An increased production of the hormone gastrin causes a digestive disorder called Zollinger-Ellison syndrome (ZES), which is also interchangeably called gastrinoma.  The rare disease involves one or more tumors forming in the upper part of your small intestine (duodenum), in your pancreas, or the lymph nodes adjacent to your pancreas.  The excess amounts of gastrin causes your stomach to bring forth a plethora of acid.  Then it will lead you to experience peptic ulcers.  About 25% of ZES patients have a genetic disorder known as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1).  That can cause tumors to exist in the pituitary and parathyroid glands.  Gastrinomas are malignant, capable of spreading to other parts in your body (such as bone, spleen, skin, or lymph nodes)  in 66% of cases.   [375][376][377]

Increasing the Chance to Have Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome

Anyone can get Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, but the genetic disease is more prevalent among men who are between 30 to 50-years-old.  Individuals with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 have a greater chance (20 to 61%) of developing ZES.  People with MEN1 have a 50% chance of passing on the gene to their children.  [378]


Zollinger-Ellison syndrome is diagnosed by a medical professional after stomach acid and the amount of gastrin circulated in the bloodstream are measured, symptoms are assessed, and searching for gastrinomas are guided via using imaging tests.  CAT scans are used to see cross-section images of a body to locate the tumors.  ZES may be suspected when multiple ulcers in the duodenum are perceived during an upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy, which hardly shows gastrinomas because it doesn’t grow on the visible surface. Gastrinomas can be found in lower tissue layers.  [377][378]

Somatostatin Receptor Scintigraphy (SRS)

To find gastrinomas in the pancreas, duodenum, and other parts of the body, somatostatin receptor scintigraphy - also at times called OctreoScan - is utilized.  SRS entails using a radioactive compound known as radiotracer.  It is injected into the bloodstream to discern any tumor cells. Angiography, endoscopic ultrasonography, and a computerized tomography (CT) scan are other imaging procedures used to look for gastrinomas.  [378]

Consult with a Doctor

You should be concerned about having a doctor check up on you if you have been experiencing aching, burning, gnawing, or persistent pain in your upper abdomen.  It is more urgent for you to do so if you’ve been having diarrhea and vomiting and feeling nauseous.  Moreover, be prepare to tell the doctor if you’ve taken over-the-counter acid-reducing medications for long periods of time.  These drugs may delay your diagnosis by masking your symptoms.  Lastly,  early treatment and detection are imperative for people with Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.  [376]

Treatments for Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome

Proton pump inhibitors are the primary medications prescribed by doctors to treat Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.  They are capable of reducing the production of acid by the stomach, and encourages the soothing of small intestine and stomach ulcers.  H-2 blockers (prescription medications) don’t work as well to decrease stomach acid.  As long as any gastrinoma hasn’t spread to other organs in the body, surgery on the stomach will be performed.  This method of controlling acid production has been hardly utilized.  Unfortunately, the cure rate is quite low even after having early diagnosis and surgery.  Nevertheless, patients may still live a long time since gastrinomas grow slowly. Acid-suppressing medications are the reasons for the successful controlling the production of too much acid.  [375][377]

Chemotherapy and radiation may be offered if the gastrinoma is malignant.  For any patient who has been treated for Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, he/she should make a commitment to see his/her doctor and follow up on a regular basis because gastrinomas are capable of showing up again. [375]

Possible Complications During a Surgery

Just like every other type of surgery available, there are some complications that can arise during a procedure to remove a gastrinoma or getting rid of peptic ulcer.  Here are some possible occurrences: failure to locate the tumor during surgery, intestinal bleeding or hole from ulcers in the duodenum or stomach, spread of the tumor to other organs in the body, and severe weight loss and diarrhea[375]