Obstructive Pancreatitis

Obstructive pancreatitis is a type of pancreatitis caused by a blockage of the major pancreal ducts, usually caused by scarring or a tumor, though there has been at least one case of the duct becoming blocked by an object- namely a migrated balloon gastronomy tube, in 2011.


1. Abdominal pain localized around the navel.
2. Fever.
3. Nausea.
4. Fatigue.
5. Headaches.
6. A sensitive, swollen abdomen.
7. Steatorrhea (bulky stool with a foul odor)

 Note that the last symptom, steatorrhea, will only present once the pancreatitis has progressed quite far, and is accompanied by sudden weight loss and malasorbtion of nutrients.


1. Alcoholism. Chronic alcohol abuse is the number one cause of pancreatitis, generally after at least a decade of abuse. 90% of cases are due to a chronic alcohol addiction, and it is sometimes accompanied by liver damage.

2. Gallstones can sometimes block the pancreatic ducts, causing obstructive pancreatitis. In this case, if the gallstones are removed, the pancreas will regain its function.

3. Obstructions of the ducts lead to obstructive pancreatitis. Though the most common cause of obstructions are tumors or scarring of the ducts, it can also be caused by cysts, stenosis of the Oddi’s sphincter, trauma to the pancreas, and the presence of stones in the Wirsung duct. In all cases, once the blockage is removed, pancreatic function should return to normal.


Any variant of pancreatitis is relatively uncommon outside the subset of chronic alcoholics, so there is not much that can be done to prevent the occurrence of pancreatitis. Obstructive pancreatitis, especially, is very rare. Though it can be caused by gallstones there seems to be no correlation between people who have a large amount of gallstones and the development of pancreatitis.


There is only one way to treat obstructive pancreatitis, and that’s through surgery. Whether the blockage is a cyst, stone, tumor, scar tissue or a foreign object, the duct must be opened and the blockage removed, or in the case of a tumor, excised. In the case of scarring a stent may sometimes be put in to make sure that the scar tissue does not re-grow and obstruct the duct again, though this will require the patient to take a regimen of blood thinners and a mild anti-rejection medication for at least a year while the stent grows into the surrounding tissue.

Obstructive pancreatitis is a serious thing, but is rare. However, if you suspect that you may have this problem, don’t wait. Visit the doctor as soon as possible- ignoring it for too long may cause permanent damage, or even death.