CT Scan Show's Man's Pancreas Caked In Calcium

A CT scan showing wide-spread calcification in the pancreas of the man. The New England Journal of Medicine ©2017

If you needed some inspiration to go easy on the drinks this weekend, look no further.

A recent report published in the New England Journal of Medicine tells the story of a heavy drinker whose habit ended up calcifying his pancreas, one of the main enzyme factories of the body. Yes, that sounds horrible. 

The 50-year-old man went to the hospital with severe pain in his abdomen below his ribs and complaints of a violently upset stomach for two months. He told doctors he had been drinking half a pint (284 millimeters) of vodka a day for 15 years. That’s around six single shots of vodka.

A computed tomographic (CT) scan of his abdomen showed he was suffering from a chronically inflamed pancreas, known as pancreatitis, as well as deep “calcification” of his pancreas. Simply put, this means the inside of his pancreas was lined in thick deposits of calcium.

Calcifications are known to accumulate near tissue damage, so small calcium stones can often be found in the pancreas of those who suffer from chronic pancreatitis, especially chronic alcoholic pancreatitis. If left untreated they can block the flow of enzymes along the pancreatic ducts and can cause severe pain and digestion problems. As you can see in the CT image, this man had a pretty extreme case.

On the other hand, his liver function tests showed no signs of reduced function, which is certainly a positive for someone with a long history of alcohol abuse. He was discharged from the hospital with pancreatic enzyme supplements and enrolled in a program to address his alcoholism.

[H/T: Live Science]

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