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Am J Manag Care. 2017 Jul;23(12 Suppl):S203-S209.

A primer on exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, fat malabsorption, and fatty acid abnormalities.

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Saint Louis University, 3635 Vista Ave at Grand Blvd, St Louis, MO 63110. E-mail:


Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) is characterized by a deficiency of exocrine pancreatic enzymes, resulting in deficits in digestion of all macronutrients, with deficiencies in digestion of fats being the most clinically relevant. The leading cause of EPI is chronic pancreatitis. However, many other causes and conditions may be implicated, including cystic fibrosis, pancreatic duct obstruction, gastric and pancreatic surgery, diabetes mellitus and other conditions. Physical and biochemical causes of EPI include decreased production and secretion of lipase, increased lipase destruction, pancreatic duct obstruction, decreased lipase stimulation and degradation, as well as gastrointestinal motility disorders. EPI is largely diagnosed clinically, and is often identified by symptoms such as steatorrhea, weight loss, abdominal discomfort, and abdominal bloating. Lifestyle modifications (eg, smoking cessation, limiting or avoiding alcoholic drinks, and reducing dietary fat intake) and exogenous pancreatic enzyme supplements are commonly used to help restore normal digestion and absorption of dietary nutrients in patients with EPI.


Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency; EPI; RELiZORB; pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy; PERT; steatorrhea; cystic fibrosis; fat malabsorption; fatty acid deficiency; lipase; pancreatitis; chronic pancreatitis

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