Pancreatic function test
This test measures the ability of the pancreas to respond to secretin, a hormone produced by the small intestine when partially digested food has moved into the intestine from the stomach.
Secretin normally stimulates the pancreas to secrete a fluid with a high concentration of bicarbonate. Acting as an antacid, this bicarbonate fluid neutralizes the acidity of the material from the stomach so that enzymes in the small intestine can function properly in the breakdown of food and absorption of nutrients.
How the test is performed
A tube is inserted through the nose and into the stomach, then into the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). Secretin is administered through this tube, and the contents of the duodenal secretions are removed through the tube over a period of about 2 hours.
How to prepare for the test
Fast for 12 hours prior to the test. This includes no drinking of liquids.
Infants and children:
The physical and psychological preparation you can provide for this or any test or procedure depends on your child’s age, interests, previous experience, and level of trust. For specific information regarding how you can prepare your child, see the following topics as they correspond to your child’s age:
- Infant test or procedure preparation (birth to 1 year)
- Toddler test or procedure preparation (1 to 3 years)
- Preschooler test or procedure preparation (3 to 6 years)
- School age test or procedure preparation (6 to 12 years)
- Adolescent test or procedure preparation (12 to 18 years)
How the test will feel
You may experience a gagging sensation as the tube is inserted.
Why the test is performed
The secretin stimulation test is performed to evaluate the function of the pancreas in digestion. People with diseases involving the pancreas such as chronic pancreatitis , Cystic fibrosis, or pancreatic cancer may have abnormal pancreatic function.
The bodies of people with Cystic fibrosis form mucous plugs that can obstruct the pancreatic ducts that empty into the small intestines. These plugs prevent neutralization of the food acidity, which ultimately reduces the ability to digest and absorb foods.
What abnormal results mean
Abnormal values may indicate Cystic fibrosis or chronic pancreatitis.
What the risks are
There is a slight risk of the tube being placed through the trachea and into the lungs instead of through the esophagus and into the stomach. The health care provider will be sure the tube is correctly placed before continuing with the test.
by Dave R. Roger, M.D.