- Amylase blood test: What to expect and what do the results mean?
- Pancreatic cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Lung cancer
- Other conditions
- Amylase Blood Test: Purpose, Procedure, and Results
- Acute or chronic pancreatitis
- Peptic ulcers or a perforated ulcer
- Tubal, or ectopic pregnancy
- Kidney disease
- Understanding Your Blood Tests
- Gamma-Glutamyltransferase (GGT)
- Aspartate-Aminotransferase (AST)
- Lactate Dehydrogenase (LDH)
- Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)
- Total Iron Binding Capacity (TIBC)
- Transferrin Percent Saturation
- Cholesterol/HDL Cholesterol Ratio
- Amylase Test: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information
- Amylase – blood
- Lipase Test: Purpose, Procedure, and Results
- What Is a Lipase Test?
- When Do I Need a Lipase Test?
- What Is the Preparation for the Test?
- How Is the Test Administered?
- What Are the Risks of the Test?
- What Do My Test Results Mean?
Amylase blood test: What to expect and what do the results mean?
An amylase blood test measures the amount of amylase in a person’s blood. Abnormal levels of amylase may indicate pancreatitis or another problem with the pancreas.
Amylase is a digestive enzyme that helps the body break down carbohydrates. Both the salivary glands and the pancreas produce amylase. Several different medical conditions can affect amylase levels in the blood.
Doctors can also use a urine test to check a person’s amylase levels.
In this article, we explore the conditions that doctors might diagnose using amylase blood tests and explain how to prepare for the test and what to expect. We also cover what the normal amylase range is and what high and low levels can mean.
Share on PinterestAn amylase test requires a blood sample.
A variety of medical conditions can affect amylase levels in the blood.
The primary producers of amylase in the body are the pancreas and the salivary glands in the mouth. Approximately 40 percent of the amylase in the blood comes from the pancreas, which means that amylase blood tests can help diagnose conditions that affect the pancreas.
Doctors use amylase blood tests to diagnose or monitor the following conditions:
Doctors commonly use amylase blood tests to diagnose or monitor people with acute pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis can be acute, meaning that a person has the condition for a short period, or chronic, which means that the inflammation is longer-term or recurring.
Pancreatitis can cause severe abdominal pain and swelling. Other symptoms can include:
To help diagnose pancreatitis, a doctor may order an amylase blood test. Abnormally high or low levels of amylase in the blood can be a sign that a person has pancreatitis.
Other tests for pancreatitis may include:
- Imagining tests, such as a CT scan, MRI scan, or ultrasound. These tests create images of the inside of the body, allowing a doctor to look for signs of inflammation and determine its severity.
- Lipase blood tests. The pancreas also produces a digestive enzyme called lipase. Abnormal levels of lipase can also be a sign of pancreatitis.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there is an association between chronic pancreatitis and an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer, particularly in people who smoke. However, the ACS also state that most individuals with pancreatitis do not get pancreatic cancer.
Amylase and lipase tests are useful in diagnosing or monitoring tumors and cancers that affect the pancreas.
Some case studies suggest a potential link between higher-than-normal levels of amylase, particularly in the saliva, and ovarian tumors.
Two case studies suggest that there may be an association between high amylase levels in the blood and lung cancer. Therefore, checking a person’s amylase levels may help doctors diagnose and monitor lung cancer.
Share on PinterestSome medication may affect amylase levels.
Other conditions and factors that can affect amylase levels in the blood may include:
- gallbladder attacks
- pancreatic cysts or sores
- gastrointestinal or digestive problems
- kidney problems
- having had a recent kidney transplant
- mumps, which is an infection of the salivary glands
- diabetic ketoacidosis
- eating disorders
- some medications
It is not usually necessary to fast or make any specific preparations before having an amylase blood test.
However, some medications can increase amylase levels, which can make the test results difficult to interpret. A doctor may recommend temporarily stopping certain medicines before the test, so it is essential to inform them of any current medications or supplements.
People should also avoid consuming alcohol before the test.
The amylase blood test is a routine blood test. A healthcare professional will clean a small area of the person’s skin and then insert a needle to draw a sample of blood. This procedure usually only takes a few minutes. They will then send the sample to a laboratory for analysis.
Normal amylase levels vary from person to person and according to the testing methods of the lab. However, many labs consider a person’s amylase levels to be healthy if they are between 19 units per liter (U/L) and 86 U/L.
Share on PinterestA doctor may recommend further tests to diagnose a condition accurately.
High amylase levels are typically a sign of acute or chronic pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis can cause amylase levels to become four to six times higher than the upper limit of the normal range.
Other conditions may cause amylase levels to increase, including:
- pancreatic cancer
- ovarian cancer
- lung cancer
- cholecystitis and other conditions that can affect the gallbladder
- mumps and other conditions that can affect the salivary glands
- diabetic ketoacidosis
- ectopic pregnancy
- blockages in the pancreas, bile duct, or intestines
- peptic ulcers
- salivary gland tumors, for example, in the parotid gland
Chronic pancreatitis can damage the pancreas over time, which can eventually lead to a decrease in the amount of amylase in the blood.
