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What are the Different Types of Tests for Pancreatitis?

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  • Written By: H. Lo
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2016
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Different tests for pancreatitis include a physical exam, a blood test and a stool test. Additional types of tests for pancreatitis are a computerized tomography (CT) scan, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and an ultrasound. The type of tests that a patient undergoes depends on his specific condition.

Pancreatitis is a medical condition in which a person has an inflamed pancreas due to an abnormal activation of enzymes. A physical exam is probably one of the most basic tests for pancreatitis and can indicate various signs of the illness, including abdominal tenderness, low blood pressure and a lump or mass. Another test, a blood test, measures for high levels of pancreatic enzymes, such as the increase of blood amylase or serum blood lipase, in the body. In the case of a stool test, different levels of fat can point towards a problem with the digestive system not absorbing nutrients properly.

A CT scan, an MRI scan and an ultrasound are all types of tests for pancreatitis that allow for a visual examination of the pancreas and its surrounding area. For pancreatitis, the purpose of a CT scan might be to analyze the inflammation or to look for any gallstones. To accomplish this, the patient lies on a table while the machine creates three-dimensional images.

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An MRI scan can help in assessing any irregularities in the gallbladder, pancreas, and pancreatic or bile ducts. With the use of an MRI machine, the actual procedure, as it relates to the pancreatic system, is called magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP). In this procedure, a sedated patient lies in the machine while the machine creates cross-section images. The doctor injects a dye into the patient’s veins so that he will gain a better visual on the organs.

There are two different types of ultrasounds used for diagnosing pancreatitis: an abdominal ultrasound and an endoscopic ultrasound. Both of these ultrasounds assist in examining inflammation. An abdominal ultrasound utilizes a handheld instrument that produces sound waves to create an image, or sonogram, of the abdomen. Gallstones will show up in the sonogram if the sound waves bounce off of them.

An endoscopic ultrasound also uses sound waves to create an image. It is a bit different from an abdominal ultrasound, though, in the case that the doctor first inserts a thin tube, called an endoscope, down the throat. Then he will turn on the ultrasound attachment that produces this sound wave. An endoscopic ultrasound can check for any blockages in the ducts.

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