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Faecal elastase 1 levels in premature and full term infants


Background: Determination of faecal elastase 1 (FE1) is a simple, relatively inexpensive, non-invasive, highly specific and sensitive test for determining pancreatic function. Secretion of pancreatic enzymes varies during infancy, but there are almost no specific data on the ontogeny of elastase 1 in human babies.

Aim: To study FE1 levels in preterm and term babies, and to determine the possible effect of gestational and postconceptual age on these levels.

Methods: Serial stool samples were collected and tested for FE1 level from 77 premature and full term infants. FE1 levels were determined by a commercially available enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) kit.

Results: A total of 232 stool samples were collected from 77 neonates. The FE1 level measured in the first stool sample (meconium) was below normal (200 μg/g stool) in all samples regardless of gestational age. Sixty three neonates had at least two samples tested for FE1 level. The mean (SD) level of FE1 in sample 1 was 45.9 (51.1) μg/g stool and was significantly (p < 0.001) lower than in sample 2 (243.0 (164.9) μg/g stool). The lower the gestational age of the newborn, the more time it took for FE1 to reach normal levels.

Conclusions: FE1 levels in meconium are low, and studies in meconium should be avoided if pancreatic sufficiency is to be determined. FE1 reaches normal levels by day 3 in term newborns and by 2 weeks in infants born before 28 weeks gestation. Normal levels are reached sooner in infants of more advanced gestational age who start enteral feeding earlier.

  • premature
  • faecal elastase 1
  • elastase 1
  • pancreas
  • ontogenesis

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