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Pancreatitis - Exams and Tests

If your doctor thinks you have pancreatitis, he or she will ask questions about your medical history and do a physical exam along with lab and imaging tests.

Two blood tests that measure enzymes are used to diagnose an attack of pancreatitis. These tests are:

Other blood tests may be done, such as:

Imaging tests that may be done include:

  • CT scan with contrast dye. A CT scan can help rule out other causes of abdominal pain, determine whether tissue is dying (pancreatic necrosis), and find complications such as fluid around the pancreas, blocked veins, and obstructed bowels.
  • Abdominal ultrasound. This test can locate gallstones. It also can show an enlarged common bile duct.
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP). This procedure allows the doctor to see the structure of the common bile duct camera.gif, other bile ducts, and the pancreatic duct. ERCP is the only diagnostic test that also can be used to treat narrow areas (strictures) of the bile ducts and remove gallstones from the common bile duct.
  • Endoscopic ultrasound. In this form of ultrasound, a probe attached to a lighted scope is placed down the throat and into the stomach. Sound waves show images of organs in the abdomen. Endoscopic ultrasound may reveal gallstones in the common bile duct.
  • MRI. Sometimes an MRI is used to look for signs of pancreatitis. It provides information similar to that of a CT scan.
  • Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatogram (MRCP). This form of MRI can detect gallstones in the common bile duct. This test is not available everywhere.

If your doctor is not sure whether your pancreatic tissue is infected, he or she may use a needle to take some fluid from the inflamed area. The fluid is then tested for organisms that can cause infection.

In severe, chronic pancreatitis, a stool analysis may be done to look for fat in stools, which is a sign that you may not be getting enough nutrition. This happens when the pancreas no longer produces the enzymes you need to digest fat.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 31, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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