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The pancreatic enzymes value in the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis and acute biliary tract diseases.

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Department of Gastroenterology, Hospital Nacional Dr. Alejandro Posadas, Haedo, Buenos Aires, Argentina.


The aim of this study was to investigate the usefulness of lipase and isoamylases in the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis and to determine if its use permits differential diagnosis between acute pancreatitis and acute biliary tract disease. Three groups of patients were studied. a)


60 patients without abdominal diseases. b) Acute pancreatitis: 60 patients, the diagnosis was made according to clinical symptoms, biochemical tests, U.S. and C.T. in 24 (40%), in the remainder 36 (60%) surgical confirmation was obtained. c) Acute biliary tract disease without macroscopic pancreatic damage, 30 patients, the diagnosis was made according to biochemical tests and U.S. in 4 (13.3%) whereas in the remainder 26 (86.6%) surgical confirmation was accomplished no later than a week of the beginning of the symptoms. Biochemical tests: serum and urine amylase, lipase, and total pancreatic and salivary isoamylases were evaluated. In the group of acute pancreatitis the highest diagnostic sensibility was: pancreatic isoamylase 95.5%, lipase 95%, total serum amylase 93.3% urine amylase 90%, serum amylase 78.3%. In acute biliary tract diseases a high number of elevated enzyme values were also found: pancreatic isoamylase 83.3%, total isoamylase 73.3%, urine amylase 66.6%, lipase 63.3%, serum amylase 53.3%. The mean enzyme values of both groups were compared statistically and showed no significant difference. We conclude that lipase and isoamylases are the best markers for the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis and the differential diagnosis with acute biliary diseases is difficult because an elevation of these enzymes is a characteristic shared by both pathologies. The diagnosis of acute pancreatitis based only in clinical symptoms and hyperamylasemia can be erroneous.

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