Gastrinoma Clinical Presentation

Updated: Dec 03, 2021
  • Author: Jennifer Lynn Bonheur, MD; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
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The symptoms in 90-95% of patients with gastrinomas are similar to the symptoms of common peptic ulcer disease. Usually, persistent abdominal pain exists that is less responsive to medical treatment.

Sometimes, symptoms may relate to a complication of peptic ulcer disease, such as bleeding (eg, melena, hematemesis), gastric outlet obstruction (eg, vomiting), and perforation (eg, peritoneal irritation).

Other symptoms include gastroesophageal reflux, diarrhea, steatorrhea, and weight loss, all of which are secondary to acid hypersecretion. Vitamin B-12 malabsorption, which is not correctable by oral intrinsic factor, may also be observed.

Chronic acid reflux may lead to esophageal complications (eg, esophagitis, stricture formation, Barrett esophagus) in up to two thirds of patients with Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.


Physical Examination

Epigastric tenderness is the most frequent abnormal physical finding. Depending on the possible ulcer complications, signs may vary.

Nearly 75% of ulcers in patients with gastrinomas are present in the first portion of the duodenum. These ulcers usually are single or multiple and are indistinguishable from peptic ulcer disease.

Nearly 10% of patients with ZES have no demonstrable ulcer. Ulcers located in the second, third, or fourth portion of the duodenum or jejunum should increase the possibility of gastrinoma.

Other factors that alert one to the presence of underlying gastrinomas include the following:

  • Ulcers that are refractory to standard therapy

  • Multiple ulcers

  • Giant ulcers, larger than 2 cm

  • Recurrent ulcers

  • Ulcers with unexplained diarrhea

  • Strong family history of ulcers

  • Hypercalcemia

  • Duodenal ulcer that is not related to Helicobacter pylori infection or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug use