Pancreatic metaplasia

by Jason Wasserman MD PhD FRCPC
June 5, 2022

What is pancreatic metaplasia?

Pancreatic metaplasia is a non-cancerous change that involves a group of cells changing to become more like the specialized cells normally found in the pancreas. Pancreatic metaplasia is commonly found in the esophagus, stomach, and small bowel where it can mimic other types of abnormal growths. For this reason, doctors often perform a procedure called a biopsy to rule out more serious conditions. In the esophagus, pancreatic metaplasia can look similar to a condition called Barrett’s esophagus.

What causes pancreatic metaplasia?

In the esophagus and stomach, pancreatic metaplasia may be caused by the long-term use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

What are the symptoms of pancreatic metaplasia?

The symptoms of pancreatic metaplasia depend on the location and size of the tissue. A small area of pancreatic metaplasia normally does not cause any symptoms and the tissue is discovered incidentally when imaging such as a CT scan or upper endoscopy is performed for another reason. However, large areas can partially block the esophagus or small bowel and this can result in symptoms such as pain, bloating, bleeding, and in rare cases, small bowel obstruction.

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