For adults and children, you can catch the stool on plastic wrap that is loosely placed over the toilet bowl and held in place by the toilet seat. Then put the sample in a clean container. One test kit supplies a special toilet tissue that you use to collect the sample, then put the sample in a clean container.
For infants and children wearing diapers, you can line the diaper with plastic wrap. If the plastic wrap is placed properly, you can prevent mixing of urine and stool. This will provide a better sample.
Collect all stool that is released over a 24-hour period (or sometimes 3 days) in the containers provided. Label the containers with name, time, and date, and send them to the lab.
How to Prepare for the Test
Eat a normal diet containing about 100 grams of fat per day for 3 days before starting the test. The health care provider may ask you to stop using drugs or food additives that could affect the test.
How the Test will Feel
The test involves only normal bowel movements. There is no discomfort.
Why the Test is Performed
This test evaluates fat absorption to tell how well the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and intestines are working.
Fat malabsorption can cause a change in your stools called steatorrhea. To absorb fat normally, the body needs bile from the gallbladder (or liver if the gallbladder has been removed), enzymes from the pancreas, and normal intestines.
Hogenauer C, Hammer HF. Maldigestion and malabsorption. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Sleisenger MH, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 101.
Semrad CE, Powell DW. Approach to the patient with diarrhea and malabsorption. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 142.
Jenifer K. Lehrer, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Frankford-Torresdale Hospital, Aria Health System, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.