Low amylase levels in the blood may also be a sign of:
Amylase is a digestive enzyme that the pancreas and salivary glands produce. Doctors typically use amylase blood tests to help diagnose and monitor people with acute or chronic pancreatitis. However, abnormal amylase levels can also be a sign of many other conditions.
An amylase blood test is a routine blood test that generally requires no specific preparation. As some medications can interfere with the results, a doctor may advise temporarily stopping these before the test.
Amylase Blood Test: Purpose, Procedure, and Results
Amylase is an enzyme, or special protein, produced by your pancreas and salivary glands. The pancreas is an organ located behind your stomach. It creates various enzymes that help break down food in your intestines.
The pancreas can sometimes become damaged or inflamed, which causes it to produce too much or too little amylase. An abnormal amount of amylase in your body may be a sign of a pancreatic disorder.
An amylase blood test can determine whether you have a disease of the pancreas by measuring the amount of amylase in your body. You may have a disorder affecting the pancreas if your levels of amylase are too low or too high.
Amylase is typically measured by testing a sample of your blood. In some cases, a urine sample may also be used to determine the amount of amylase in your body.
An amylase blood test is usually done if your doctor suspects pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas. Amylase levels can also rise due to other pancreatic disorders, such as:
- pancreatic pseudocyst
- pancreatic abscess
- pancreatic cancer
Symptoms vary for the different diseases, but they may include:
- upper abdominal pain
- loss of appetite
- nausea and vomiting
You should avoid drinking alcohol before the test. You should also tell your doctor about any medications you may be taking. Certain drugs can affect your test results. Your doctor may tell you to stop taking a particular medication or to change the dose temporarily.
Some medications that can affect the amount of amylase in your blood include:
The procedure involves taking a sample of blood through a vein, usually in your arm. This process only takes a few minutes:
- The healthcare provider will apply an antiseptic to the area where your blood will be drawn.
- An elastic band will be tied around your upper arm to increase the amount of blood flow to the veins, causing them to swell. This makes it easier to find a vein.
- Then, a needle will be inserted into your vein. After the vein is punctured, the blood will flow through the needle into a small tube that’s attached to it. You may feel a slight prick when the needle goes in, but the test itself isn’t painful.
- Once enough blood is collected, the needle will be removed and a sterile bandage will be applied over the puncture site.
- Collected blood is then sent to a lab for testing.
Laboratories can differ in what they consider to be a normal amount of amylase in the blood. Some labs define a normal amount to be 23 to 85 units per liter (U/L), while others consider 40 to 140 U/L to be normal. Make sure you speak with your doctor about your results and what they could mean.
Abnormal results can happen for a number of reasons. The underlying cause depends on whether the level of amylase in your blood is too high or too low.
A high amylase count may be a sign of the following conditions:
Acute or chronic pancreatitis
Acute or chronic pancreatitis occurs when the enzymes that help break down food in the intestines start breaking down the tissues of the pancreas instead. Acute pancreatitis comes on suddenly but doesn’t last very long. Chronic pancreatitis, however, lasts longer and will flare up from time to time.
Cholecystitis is an inflammation of the gallbladder usually caused by gallstones. Gallstones are hard deposits of digestive fluid that form in the gallbladder and cause blockages. Cholecystitis can sometimes be caused by tumors. Amylase levels will be elevated if the pancreatic duct that allows amylase to enter the small bowel is blocked by a gallstone or inflammation in the area.
Macroamylasemia develops when macroamylase is present in the blood. Macroamylase is amylase attached to a protein.
Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. It can be caused by bacteria or a virus.
Peptic ulcers or a perforated ulcer
A peptic ulcer is a condition where the lining of the stomach or intestine becomes inflamed, causing ulcers, or sores, to develop. When ulcers extend all the way through the tissue of the stomach or intestine, it’s called a perforation. This condition is considered a medical emergency.
Tubal, or ectopic pregnancy
Fallopian tubes connect your ovaries to your uterus. A tubal pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg, or embryo, is in one of your fallopian tubes instead of in your uterus. This is also called an ectopic pregnancy, which is a pregnancy that takes place outside of the uterus.
Other conditions can also cause elevated amylase counts, including vomiting from any cause, heavy alcohol use, salivary gland infections, and intestinal blockages.
A low amylase count can indicate the following problems:
Preeclampsia is a condition that occurs when you have high blood pressure and you’re pregnant or sometimes postpartum. It’s also known as toxemia of pregnancy.
Kidney disease is caused by many medical problems, but the most common are high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus.
You should discuss your test results with your doctor. They can help you understand the results and what they mean for your health. Amylase levels alone aren’t used to diagnose a condition. Depending on your results, further testing may need to be done.
Understanding Your Blood Tests
You and your doctor can learn a great deal about your health by testing a sample of your blood. Laboratory tests help in several ways. Sometimes test results will be abnormal before you have any symptoms, and when you have symptoms, laboratory test results help confirm that a problem does exist.
