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Surg Clin North Am. 1999 Aug;79(4):711-22, vii-viii.

Hereditary pancreatitis. Gene defects and their implications.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, University of Kentucky, Lexington, USA.


Hereditary pancreatitis is a rare condition characterized by acute and chronic pancreatitis transmitted in an autosomal dominant fashion. There also is an epidemiologic link to pancreatic cancer in some affected families. Failure of a secondary brake mechanism responsible for inactivation of prematurely activated cationic trypsin in acinar cells seems to be the fundamental defect in type I hereditary pancreatitis (R117H cationic trypsin), and also may explain the pathogenesis of type II hereditary pancreatitis (N211 cationic trypsin). The diagnosis is made based on clinical history and, in certain cases, by molecular diagnostic testing for these gene defects. Medical management of acute and chronic hereditary pancreatitis currently does not differ from that of nonhereditary AP. As in nonhereditary pancreatitis, the surgical approach must be tailored to the individual problem, with an understanding that disease restricted to the head of the gland is atypical and that residual acinar tissue continues to drive the disease state. Although diagnosis and management of pancreatic adenocarcinoma are similar in this cohort, the increased age-accumulated risk suggests that thoughtful screening protocols eventually may be clinically and cost-effective.

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