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What are Pancreatobiliary Diseases?

Pancreatobiliary diseases are disorders or abnormalities of the pancreas, bile ducts, or gallbladder. The different types of disorders that may occur in these structures include obstruction, leakage, tumours, and lesions resulting in a variety of gastrointestinal problems.

Common Pancreatobiliary Diseases

The different types of pancreatobiliary diseases include:

  • Pancreatic diseases: The pancreas produces insulin and glucagon to regulate blood sugar and other enzymes for the digestion of food. Pancreatic diseases include pancreatitis (acute or chronic inflammation of the pancreas), solid or cystic pancreatic tumours, and strictures in the pancreas.
  • Gallbladder diseases: The gallbladder stores bile produced by the liver.  Abnormal conditions that block or slow down the flow of bile from the gallbladder result in diseases such as the development of gallstones or cholelithiasis, inflammation of the gallbladder or cholecystitis, gallbladder infection, and obstruction.
  • Bile duct disease: Bile ducts carry bile for the digestion of fats from the liver to the intestines. The various types of bile duct diseases include gallstones in the bile duct or choledocholithiasis, narrowing of the bile duct which prevents draining of the bile, bile duct infection, and cyst formation.   

Symptoms of Pancreatobiliary Diseases

Common symptoms of pancreatobiliary disease include:

  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Abdominal pain radiating to the back
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever and rapid pulse
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes in cases of bile duct blockage and gallbladder disease.

Diagnosis of Pancreatobiliary Diseases

Pancreatobiliary disease may be diagnosed based on an evaluation of symptoms, physical examination, and diagnostic tests that include:

  • Blood tests: These tests may be ordered to measure the abnormal levels of enzymes and other substances in the blood.
  • CT scans: These tests involve the use of a series of X-rays and special dye which can identify lesions, bleeding, leakage, or an abscess in the pancreatobiliary system.
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatogram: This test can identify problems in your bile duct or pancreatic duct by using a flexible tube attached to a camera and light called an endoscope.
  • MRI scans: These are highly sensitive tests that use a magnetic field and radio waves to identify pancreatobiliary diseases.

Treatment of Pancreatobiliary Diseases

The various treatments for pancreatobiliary diseases include conservative measures such as fasting, IV fluids, and pain medication to reduce inflammation and pain. Once symptoms are under control, the underlying cause of the disease may be surgically treated. The various options include removal of bile duct obstructions by a minimally invasive procedure called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy), and surgery to remove fluid or diseased tissue from the pancreas.   

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