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,
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
- Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatogram (MRCP). This form
of MRI can detect gallstones in the common bile duct. This test is not
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.