Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) is characterized by a deficiency of exocrine pancreatic enzymes, resulting in malabsorption. Numerous conditions account for the etiology of EPI, with the most common being diseases of the pancreatic parenchyma including chronic pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, and a history of extensive necrotizing acute pancreatitis. Treatment for EPI includes dietary management, lifestyle changes (i.e., decrease in alcohol consumption and smoking cessation), and pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy.
Many diagnostic tests are available to diagnose EPI, however, the criteria of choice remain unclear and the causes for a false-positive test are not yet understood. Despite multiple studies on the treatment of EPI using exogenous pancreatic enzymes, there remains confusion amongst medical practitioners with regard to the best approach to diagnose EPI, as well as dosing and administration of pancreatic enzymes. Appropriate use of diagnostics and treatment approaches using pancreatic enzymes in EPI is essential for patients. This opinion piece aims to address the existing myths, remove the current confusion, and function as a practical guide to the diagnosis and treatment of EPI.