Background & aims: Malnutrition persists in most patients with chronic pancreatitis despite an adequate clinical response to oral pancreatic enzyme substitution therapy. Our aims were to analyze the accuracy of the 13C-mixed triglyceride breath test as a tool for evaluating the effect of enzyme therapy on fat digestion in chronic pancreatitis, and to analyze the impact of modifying the therapy according to the breath test on patients' nutritional status.
Methods: The accuracy of the breath test for monitoring the effect of therapy was evaluated prospectively in 29 patients with maldigestion secondary to chronic pancreatitis by using the coefficient of fat absorption as the gold standard. Therapy was modified to obtain a normal breath test result in a further 20 chronic pancreatitis patients with malnutrition despite an adequate clinical response to the enzyme therapy; the impact of this therapeutic modification on patients' nutritional status was evaluated.
Results: The coefficient of fat absorption and breath test results were similar when assessing fat absorption before and during treatment. Modification of the enzyme therapy to normalize fat absorption as assessed by the breath test in the second group of 20 patients was associated with a significant increase of body weight (P < .001), and serum concentrations of retinol binding protein (P < .001) and prealbumin (P < .001).
Conclusions: The 13C-mixed triglyceride breath test is an accurate method to evaluate the effect of enzyme therapy on fat digestion. This method is simpler than the standard fecal fat test to assess therapy in patients with pancreatic exocrine insufficiency. Normalizing fat absorption improves nutrition in these patients.