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Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)

Your child’s pancreas plays two important roles in the body. It helps control the level of blood sugar by producing and sending insulin into the body. The pancreas also sends enzymes into the small intestine to help break down food.

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, also called EPI, is when the pancreas does not make enough of the enzymes that help break down food.

EPI Causes

Children with EPI may also have another health condition, such as cystic fibrosis or chronic pancreatitis . Other causes of EPI can include:

  • Surgery
  • Shwachman-Diamond syndrome
  • Pearson Marrow syndrome
  • Jeune Syndrome
  • Other congenital abnormalities

EPI Symptoms

The most common symptoms of EPI in children include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Foul smelling bowel movements
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Feeling full
  • Weight loss
  • Vitamin deficiency

EPI Treatment

A diagnosis of EPI can help prevent serious nutrition and growth problems. Your gastroenterology doctor will assess your child, review symptoms and any health conditions. Then, your child’s doctor will recommend the best treatment plan. This may include:

  • Enzyme replacement therapy to give your child the enzymes they need to digest food
  • Antacids to stabilize any enzyme supplements
  • Pain management to ease pain and discomfort
  • Vitamin supplements to prevent deficiencies and encourage good health
  • Review ways that make it easier for the body to digest food. This may include eating smaller and more frequent meals. A dietitian can help make a healthy eating plan for your child.

When to Call the Doctor

Talk to your doctor if your child is having symptoms of EPI . An early diagnosis can reduce the risks of complications.

You can also call our Pancreas Care Center at 513-803-2123 to learn about our approach to treating EPI.

Last Updated 01/2020

Reviewed by Christie Heinzman, NP, and Maisam Abu-El-Haija, MD

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