Easing the Pain of Chronic Pancreatitis

Easing the Pain of Chronic Pancreatitis

– I’m eating a croustade,
chocolate and butter. It’s so good. It’s so good. – [Voiceover] A year ago,
a high fat meal like this might have landed Jennifer
Bowen in the hospital suffering from Pancreatitis, a disease in which the
pancreas becomes inflamed causing severe pain. – It’s as if you’ve been
punched in the stomach, and it’s absolutely relentless. – [Voiceover] Bowen’s
first attack happened at the age of 31. – You don’t recover from
recurring pancreatitis. – Pancreatitis is caused by
a lot of different reasons, toxins, gallstones,
medications, genetics, but in many instances
we don’t know. – [Voiceover] An
elementary school teacher and mother of two, Bowen continued to work but quickly exhausted
all her sick days. – I’m going to say that
I would have lost my job if I hadn’t gotten better. – [Voiceover] When
Bowen heard about a new surgical treatment
at Dartmouth-Hitchcock that might offer
a potential cure, she didn’t hesitate,
even though it meant removing her pancreas and
carried the risk of diabetes. – Essentially what
we’re telling Jen is we’re going to
potentially trade one disease which
is pancreatitis, a horrible painful
debilitating disease, for another disease, diabetes. – Just the idea the
pain would be gone outweighed the risk
of having diabetes. – [Voiceover] The procedure, called auto islet
cell transplantation, has been performed at
Dartmouth-Hitchcock since 2012. It involves removing
the pancreas, extracting insulin
producing islet cells and transplanting
them to the liver. In the past, a pancreatectomy
meant lifelong diabetes. This procedure offers
the opportunity for both pain relief
and blood sugar control. – I think it’s
certainly innovative and truly the state of the art for taking care
of these patients and is something that
is uniquely offered at Dartmouth-Hitchcock in
the New England region. – [Voiceover] And, Bowen’s
surgery also marked a first. – As far as we know
that’s the first time that’s ever been done
worldwide laparoscopically. – [Voiceover] That
means a faster recovery and less time in the hospital. – The total pancreatectomy
part of the procedure involves removing the entirety of the pancreas and the spleen. We package the pancreas
in a preservation solution and put it on ice and
it’s taken down by courier down to our partners at
Massachusetts General Hospital. – [Voiceover] After the
islet cells are processed they’re driven back
to the hospital where surgeons then infuse
the islets into the liver. – You can actually
see the little islets; they’re not islet cells
but clumps of the islets in the tubing and
infusing into the liver, and there’s a little bag, it looks like a bag
of of yellow fluid and it goes in over
twenty minutes. – So, the islets
are now on my liver, my ‘livereas’, (laughing)
I call it my ‘livereas’, is functioning very well. – Jen’s doing
spectacularly well. – A lot of these patients
literally wake up for the first time in years
with no pancreatitis pain. – [Voiceover] There
is a trade off; without a pancreas,
patients need to take daily enzyme replacement
pills to digest food. – Every single patient
we’ve done this for has said, “I would repeat it, I would do it again if
I had the opportunity.” – [Voiceover] Now, more
than a year after surgery, Bowen continues to be
monitored and tested. – I, in the beginning, was
checking my blood sugar three times a day,
and I don’t anymore, and I am not a diabetic. – The chance to not be in pain, the chance to not be a diabetic, that’s our goal for everyone. So, I got your labs back
and they look perfect. – Liver? – Liver is perfect. Blood counts look good
so those islet cells are working just perfectly. – Hey Tim, hey how are you guys? How’s it going? – I think anybody who
has chronic pancreatitis, or recurrent acute pancreatitis, they should at least
be evaluated to see if this would be an
appropriate procedure for them. – My life today is so wonderful. – This is a procedure
that is life changing and lifesaving in
many instances. – [Jennifer] After 11 years
of not being able to eat, and going to bed
every night in fear of waking up with
this horrible pain, it’s the most wonderful
thing in the world. And look I’m eating a
chocolate milk shake with whipped cream
on it (laughing) (calm electronic music)


  1. I've been diagnosed with acute pancreatitis five times due to excessive drinking I entered rehab by last time because I could no longer have this pain anymore so it was four years I have not drink but I thought about it every day I love drinking so now I allow myself One Beer a Day it's so far for 2 months I have had no more no less with no acute pancreatitis boats I hope I can stay this way I cannot have that pain ever again

  2. My dad has many health problems. He has had his spleen, gallbladder, appendix, and pancreas removed. He underwent this operation.

  3. I could survive and continue to go to work when my pancreatitis flares up if I could be prescribed morphine but those piece of sh*t drug addicts ruined it for everyone so now I have to seriously watch what I eat and still end up in the hospital every few months because of the pain. I get 10 oxy's at discharge which do almost nothing when I have a huge flare up and when I go in, I miss work for several days. I hate pills and I don't like taking pills but I need to keep working. This disease is very annoying.

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