Background: In order to apply fecal pancreatic elastase for follow-up of exocrine pancreatic function in chronic pancreatitis and cystic fibrosis, we examined the sensitivity, specificity, and long-term variability of a new polyclonal antibody-based enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).
Methods: Patients with definite chronic pancreatitis (n = 23), probable or possible chronic pancreatitis (n = 14), autoimmune pancreatitis (n = 7), or acute pancreatitis (n = 11), and 51 healthy subjects and 11 healthy infants participated in this study. Pancreatic function was graded as normal (n = 3), mild (n = 18), moderate (n = 9), or severe (n = 18) exocrine insufficiency on the basis of secretin tests. Fecal pancreatic elastase was measured by a new ELISA.
Results: Fecal pancreatic elastase concentration in control subjects varied widely, with a median of 478 microg/g. The specificity of this test was 90.2% with a cutoff value of >200 microg/g. The sensitivities were 60.9% for detecting definite chronic pancreatitis, 76.5% for calcifying pancreatitis, 71.4% for autoimmune pancreatitis, and 7.1% for probable or possible chronic pancreatitis. The sensitivities were 16.7% for mild, 12.5% for moderate, and 72.2% for severe exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Forty patients were reexamined after a median interval of 347 days. The fecal pancreatic elastase levels between the first and second tests were not significantly different. Two infants, 4.5 and 5 months old, had abnormally low values, but after a median of 304 days all infants showed normal levels (median, 444 microg/g).
Conclusions: Fecal pancreatic elastase is a reproducible marker for severe exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. This test is valuable for longitudinal follow-up of exocrine pancreatic function.