Steatorrhea laboratory findings

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief:


Quantitative analysis of fat in the stool may be helpful in the diagnosis of steatorrhea. The various tests that may be helpful in the diagnosis are acid steatocrit, near-infrared reflectance analysis (NIRA) and sudan III stain.

Labratory Findings

  • Quantitative analysis of fat in the stool may be helpful in the diagnosis of steatorrhea. The various tests that may be helpful in the diagnosis are:
    • Acid steatocrit may be helpful in assessing steatorrhea in a stool specimen on the spot. This method is considered to be very sensitive and specific. [1]
    • Near-infrared reflectance analysis (NIRA): NIRA is considered to be most accurate and the test of choice in the evaluation of malabsorption of fat as it consumes less time and can measure carbohydrates, fat and nitrogen levels in fecal fat at the same time. [2] [3]
    • Assessment of fecal fat: Fecal fat excreted in healthy individuals is usually around 6g per day. In conditions such as diarrhea and associated diseases, the amount of fat excreted is on a higher side comparatively and it should not be mistaken as malabsorption.
    • Sudan III stain is a qualitative test which may be helpful in determining the condition steatorrhea in most patients in a very less time compared to the stool collection test. [4] [5] [6]


  1. Amann ST, Josephson SA, Toskes PP (1997). "Acid steatocrit: a simple, rapid gravimetric method to determine steatorrhea". Am J Gastroenterol. 92 (12): 2280–4. PMID 9399770.
  2. Neumeister V, Henker J, Kaltenborn G, Sprössig C, Jaross W (1997). "Simultaneous determination of fecal fat, nitrogen, and water by near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy". J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 25 (4): 388–93. PMID 9327368.
  3. Bekers O, Postma C, Fischer JC, Franck PF, Lombarts AJ (1996). "Faecal nitrogen determination by near-infrared spectroscopy". Eur J Clin Chem Clin Biochem. 34 (7): 561–3. PMID 8864405.
  4. Fine KD, Ogunji F (2000). "A new method of quantitative fecal fat microscopy and its correlation with chemically measured fecal fat output". Am J Clin Pathol. 113 (4): 528–34. doi:10.1309/0T2W-NN7F-7T8Q-5N8C. PMID 10761454.
  5. Maranhão HS, Wehba J (1995). "[Steatocrit and Sudan III in the study of steatorrhea in children: comparison with the Van de Kamer method]". Arq Gastroenterol. 32 (3): 140–5. PMID 8728789.
  6. Masamune O, Takahashi T, Nagasaki A, Iwabuchi J, Ishikawa M (1977). "Diagnostic significance of the sudan III staining for fecal fat". Tohoku J Exp Med. 122 (4): 397–402. PMID 72437.

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