To understand pancreatic duct blockage you first have to understand what the organ is and how it works. The pancreas is a small, six to ten inch long spongy organ located in the abdomen behind the stomach that is an important part of the digestive process. It produces some of the enzymes that the body uses to break down foods in order to digest them and also produces insulin to aid in how the bodies glucose or sugar level is regulated.
The insulin that is produced is secreted directly into the bloodstream while the enzymes are released into the small intestines when needed to help digest food. Each performs an important function in how our body digests foods then stores and uses the energy produced.
When we eat, the partially digested foods called chyme are released by the stomach into the beginning of the small intestines. That area of the small intestines is called the duodenum. It is also in this area that the pancreatic enzymes are added through a duct that can become blocked. This duct runs along the entire length of the pancreas and is connected to a similar duct that comes from the liver, delivering bile to the small intestines.
Pancreatitis is a disease that can be either acute or chronic and is an inflammation of the pancreas. This inflammation is often caused by pancreatic duct blockage that happens when the main duct is blocked resulting in the juices that would normally flow through the pancreas getting blocked up inside the organ. In worst cases these juices can actually start to break down the pancreas.
This main duct can be blocked due to gallstone’s, tumors, defects, surgery, or some other sort of trauma. Once a duct is blocked it usually requires immediate medical attention. Patients generally stop eating solid foods and are given nourishment through intravenous means until the blockage passes and the inflammation eases. In extreme cases surgery may be required to remove the blockage. Once the inflammation eases, or cools, the patient is slowly reintroduced to a liquid diet. If there are no problems the diet is increased to include bland foods, then eventually a normal diet.
Pancreatitis can be caused by the heavy use of alcohol, for heredity reasons, defects in the organ, trauma caused by surgery or accident, tumors, or gallstone’s. There is also a small number of people, around 14% for whom the actual cause is never found.