Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction is a condition in which the muscle between the bile duct and pancreatic duct does not open like it should. This results in digestive juice backup. Here’s an overview of the condition.
Causes and Risk Factors
The sphincter of Oddi is a smooth muscle that surrounds the end of the common bile duct and the pancreatic duct. It opens and closes to allow bile and pancreatic juice to flow into the intestine for digestion. This muscle can develop the inability to properly function in some cases. The exact cause of the condition is unknown, but there are a few things that seem to increase risk. For one, people who have had a gallbladder removal seem to be at a higher risk of this condition. It is also more common in middle-aged women.
Symptoms of Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction
A key symptom of this condition is recurring pain attacks in the upper right abdomen. The pain tends to be steady, and may be aggravated by eating fatty foods. It may also worsen with the use of opiates. Given the condition’s association with gallbladder removal, doctors are often on the lookout for these sorts of recurring symptoms for patients who have recently undergone that procedure. If you have undergone a gallbladder removal and have recurring upper abdominal pain, it could be a sign of this condition or another issue. Contact your doctor if you are experiencing recurring pain following the procedure.
Doctors diagnose sphincter of Oddi dysfunction in a few different ways. As mentioned before, if you have recently had a gallbladder removal and have recurring upper abdominal pain, doctors may suspect this condition and investigate. There are several noninvasive testing options available. Doctors may order a blood test to measure enzyme levels in the liver and pancreas. They may also perform an ERCP to check the drainage times and functioning of your pancreas and bile ducts. Additionally, they can perform manometry during the ERCP to measure the sphincter’s function by evaluating pressure changes. Manometry is often considered one of the best ways to test for this condition.
Complications and Treatment
Depending on the specifics of your condition, doctors may pursue different treatment options. In non-severe cases, doctors may first prescribe medication to control pain and prevent spasms. Another treatment option is a sphincterotomy. This is a surgical procedure in which doctors cut the muscle to provide relief and ensure there are no stones in your gallbladder or bile ducts. This is often successful in treating symptoms from the condition. Up to 70% of patients experience long-term pain relief. However, it is a difficult procedure with a significant risk of complications. As many as 5-15% of patients who get this surgery experience complications like mild pancreatitis, and might need to stay in the hospital to recover. It can also cause scarring around the incision. As such, doctors only recommend a sphincterotomy if other treatment options have not been successful.
Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience treating patients with conditions like sphincter of Oddi dysfunction. We can help establish the best plan of care for your situation. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.