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Severe Pain in Chronic Pancreatitis Patients: Considering Mental Health and Associated Genetic Factors

Authors Dunbar EK, Saloman JL, Phillips AE, Whitcomb DC

Received 29 December 2020

Accepted for publication 20 February 2021

Published 17 March 2021 Volume 2021:14 Pages 773—784

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JPR.S274276

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Houman Danesh


Ellyn K Dunbar,1 Jami L Saloman,2 Anna Evans Phillips,3 David C Whitcomb4

1Departments of Human Genetics and Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA; 2Departments of Neurobiology and Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Pittsburgh Center for Pain Research, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA; 3Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA; 4Departments of Human Genetics, Cell Biology and Molecular Physiology, and Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Pittsburgh Center for Pain Research, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Correspondence: David C Whitcomb
Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, University of Pittsburgh and UPMC, Room 401.4, 3708 Fifth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA, 15213, USA
Tel +1 412 578 9515
Email [email protected]

Abstract: Pain is the most distressing and disruptive feature of recurrent acute pancreatitis (RAP) and chronic pancreatitis (CP) resulting in low quality of life (QOL) and disabilities. There is no single, characteristic pain pattern in patients with RAP and CP. Abdominal imaging features of CP accurately reflect morphologic features but they do not correlate with pain. Pain is the major driver of poor quality of life (QOL) and it is the constant pain, rather than intermittent pain that drives poor QOL. Furthermore, the most severe constant pain experience in CP is also a complex condition. The ability to target the etiopathogenesis of severe pain requires new methods to detect the exact pain mechanisms in an individual at cellular, tissue, system and psychiatric levels. In patients with complex and severe disease, it is likely that multiple overlapping mechanisms are simultaneously driving pain, anxiety and depression. Quantitative sensory testing (QST) shows promise in detecting alterations in central processing of pain signals and to classify patients for mechanistic and therapeutic studies. New genetic research suggests that genetic loci for severe pain in CP overlap with genetic loci for depression and other psychiatric disorders, providing additional insights and therapeutic targets for individual patients with severe CP pain. Well-designed clinical trials that integrate clinical features, QST, genetics and psychological assessments with targeted treatment and assessment of responses are required for a quantum leap forward. A better understanding of the context and mechanisms contributing to severe pain experiences in individual patients is predicted to lead to better therapies and quality of life.

Keywords: pancreatitis, pain management, mental health, depression, genetic research

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