The treatment of people with acute abdominal pain differs if they have acute pancreatitis. It is important to know the diagnostic accuracy of serum amylase, serum lipase, urinary trypsinogen-2, and urinary amylase for the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis, so that an informed decision can be made as to whether the person with abdominal pain has acute pancreatitis. There is currently no Cochrane review of the diagnostic test accuracy of serum amylase, serum lipase, urinary trypsinogen-2, and urinary amylase for the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis.
To compare the diagnostic accuracy of serum amylase, serum lipase, urinary trypsinogen-2, and urinary amylase, either alone or in combination, in the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis in people with acute onset of a persistent, severe epigastric pain or diffuse abdominal pain.
We searched MEDLINE, Embase, Science Citation Index Expanded, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR HTA and DARE), and other databases until March 2017. We searched the references of the included studies to identify additional studies. We did not restrict studies based on language or publication status, or whether data were collected prospectively or retrospectively. We also performed a 'related search' and 'citing reference' search in MEDLINE and Embase.
We included all studies that evaluated the diagnostic test accuracy of serum amylase, serum lipase, urinary trypsinogen-2, and urinary amylase for the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis. We excluded case-control studies because these studies are prone to bias. We accepted any of the following reference standards: biopsy, consensus conference definition, radiological features of acute pancreatitis, diagnosis of acute pancreatitis during laparotomy or autopsy, and organ failure. At least two review authors independently searched and screened the references located by the search to identify relevant studies.
Two review authors independently extracted data from the included studies. The thresholds used for the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis varied in the trials, resulting in sparse data for each index test. Because of sparse data, we used -2 log likelihood values to determine which model to use for meta-analysis. We calculated and reported the sensitivity, specificity, post-test probability of a positive and negative index test along with 95% confidence interval (CI) for each cutoff, but have reported only the results of the recommended cutoff of three times normal for serum amylase and serum lipase, and the manufacturer-recommended cutoff of 50 mg/mL for urinary trypsinogen-2 in the abstract.
Ten studies including 5056 participants met the inclusion criteria for this review and assessed the diagnostic accuracy of the index tests in people presenting to the emergency department with acute abdominal pain. The risk of bias was unclear or high for all of the included studies. The study that contributed approximately two-thirds of the participants included in this review was excluded from the results of the analysis presented below due to major concerns about the participants included in the study. We have presented only the results where at least two studies were included in the analysis.Serum amylase, serum lipase, and urinary trypsinogen-2 at the standard threshold levels of more than three times normal for serum amylase and serum lipase, and a threshold of 50 ng/mL for urinary trypsinogen-2 appear to have similar sensitivities (0.72 (95% CI 0.59 to 0.82); 0.79 (95% CI 0.54 to 0.92); and 0.72 (95% CI 0.56 to 0.84), respectively) and specificities (0.93 (95% CI 0.66 to 0.99); 0.89 (95% CI 0.46 to 0.99); and 0.90 (95% CI 0.85 to 0.93), respectively). At the median prevalence of 22.6% of acute pancreatitis in the studies, out of 100 people with positive test, serum amylase (more than three times normal), serum lipase (more than three times normal), and urinary trypsinogen (more than 50 ng/mL), 74 (95% CI 33 to 94); 68 (95% CI 21 to 94); and 67 (95% CI 57 to 76) people have acute pancreatitis, respectively; out of 100 people with negative test, serum amylase (more than three times normal), serum lipase (more than three times normal), and urinary trypsinogen (more than 50 ng/mL), 8 (95% CI 5 to 12); 7 (95% CI 3 to 15); and 8 (95% CI 5 to 13) people have acute pancreatitis, respectively. We were not able to compare these tests formally because of sparse data.
As about a quarter of people with acute pancreatitis fail to be diagnosed as having acute pancreatitis with the evaluated tests, one should have a low threshold to admit the patient and treat them for acute pancreatitis if the symptoms are suggestive of acute pancreatitis, even if these tests are normal. About 1 in 10 patients without acute pancreatitis may be wrongly diagnosed as having acute pancreatitis with these tests, therefore it is important to consider other conditions that require urgent surgical intervention, such as perforated viscus, even if these tests are abnormal.The diagnostic performance of these tests decreases even further with the progression of time, and one should have an even lower threshold to perform additional investigations if the symptoms are suggestive of acute pancreatitis.