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Alterations of exocrine pancreas in end-stage renal disease do they reflect a clinically relevant uremic pancreopathy?


Serum pancreatic enzyme behavior, exocrine function, and morphology of the pancreas were studied in 28 patients with end-stage renal disease undergoing regular hemodialysis, in order to better delineate and assess the clinical relevance of the pancreatic alterations that occur in these patients. Twenty-eight healthy subjects served as controls. Initial studies included serum amylase, isoamylase, and lipase assays; fecal chymotrypsin measurement; and abdominal ultrasonography. The amylase, lipase, and chymotrypsin determinations, as well as ultrasound examination, were repeated four years later. None of the patients had clinical evidence of pancreatic disease at entry into the study, but one had had previous attacks of pancreatitis and another developed mild acute pancreatitis one month after entry. Initial mean serum enzyme levels were significantly higher in patients than in controls (amylase, pancreatic isoamylase, and lipase,P<0.001; salivary isoamylaseP<0.05). Serum amylase was raised in 16/28 patients; pancreatic isoamylase in 15/28, and lipase in 7/28; these elevations were generally mild. Mean fecal chymotrypsin was significantly lower (P<0.001) in patients than in controls: abnormally low values were found in 9/28 patients. Amylase, lipase and chymotrypsin measurements repeated after four years showed no significant difference with respect to the first study. Ultrasonographic changes were rare and mild: one patient had a small cyst in the pancreas head, another, an increase in echogenicity of the gland not related to age; these findings were unchanged at repeat examination. The results demonstrate that the frequent elevations of serum pancreatic enzymes and the rare sonographic changes found in patients undergoing hemodialysis do not generally reflect a relevant pancreopathy. However, the finding of significantly decreased fecal chymotrypsin may indicate the presence of pancreatic dysfunction in end-stage renal disease.

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Correspondence to M. Ventrucci MD.

Additional information

This study was partially supported by the University and Scientific Technological and Research Ministry in 1993.

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Ventrucci, M., Campieri, C., Di Stefano, M. et al. Alterations of exocrine pancreas in end-stage renal disease do they reflect a clinically relevant uremic pancreopathy?. Digest Dis Sci 40, 2576–2581 (1995).

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Key Words

  • exocrine pancreatic function
  • hemodialysis
  • pancreatitis
  • renal failure
  • serum pancreatic enzymes
  • ultrasonography