Background & Aims: Pancreatic exocrine insufficiency may be under recognised in gastroenterological practice. We aimed to identify the prevalence of pancreatic insufficiency in secondary care gastroenterology clinics and determine if co-morbidity or presenting symptoms could predict diagnosis. A secondary aim was to assess response to treatment.

Methods: A dual centre retrospective analysis was conducted in secondary care gastroenterology clinics. Patients tested for pancreatic exocrine insufficiency with faecal elastase-1 (FEL-1) between 2009 and 2013 were identified in two centres. Demographics, indication and co-morbidities were recorded in addition to dose and response to pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy. Binary logistic regression was used to assess if symptoms or co-morbidities could predict pancreatic insufficiency.

Results: 1821 patients were tested, 13.1% had low FEL-1 (<200μg/g). This prevalence was sub-analysed with 5.4% having FEL-1 100-200μg/g (mild insufficiency) and 7.6% having faecal elastase readings <100μg/g. Low FEL-1 was most significantly associated with weight loss or steatorrhoea. Co-morbidity analysis showed that low levels were significantly associated with excess alcohol intake, diabetes mellitus or human immunodeficiency virus; 80.0% treated with enzyme supplements reported symptomatic benefit with no difference in response between high and low dose supplementation (p=0.761).

Conclusion: Targeting the use of FEL-1 in individuals with specific symptoms and associated conditions can lead to improved recognition of pancreatic exocrine insufficiency in a significant proportion of secondary care patients. Intervening with lifestyle advice such as smoking cessation and minimising alcohol intake could improve outcomes. In addition, up to 80% of patients with low faecal elastase respond to supplementation.

Abbreviations: CFA: coefficient of fat absorption; CP: chronic pancreatitis; ELISA: enzyme-linked immune-absorbent assay; PEI: pancreatic exocrine insufficiency; FEL-1: faecal elastase-1; HIV: human immunodeficiency virus; IBD: inflammatory bowel disease; IBS: irritable bowel syndrome; PERT: pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy.


faecal elastase, pancreas, diarrhoea, pancreatic insufficiency