Pancreatic exocrine insufficiency (PEI) is a common complication of chronic pancreatitis. However, little is known about the natural course of PEI and the effect of pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy on symptoms. The aim of this study was to evaluate the natural course and treatment of PEI in a nationwide cohort of patients with chronic pancreatitis.
Patients with chronic pancreatitis were selected from the multicenter Dutch Chronic Pancreatitis Registry. Patients were classified in 3 groups: definite PEI, potential PEI, and no PEI. Definite PEI and no PEI were compared regarding the course of disease, symptoms, treatment, and quality of life.
Nine hundred eighty-seven patients were included from 29 centers, of which 304 patients (31%) had definite PEI; 451 (46%), potentially PEI; and 232 (24%), no PEI. Patients with definite PEI had significantly more malabsorption symptoms, a lower body mass index, and aberrant defecation. Lowered quality of life was not independently associated with PEI. Of the PEI patients using pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy, 47% still reported steatorrhea.
Pancreatic exocrine insufficiency is associated with malabsorption symptoms and a lower body mass index. Some form of pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy is reasonably effective in alleviating malabsorption symptoms, but improvement of treatment is needed.