Pancreatic function testing: here to stay for the 21st century

World J Gastroenterol. 2008 May 28;14(20):3149-58. doi: 10.3748/wjg.14.3149.


The diagnosis of Chronic Pancreatitis (CP) is based on the detection of abnormal structure or function of the diseased pancreas. The pancreatic function tests more accurately determine the presence of CP than tests of structure, especially for early stage disease. The function tests can be divided into two categories: non-invasive and invasive. The invasive "tube" tests can reliably detect mild, early CP, but are only available at a few referral centers and tend to be poorly tolerated by patients. The non-invasive tests are easy to obtain, but tend to perform poorly in patients with early, mild disease. Therefore, no one test is useful in all clinical situations, and a detailed understanding of the rational, pathophysiologic basis, strengths, and limitations of various tests is needed. This review highlights the role of various pancreatic function tests in the diagnosis of CP including fecal fat analysis, fecal elastase, fecal chymotrypsin, serum trypsin, the secretin stimulation test, the cholecystokinin (CCK) stimulation test, the combined secretin-CCK stimulation test, the intraductal and endoscopic secretin stimulation tests, and the functional magnetic resonance imaging of the pancreas after secretin stimulation.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Progression
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Pancreas / pathology
  • Pancreas / physiopathology*
  • Pancreatic Function Tests / history
  • Pancreatic Function Tests / trends*
  • Pancreatitis, Chronic / diagnosis*
  • Pancreatitis, Chronic / physiopathology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Severity of Illness Index