U of M study finds pancreatectomy and islet autotransplantation provides significant sustained pain relief in children with chronic pancreatitis

Monday, February 10, 2014

Researchers in the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Surgery have found that total pancreatectomy and islet autotransplantation (TP-IAT) can provide significant, sustained pain relief and improve the quality of life in children with chronic pancreatitis (CP).

Traditionally, surgeons would refrain from operating on younger patients, especially children, however this research shows that younger children actually fared better after surgery and had fewer complications than their counterparts.

The study was led by Srinath Chinnakotla, M.D., associate professor of surgery and pediatrics at the University of Minnesota and was recently published in the Annals of Surgery.

“As surgeons our primary goal for CP treatment in children is to relieve pain and get them back to doing the things they love as quickly as possible,” said Chinnakotla. “Our research shows that this procedure provides sustained pain relief while simultaneously, the islet cell transplant prevents diabetes. The procedure also potentially prevents pancreatic cancer in the group with hereditary etiology. We believe this study will help pave the way to help younger patients as pediatricians shouldn’t be as reluctant to explore this as a treatment option with their patients with and their families.”

Chinnakotla and his team studied 75 children from 1989 to 2012 in a subject pool of 484 patients who had chronic pancreatic surgery performed at the University of Minnesota and the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital. 

Study results also found that:

  • 41 percent of patients achieved complete  insulin independence  and most patients had partial function
  • Younger patients (under age 12) were more likely to achieve insulin independence than older children
  • Pancreatitis pain and its severity improved over time and nearly all pain improvement was shown in the first three months
  • Quality of life studies revealed more than 90 percent returned to school and enjoyed improved quality of life
  • This is the largest study in children published to date 

The University of Minnesota surgeons involved with the study are excited about the results and are already performing the procedure minimally invasively via laparoscopic methods.

Islet autotransplantation was pioneered at the University of Minnesota by David Sutherland, M.D. in 1977 and the University has played an integral role in the development and advancement of this procedure. Children from all over the country come to the University for this procedure.