First Program in NY for Acute and Chronic Pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis is a chief reason for gastrointestinal hospital admissions. Pain appears suddenly and can last for days without relief. Those living with chronic pancreatitis often need specialized care to improve their quality of life. The inflammation is persistent, inhibits function and causes permanent structural damage. Only a few centers in the nation provide a full range of options for those living with pancreatitis.

With a grant from the Diller von Furstenberg Family Foundation, The Pancreatitis Program at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center now offers the most comprehensive care for this condition.  Our multidisciplinary team provides medical and surgical treatment, diet and nutrition counseling, genetic counseling, psychological support, and many levels of pain relief for people with acute and reoccurring pancreatitis.

“We help referring physicians with their most challenging cases,” says John Poneros, MD, Medical Director of the Columbia program. 

Dr. Poneros employs advanced endoscopic techniques to manage complex pancreatic pseudocysts. Tony Rafaniello, a retired assistant principal, was recently treated for severe necrotizing pancreatitis using stents and other minimally invasive techniques.  At the time of his first appointment, the infection had eaten away 70% of Tony’s pancreas.

Beth A. Schrope, MD, PhD, Surgical Director of the Pancreatitis program, takes an organ-sparing approach to the surgical management of chronic pancreatitis, employing the Puestow or Frey procedures, whenever possible.

She is also one of the few surgeons in the country to perform a breakthrough surgery called TPAIT—Total Pancreatectomy with Autologous Islet Transplantation. This procedure is done for patients with chronic pancreatitis in intractable pain, once all other treatments have failed. It preserves the capacity for insulin secretion while minimizing or preventing diabetes, at the same time removing the root cause of their pain.

“In this procedure, we ‘shake out’ the islet cells, that control the body’s ability to process sugar, and implant them in the liver,” says Dr. Schrope. In the liver, islet cells can still produce insulin, acting as a backup pancreas. Afterward only a third of all patients need some form of insulin replacement, while one-third need none at all. And because the islet cells are taken from the patient’s own pancreas, there is no need for immunosuppressant therapy.

Cody Artist was a high school football player when he was first diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis. After years of debilitating pain and treatments that brought little relief, Cody was ready to try TPAIT. Since the operation in 2016, he has experienced no pain and is back to hanging out with friends and going on fishing trips.

Ryan Finley shares a similar story after TPAIT. He’s a combat veteran and New York city cop who once, on active duty, had to have neck surgery without anesthesia. But, he says, that pain paled compared to his pancreatitis. After six years on medical leave, Islet Transplant Therapy changed all that, Ryan was able to return to his precinct and resume his career.

“In the Pancreatitis Program,” says Dr. Schrope, “we tailor the treatment to the patient’s needs and address chronic pancreatitis using all modalities.” 

The Pancreatitis Program accepts emergent transfers and provides both inpatient and outpatient care.
Read more about the Pancreatitis Program.

To refer a patient, please call (212) 305-4795.