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Diseases & Conditions

Pancreas Tests

Secretin stimulation test

The secretin stimulation test measures the ability of the pancreas to respond to the hormone secretin. The small intestines produce secretin in the presence of partially digested food. Normally, secretin stimulates the pancreas to secrete a fluid with a high concentration of bicarbonate. This fluid neutralizes stomach acid and is necessary for a number of enzymes to function in the breakdown and absorption of food. People with diseases involving the pancreas (for example, cystic fibrosis or pancreatic cancer) might have abnormal pancreatic function.

In performing a secretin stimulation test, a health care professional places a tube down the throat, into the stomach, then into the duodenum (upper section of small intestine). Secretin is administered and the contents of the duodenal secretions are aspirated (removed with suction) and analyzed over a period of about two hours.

Fecal elastase test

The fecal elastase test measures elastase, an enzyme found in fluids produced by the pancreas. Elastase digests and degrades various kinds of proteins. During this test, a patient’s stool sample is analyzed for the presence of elastase.

Computed tomography (CT) scan with contrast dye

This scan can help rule out other causes of abdominal pain and also can determine whether tissue is dying (pancreatic necrosis). CT can identify complications such as fluid around the pancreas, a collection of pus (abscess), or a collection of tissue, fluid, and pancreatic enzymes (pseudocyst).

Abdominal ultrasound

An abdominal ultrasound can detect gallstones and fluid from inflammation in the abdomen (ascites). It also can show an enlarged common bile duct, an abscess, or a pseudocyst.

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

During an ERCP, a health care professional places a tube down the throat, into the stomach, then into the small intestine. Dye is used to help the doctor see the structure of the common bile duct, other bile ducts, and the pancreatic duct on an X-ray.

Endoscopic ultrasound

During this test, a probe attached to a lighted scope is placed down the throat and into the stomach. Sound waves show images of organs in the abdomen. Endoscopic ultrasound might reveal gallstones and can be helpful in diagnosing severe pancreatitis when an invasive test such as ERCP might make the condition worse.

Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography

This kind of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to look at the bile ducts and the pancreatic duct.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 8/27/2013...#12029