Gastrin is a hormone, which helps to control the amount of acid produced by the stomach. During digestion, gastrin is produced by G-cells, which are found in the stomach. When food is taken into the body, gastrin production is triggered and this stimulates the production of parietal cells, which produce acid. As the food is broken down, the acids levels in the stomach increase and the amount of gastrin decreases.

When is the test used?

The test is used to measure the production of gastrin in the body; the test is primarily used to detect conditions which are caused by overproduction of gastrin and stomach acid. The test can be used to diagnose specific conditions, including Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, hyperplasia of G-cells and gastrinomas (tumours, which produce gastrin). The test may also be ordered as part of a set of tests used to screen for multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN).

The test is usually ordered when a patient shows signs of overproduction of gastrin and stomach acid; symptoms include stomach pain, diarrhoea and peptic ulcers.

How is the test performed?

The test is done by taking a sample of blood from the patient’s arm; a needle is inserted into the vein and the blood is drawn out and collected in a syringe. Once the sample has been collected, it will be bottled, labelled with the patient’s name and sent away to the laboratory for testing.

The patient will be asked to fast for a period of around 12 hours before the test; they should also avoid alcohol for 24 hours prior to the test.

What do the test results mean?

If levels of gastrin are slightly higher than usual, this may indicate a range of conditions, including ZE syndrome, pernicious anaemia, G-cell hyperplasia, chronic kidney failure and a pyloric obstruction (this occurs when a blockage develops at the point where the stomach and duodenum meet). Certain medications may also cause levels of gastrin to increase.

Very high levels of gastrin usually indicate that the patient has ZE syndrome or one or a number of gastrinomas.

Gastrin levels are usually low after a surgical procedure to remove a tumour; if levels start to rise again this may indicate that the tumour has come back.

Specific Blood Tests

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