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Pancreatitis diagnosis

Diagnosing acute pancreatitis can be difficult because the signs and symptoms of pancreatitis are similar to other medical conditions. The doctor will talk to you, examine you and take some blood tests. You may also be asked to have other tests such as an X-ray, an ultrasound or a CT scan to get a picture of how the pancreas looks, and whether or not there is an obvious cause.

Some people also have an ERCP or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, where a long tube is passed through your mouth into your gut. It can help diagnose pancreatitis and, if the cause is a gallstone, can remove the stone.

It can be more difficult to diagnose chronic pancreatitis because the symptoms can be more subtle, and can be so similar to other conditions. Also, some people have chronic pancreatitis with little or no pain.

Tests for chronic pancreatitis include those of acute pancreatitis, along with:

  • stool (poo) tests - to detect abnormal levels of fat the stool sample
  • tests for pancreatic cancer - to test blood levels of tumour markers.

Sources:

UpToDate (Patient information: Acute pancreatitis), UpToDate (Patient information: Chronic pancreatitis), Mayo Clinic (Pancreatitis)

Last reviewed: November 2016

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