Children's Hospital Colorado
Close-up view of a patient wearing a yellow-green ribbed shirt, lifted up to show the stomach, where a doctors' hands are pressing into one side
Digestive Health Institute

Pediatric Pancreas Center

Through the Pediatric Pancreas Center at Children’s Hospital Colorado, an experienced team of gastroenterologists, endocrinologists, anesthesiologists, radiologists, pulmonologists, surgeons, nurses, nutritionists and psychologists works together to use the most advanced technology and family-based care to diagnose and treat pancreatic disorders in children. As the only multidisciplinary team specializing in pediatric pancreatic disorders in the Rocky Mountain region, we see a wide range of patients from infants through young adults.

What is pancreatic disease?

Pancreatic disease occurs when the pancreas, an organ near the stomach that helps the body digest food and regulate blood sugar, does not work properly, becomes inflamed or injured or develops growths.

Pediatric Pancreas Center

While a healthy pancreas produces enzymes to aid in digestion of food and hormones (such as insulin) to control blood sugar and maintain energy, an inflamed pancreas (called pancreatitis) can cause severe abdominal pain and other health problems. Children with acute pancreatitis typically look and feel quite ill and require medical attention. Some may require hospitalization.

While most children recover completely after a bout of pancreatitis, some may have recurrent (repeated) attacks or develop scarring and long-term problems in their pancreas, called chronic pancreatitis. Attacks of pancreatitis or chronic pancreatitis can lead to other health problems, such as chronic pain, malnutrition and diabetes.

Pancreatic conditions in kids

Our program treats children with all forms of pancreatic disorders, including:

  • Acute, recurrent and chronic pancreatitis
  • Pancreatic exocrine insufficiency
  • Complications of pancreatitis, including fluid collections (pseudocysts), pancreatic ductal stones, pancreatic duct strictures, chronic pain and type 3c diabetes
  • Pancreatic developmental abnormalities, such as pancreas divisum (malformation of pancreatic ducts)
  • Pancreatic lesions, cysts, or masses
  • Pancreatic trauma

Our Pediatric Pancreas Center services

We believe that each child with pancreatic disease and their family deserve a personalized approach. That’s why we provide a comprehensive range of services to help diagnose and treat pancreatic disorders in kids, including:

Diagnostic testing

To properly diagnose and treat pancreatic disease in kids, our team performs:

  • Blood work
  • Genetic testing
  • Sweat testing
  • Stool tests

Imaging

We use a combination of advanced imaging techniques, including:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI and magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography)
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans
  • X-rays
  • Endoscopic ultrasound to diagnose conditions or identify complications associated with pancreatic disease.

Treatment

In addition to medical and nutritional therapies, we use advanced endoscopic techniques to drain pancreatic pseudocysts, remove pancreatic and biliary ductal stones and dilate ductal strictures.

Pancreatic disease treatments for children

We offer a number of innovative treatments for children with pancreatic disease, including:

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

At Children’s Colorado, we use state-of-the-art, child-sized equipment to treat pancreatic conditions in kids. Using endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), we can examine pancreatic and bile ducts using a long, small, flexible camera called a duodenoscope. This requires a short, sedated procedure (45 to 90 minutes) where doctors determine if there are any stones, narrowing or blockages in the pancreas or bile ducts. Based on the results, our endoscopists can then perform a number of procedures to help improve pancreatic secretions or flow. ERCP is the least invasive, most effective way to treat conditions that block the flow of the pancreatic duct.

Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS)

The endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is another type of specialized camera, which has ultrasound probes attached to the end. This long, small, flexible endoscope allows us to obtain high definition ultrasound images of the pancreas, the pancreatic duct, the bile duct and other structures in the upper abdomen through the endoscope. It also allows doctors to drain fluid collections in or around the pancreas and take small tissue samples (called biopsies) of masses in or around the pancreas. This procedure takes 45 to 90 minutes and is performed with the child under anesthesia.

We will begin using EUS technology in the summer of 2019, which will make Children’s Colorado one of the few hospitals in the country that have dedicated pediatric experts using both ERCP and EUS. 

Individualized pancreatic medication and nutrition regimens

Many patients with pancreatic disorders require medications, pain control and supportive nutrition to reduce symptoms or complications of their condition. Working with the patient’s family and primary care provider, our multidisciplinary team works together to create an individualized medication and nutrition regimen and plan for follow-up for each patient. Thanks to this collaborative approach, our specialists ensure the best treatment for improving quality of life and reducing hospitalizations.

Pancreatic surgery

In some cases, we may recommend surgery to remove masses or parts of the pancreas. Our team of pancreatic specialists includes expert pediatric surgeons who can ensure the best outcomes for even the youngest patients.

Why choose the Pediatric Pancreatic Center at Children’s Colorado?

At the Pediatric Pancreatic Center at Children’s Colorado, we understand that the best treatment for pancreatic disorders requires multiple different specialists to ensure optimal care and the best outcomes for the whole child. This is why we bring together our team of pediatric specialists from multiple departments, including:

Our providers are pediatric specialists who have spent years training to care for kids with complex medical conditions who are passionate and committed to improve the health of children and their families.

Learn how we provide convenient care through the Multidisciplinary Clinic.

Pediatric pancreatic research and innovation

As an academic research institution, Children’s Colorado is on the front lines of improving child health. Our Pediatric Pancreas Center conducts research studies and uses innovative techniques and technologies to improve the future for all kids and teens facing pancreatic disorders. This means that our patients have access to pancreatic treatments that may not be available elsewhere.

See all GI research

Contact the Pediatric Pancreas Center

To contact the Pediatric Pancreas Center, please call 720-777-1118.

Additional pancreatic disease resources

We recommend the following organizations for further information on pancreatic diseases:

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