Why Secretin Stimulation Test may be required

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Secretin is a hormone produced by the small intestines as soon as a partially digested food reaches the stomach. This test measures the ability of the pancreas to respond to a hormone called secretin.Secretin enables the pancreas to release fluid that contains inactive digestive enzymes and bicarbonates. This fluid moves from the pancreas into the upper portion of the small intestine. The fluids neutralize the stomach acids to activate the pancreatic enzymes which help body break food down and absorb its nutrients.

Some pancreatic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, chronic pancreatitis, and pancreatic cancer make it harder for your pancreas to respond to secretin. 

When the pancreas fails to deliver enough digestive enzymes to the small intestine to aid the digestion process is known as pancreatic insufficiency. Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. 

Diagnosing Pancreatic Disease

The secretin stimulation test is done to know how your pancreas functions in response to secretin. It can help your doctor learn how your pancreas works during digestion. It is also called the pancreatic function test.

The test is invasive and conducted only when other evidence suggests you have pancreatic insufficiency.

Preparing for the Test

One has to fast for 12 hours before the secretin stimulation test is done. The doctor will inform you to avoid eating any food or drinking any liquids, including water. Undergoing this test on an empty stomach reduces the risk of complications.

Test Procedure

It is done by inserting a tube through your nose, into your esophagus, and through your stomach until it reaches your duodenum. The doctor will then inject secretin intravenously into the body. If the body releases pancreatic fluid in response to the secretin, that fluid will be removed through the tube sitting in your duodenum within an hour or two.

Risks of the Test

Irritation in the nose

Gagging sensation during the insertion of the tube

Wrong insertion to the lung instead of the esophagus

Interpreting the test results

An abnormal test results indicate you have cystic fibrosis, pancreatitis, or pancreatic cancer. However, abnormal results from this test alone are not enough for your doctor to diagnose these diseases. He/she needs to perform other tests to discover the cause of pancreatic insufficiency.

It is not easy to diagnose pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer. For one thing, many symptoms of pancreatitis are similar to those of pancreatic cancer. Many of the symptoms are not specific to diseases of the pancreas either. They can point to a number of different diseases. There are also different types of pancreatitis. You may have acute or chronic pancreatitis. Each type requires different tests before your doctor can make a diagnosis.

Guidelines for a successful test

Avoid using Nexium, Protonox, Aciphex, Prilosec and Prevacid 7 days before this test.

Do not take Tagamet, Zantac, Pepcid or Axid within 24 hours of the test.

Diabetic patient should take ½ of morning dose of Insulin before the procedure

Avoid food or drink after 10 pm the night before the test

Avoid smoking

Total test time is 2 ½ hours.


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