Faecal chymotrypsin: a reliable index of exocrine pancreatic function

Arch Dis Child. 1988 Jul;63(7):785-9. doi: 10.1136/adc.63.7.785.


Simultaneous measurements of duodenal and faecal chymotrypsin were made in 30 children aged 3 weeks to 14 years. Apparent chymotrypsin secretion rates measured after stimulation with pancreozymin were compared with the mean faecal chymotrypsin concentration derived from three stool specimens collected at random within 72 hours of the intraduodenal test. In the 25 children who responded to pancreozymin stimulation the mean faecal chymotrypsin concentration was significantly positively correlated with the apparent chymotrypsin secretion rate. Correlation using single specimen stools collected at random was appreciably poorer. In the five children with undetectable or only traces of chymotrypsin in the duodenum after stimulation, the mean faecal chymotrypsin concentrations were only 3-10% of the lower limit of the reference interval. In a second group of 46 children with cystic fibrosis proved by sweat tests and clinical evidence of malabsorption, the chymotrypsin concentration measured in a single stool specimen collected at random was unequivocally subnormal in each case. Faecal chymotrypsin measurement is a rapid, simple, cheap, readily repeated, non-invasive test of high specificity and sensitivity. Faecal chymotrypsin should be measured before contemplating intraduodenal tests of pancreatic function.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cholecystokinin
  • Chymotrypsin / analysis*
  • Duodenum / enzymology
  • Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency / diagnosis*
  • Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency / enzymology
  • Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency / physiopathology
  • Feces / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intestinal Secretions / enzymology
  • Pancreas / physiopathology
  • Pancreatic Function Tests / methods*


  • Cholecystokinin
  • Chymotrypsin