Learn About Pancreas Divisum

What is the definition of Pancreas Divisum?

Pancreas divisum is a birth defect in which parts of the pancreas do not join together. The pancreas is a long, flat organ located between the stomach and spine. It helps in food digestion.

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What are the alternative names for Pancreas Divisum?

Pancreatic divisum

What are the causes of Pancreas Divisum?

Pancreas divisum is the most common birth defect of the pancreas. In many cases, this defect goes undetected and causes no problems. The cause of the defect is unknown.

As a baby develops in the womb, two separate pieces of tissue join together to form the pancreas. Each part has a tube, called a duct. When the parts join together, a final duct, called the pancreatic duct, is formed. Fluid and digestive juices (enzymes) produced by the pancreas normally flow through this duct.

Pancreas divisum occurs if the ducts do not join while the baby develops. Fluid from the two parts of the pancreas drains into separate areas of the upper portion of the small intestine (duodenum). This occurs in 5% to 15% of people.

If a pancreatic duct becomes blocked, swelling and tissue damage (pancreatitis) may develop.

What are the symptoms of Pancreas Divisum?

Many people do not have any symptoms. If you have pancreatitis, symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain, most often in the upper abdomen that may be felt in the back
  • Abdominal swelling (distention)
  • Nausea or vomiting
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What are the current treatments for Pancreas Divisum?

The following treatments may be needed if you have symptoms of the condition, or if pancreatitis keeps returning:

  • ERCP with a cut to enlarge the opening where the pancreatic duct drains
  • Placement of a stent to prevent the duct from getting blocked

You may need surgery if these treatments do not work.

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What is the outlook (prognosis) for Pancreas Divisum?

Most of the time, the outcome is good.

What are the possible complications of Pancreas Divisum?

The main complication of pancreas divisum is pancreatitis.

When should I contact a medical professional for Pancreas Divisum?

Contact your health care provider if you develop symptoms of this disorder.

How do I prevent Pancreas Divisum?

Because this condition is present at birth, there is no known way to prevent it.

Pancreas divisum
Digestive system
Endocrine glands
What are the latest Pancreas Divisum Clinical Trials?
SpHincterotomy for Acute Recurrent Pancreatitis (SHARP Trial)

Summary: The purpose of this study is to determine if a procedure called Endoscopic Retrograde CholangioPancreatography (ERCP) with sphincterotomy reduces the risk of pancreatitis or the number of recurrent pancreatitis episodes in patients with pancreas divisum. ERCP with sphincterotomy is a procedure where doctors used a combination of x-rays and an endoscope (a long flexible lighted tube) to find the op...

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What are the Latest Advances for Pancreas Divisum?
AGA Clinical Practice Update on the Endoscopic Approach to Recurrent Acute and Chronic Pancreatitis: Expert Review.
Long-Term Outcomes of Endoscopic Intervention in the Treatment of Symptomatic Pancreas Divisum.
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Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: October 25, 2021
Published By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Adams DB, Cote GA. Pancreas divisum and other variants of dominant dorsal duct anatomy. In: Cameron AM, Cameron JL, eds. Current Surgical Therapy. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:515-521.

Kumar V, Abbas AK, Astre JC. Pancreas. In: Kumar V, Abbas AK, Aster JC, eds. Robbins Basic Pathology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 17.

Mehta MS, Barth BA, Husain SZ. Anatomy, histology, embryology and developmental anomalies of the pancreas. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology/Diagnosis/Management. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 55.