For an explanation of the pancreas, please see the description under "What is the pancreas?" in Pancreatic Diseases.
What is pancreatic insufficiency?
Pancreatic insufficiency is the inability of the exocrine pancreas to produce and/or transport enough digestive enzymes to break down food in the intestine and facilitate absorption of nutrients. It typically occurs as a result of progressive pancreatic damage that may be caused by recurrent acute pancreatitis or by chronic pancreatitis due to a variety of conditions.
In children, it is most frequently associated with cystic fibrosis (CF) or Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome (SDS). SDS is the second most common cause of inherited pancreatic insufficiency, after CF. All those with SDS have some degree of pancreatic insufficiency beginning at infancy.
Insufficiency can also be associated with type 1, type 2, or autoimmune diabetes. It is less frequently but sometimes associated with pancreatic cancer. Other causes of insufficiency may include celiac disease, Crohn disease, autoimmune pancreatitis (immunoglobulin G4-related disease), Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, and some surgical procedures that can lead to a decrease in gastrointestinal or pancreatic function.