The Role of Sphere Size in the Context of Pancreatin Therapy for Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency: A Systematic Review
While lipase content and appropriate acid protection of pancreatin preparations (PP) are well defined determinants of an effective therapy of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, the optimal sphere size of PP has remained a matter of discussion. We performed a systematic review to assess the optimal sphere size of enteric coated pancreatin products that may best guarantee coordinated delivery of PP and food to the duodenum. PubMed was searched for studies on gastric emptying of indigestible spheres in the digestive phase, using overlapping search algorithms; identified sources were searched for further leads, extending the investigation to Google Scholar. Of 739 screened publications, 26 were included in the final assessment. Contrary to current guideline recommendations, no scientific evidence was found to support a 2 mm diameter threshold for gastric emptying of indigestible particles. There is no documented advantage of ≤2 mm spheres regarding duodenal delivery and restoring maldigestion. The evolving picture is that of a gradation of sizes, over which gastric emptying becomes slower and more variable as particle size increases. Even 7 mm particles may be emptied from the stomach in conjunction with nutrient uptake. In conclusion sphere size of PP is not the essential parameter for selecting an effective PP fitting all patients. A variety of brands offer different lipase contents and sphere sizes that allow the physician to tailor treatment to the individual patient`s needs.