratory. For cysts that require removal, our surgical team uses minimally invasive and robotic-assisted techniques whenever possible to allow for a faster recovery.