Background: The faecal elastase-1 test (FE-1) is considered easy to perform and sensitive to detect severe and moderate exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. However, little information is available on the specificity of this test in the analysis of steatorrhoea. Our aim was to evaluate the clinical value of FE-1 in the analysis of patients sent in for faecal fat determination.
Methods: Stool samples were collected over 24 hours in 40 healthy controls and 119 patients: 58 patients with chronic pancreatitis and 61 nonpancreatic disease patients with chronic diarrhoea. Faecal fat excretion was determined and FE-1 was measured using a commercially available ELISA kit, which employs two monoclonal antibodies to bind to two distinct epitopes of human pancreatic elastase-1.
Results: Faecal elastase-1 test shows good reproducibility. The test lacks sensitivity in detecting exocrine pancreatic insufficiency and chronic pancreatitis (68 and 59%, respectively). However, it is specific with respect to differentiating pancreatic from nonpancreatic causes in patients with steatorrhoea.
Conclusion: FE-1 lacks sensitivity to detect chronic pancreatitis. It can serve as a simple, noninvasive method to determine the aetiology of steatorrhoea.