Digestive System Home > Pancreatitis Diagnosis

In addition to asking about a person's medical history and doing a physical exam, a doctor may use blood, urine, and imaging tests in making a pancreatitis diagnosis. Blood tests used for a pancreatitis diagnosis detect changes in blood levels of glucose, calcium, magnesium, and other substances.

Pancreatitis Diagnosis: A Summary

Besides asking about a person's medical history and doing a physical exam, a doctor may order blood or urine tests and possibly imaging tests to diagnose pancreatitis.

Diagnosing Pancreatitis With Blood Tests

During acute pancreatitis attacks, the blood contains at least three times more amylase and lipase than usual. Amylase and lipase are digestive enzymes formed in the pancreas. In acute pancreatitis, changes may also occur in blood levels of glucose, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and bicarbonate. After the pancreas improves, these levels usually return to normal.

Tests and Procedures for Diagnosing Pancreatitis

In order to help diagnosis pancreatitis, a doctor may also order an abdominal ultrasound to look for gallstones and a CAT scan (also known as CT scan, or computerized axial tomography) to look for inflammation, destruction of the pancreas, or calcification of the pancreas, in which tissue hardens from deposits of insoluble calcium salts. CAT scans are also useful in locating pseudocysts.
A doctor may also recommend an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), a procedure that allows a doctor to see problems that suggest chronic pancreatitis.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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