Pancreatic Fistula


What is a Pancreatic Fistula?

A pancreatic fistula is an abnormal connection between the pancreas and another organ or the surface of the body. This condition is found in a variety of pancreatic diseases and conditions, such as pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, and pancreatic cysts. Pancreatic fistulas can cause a variety of complications, such as abdominal pain, malabsorption, infection, and even death.

Types of Pancreatic Fistulas

Fistulas vary in the type of tissue affected and the structure of the abnormality, but all fistulas involve abnormal communication between two areas. Several common types of pancreatic fistulas that may occur include:

  • Gastroenteropancreatic (GEP) fistulas: GEP fistulas are the most common type of pancreatic fistulas and involve the pancreas and the gastrointestinal tract, such as the stomach, intestines, or gallbladder.
  • Biliary fistulas: Biliary fistulas involve abnormal connection between the pancreas and the bile duct or bile-producing organs, like the gallbladder or liver.
  • Enterocutaneous fistulas: An enterocutaneous fistula is an abnormal connection between the intestine and the skin. In pancreatic fistulas, this type of fistula can occur from the pancreas to the skin.
  • Uterine fistulas: Uterine fistulas are connections between the pancreas and the uterus. This type of fistula is the rarest type of pancreatic fistula, but can occur in some cases.

Symptoms of Pancreatic Fistulas

The symptoms of pancreatic fistulas vary depending on the type, size, and location of the fistula. Common symptoms of a pancreatic fistula include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Malabsorption of nutrients
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and chills
  • Skin irritation or infection

Treatment of Pancreatic Fistulas

Pancreatic fistulas can be difficult to treat and may require more than one type of therapy. Common treatments for pancreatic fistulas are:

  • Surgery: Surgery is the primary treatment for pancreatic fistulas. The type of surgery will depend on the location and size of the fistula. The focus of surgery is to close the fistula and reduce the risk of infection.
  • Medications: Doctors may prescribe antibiotics to help reduce the risk of infection. In some cases, medications may also be prescribed to help control pain or reduce inflammation.
  • Nutritional Support: In cases of malabsorption, patients may need nutritional support to ensure they are getting the proper amount of essential nutrients. A doctor may recommend oral or intravenous solutions to help maintain normal nutrition.

Prevention of Pancreatic Fistulas

While it is not possible to completely prevent the development of pancreatic fistulas, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk. These include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Avoiding smoking and drinking
  • Regular exercise and activity
  • Managing stress
  • Avoiding certain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Seeking medical attention when you experience any signs or symptoms of pancreatic fistula