Pancreatic Elastase

Answers from the Lab

The pancreatic elastase test, often referred to as "fecal elastase," is a helpful tool for identifying exocrine pancreatic insufficiency in people who have gastrointestinal symptoms, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and unexplained weight loss. In this "Test in Focus" episode of the "Answers From the Lab" podcast, Puanani Hopson, D.O., a Mayo Clinic pediatric gastroenterologist, provides an overview of this test.

"The pancreas produces many enzymes. Elastase is one of them that's really important because it doesn't get degraded by bacteria, which means we can test it easily in stool," Dr. Hopson says. "The elastase test measures the level of pancreatic enzyme within the stool. From there, we can identify if it's at the appropriate level to be able to digest food and maintain adequate pancreas function."

Dr. Hopson goes on to explain that the pancreatic elastase test, used as an initial screening for exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, is an alternative to fecal fat testing, which can be cumbersome and inconvenient for patients.

Listen to learn more about when the pancreatic elastase test should be ordered, how it compares to other testing alternatives, and how providers can use the results to guide further evaluation.

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Useful information

  • Diagnosis of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency in case of unexplained diarrhea, constipation, steatorrhea, flatulence, weight loss, upper abdominal pain, and food intolerances.
  • Monitoring of exocrine pancreatic function in cystic fibrosis, diabetes mellitus, or chronic pancreatitis.

Specimen requirements

Supplies: Stool container, Small (Random), 4 oz (T288)

Container/Tube: Stool container

Specimen Volume: 5 g

Collection Instructions:

  1. Collect a fresh random fecal specimen, no preservatives.
  2. If specimen is sent refrigerate, send immediately after collection.
  3. If specimen cannot be sent immediately, freeze and send frozen (preferred).

Additional Information:  

  1. Separate specimens must be submitted when multiple tests are ordered. If only a single specimen is collected, it must be split prior to transport.
  2. Testing cannot be added on to a previously collected specimen.

Performance information

  • Analytic time: 3 to 5 days
  • Day(s) and time(s) performed: Monday through Friday

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Samantha Rossi

Samantha Rossi is a Digital Marketing Manager at Mayo Clinic Laboratories. She supports marketing strategies for product management and specialty testing. Samantha has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2019.