Review article: Strategies to determine whether hypergastrinaemia is due to Zollinger-Ellison syndrome rather than a more common benign cause

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2009 May 15;29(10):1055-68. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2009.03976.x. Epub 2009 Feb 18.


Background: As there is considerable overlap between the fasting serum gastrin concentrations found in Zollinger-Ellison syndrome and various common conditions such as Helicobacter pylori infection and acid suppressing medication use, establishing the cause of hypergastrinaemia in individual cases can sometimes be difficult.

Aim: To review the causes of hypergastrinaemia and the role of additional non-invasive investigations in hypergastrinaemic patients.

Methods: Review of articles following a Pubmed search.

Results: As gastrinomas may cause serious complications and be potentially life threatening, investigation of hypergastrinaemic patients should particularly focus on confirming or refuting the diagnosis of Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. Establishing the cause of hypergastrinaemia may be difficult when there is only a mild-to-moderate elevation of fasting serum gastrin concentration and concurrent treatment with proton pump inhibitor drugs and the presence of H. pylori infection can both confuse the clinical picture. A variety of provocative tests are therefore useful for establishing whether a hypergastrinaemic patient has a gastrinoma and current evidence suggests that the secretin test should be used first line.

Conclusions: We suggest an algorithm for the investigation of patients found to have an elevated fasting serum gastrin concentration and address the roles of gastrin stimulation tests in current clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Gastrinoma / etiology*
  • Gastrins / metabolism*
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / adverse effects*
  • Helicobacter Infections / diagnosis*
  • Helicobacter pylori / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Secretin / metabolism*
  • Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome / complications*


  • Gastrins
  • Gastrointestinal Agents
  • Secretin