A normal test result is just as significant as an abnormal result. A normal result does not mean that the test was unnecessary. When a result is normal, it not only helps to rule out disease, but it also establishes a baseline for you. Each person has his or her own baseline “normal”. A person’s own result is the best baseline for monitoring any change that takes place in the future.
What follows is a brief description of the typical tests that may be included in a testing profile.
These descriptions will help you to better understand your laboratory test results so that you may have a more meaningful discussion with your doctor. You should not rely on this information for diagnostic treatment.
These descriptions are not intended to be a complete listing of all conditions medically relevant to each test. Always consult your doctor regarding your laboratory tests.
Glucose is the chief source of energy for all living organisms; however, abnormally high or low blood glucose levels may be a sign of disease.
For example, high glucose levels after 12 hours of fasting may suggest diabetes. Low blood glucose, on the other hand, may be seen with certain tumors or with liver disease.
A low glucose level may also mean that the blood sample was not handled properly after it was drawn.
Uric acid levels are useful in the diagnosis of gout. Gout is a condition that occurs and affects men more than women. Diets high in purines (present in sweetbreads, kidney, and liver) may worsen the condition.
Patients with gout may develop arthritis and or kidney stones. A number of drugs, particularly diuretics and salicylates (aspirin), may also increase uric acid.
Uric acid levels may be increased during kidney failure, with certain tumors, and as a response to stress and alcohol.
Phosphate is closely associated with calcium in bone development and is primarily found in the bones. The remaining phosphate level, which is found in the blood, is very important for muscle and nerve function.
Very low levels of phosphate in the blood can be associated with starvation or malnutrition and this can lead to muscle weakness. High levels of phosphate in the blood are usually associated with kidney disease.
Calcium is one of the most important elements in the body. Ninety-nine percent of the calcium in the body is in the bones. The remaining one-percent is in body fluids, such as blood, and is very important for the proper function of nerves, enzymes, muscles, and blood clotting.
High levels can be caused by bone disease, excess intake of antacids and milk (this is often seen in people with ulcers), excessive intake of vitamin D, and over activity of the thyroid gland. The parathyroid gland is the main regulator of calcium in the body.
Tumors of the parathyroid gland may result in very high calcium levels.
This element is found primarily inside the cells of the body. calcium, the level in the blood is important. A low magnesium level in the blood may indicate severe malnutrition, severe diarrhea, alcoholism, or excessive use of diuretics. A very low level of magnesium in the blood can cause your muscles to tremble.
Bilirubin is the pigment in the blood that makes your blood plasma or serum yellow. When the bilirubin level in the blood is very high, the whites of your eyes and your skin may become yellow. This is known as jaundice.
Bilirubin comes from the breakdown of old red cells in the blood. A high bilirubin level in the blood can be caused by too many red cells being destroyed (hemolysis), by liver disease, or by a blockage of the bile ducts.
Fasting can also cause a slight increase in total bilirubin.
This is a specific form of bilirubin that is formed in the liver and excreted in the bile. Normally, very little of this form of bilirubin is present in the blood, so even a slightly high level of direct bilirubin indicates a problem with the liver cells.
Alkaline Phosphatase is found in all body tissues, but the most important sites are bone and liver. Blood levels increase when bones are growing; thus children have higher levels than adults do. High levels may also be seen in bone and liver disease. Certain drugs may cause high levels too.
GGT is primarily found in the liver. Drinking too much alcohol, certain drugs, obstructive liver disease, and bile duct disease can cause high levels of GGT in the blood.
AST is found mainly in the heart, liver, and muscles. High levels of AST in the blood suggest a problem with the heart, liver, or muscles.
Lactate Dehydrogenase (LDH)
LDH is found in all tissues in the body; thus a high level in the blood can result from a number of different diseases. Slightly elevated levels in the blood are common and rarely indicate disease. The most common sources of LDH are the heart, liver, muscles, and red blood cells.
Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)
BUN is a waste product derived from protein breakdown in the liver and excreted by the kidneys. When your kidneys are not working well, the level of BUN in the blood will rise. Dehydration and blood loss can also cause a high BUN level. Liver disease, a low protein diet, or too much water intake may cause a low BUN level.
The blood concentration of creatinine depends upon two things – the amount of muscle you have and the ability of your kidneys to excrete the creatinine. A high level of creatinine in the blood usually indicates deterioration in kidney function.
When BUN and/or creatinine levels are abnormal, the doctor can determine if the high BUN level is caused by a kidney problem or from something blood loss in the abdomen.
This is a measure of the total amount of protein in your blood. A low or high total protein does not indicate a specific disease, but it does indicate that some additional tests may be required to determine if there is a problem.
Approximately two-thirds of the total protein circulating in your blood is albumin. This important protein keeps water inside your blood vessels.
When your albumin level is too low, water can leak your blood vessels into other parts of your body and cause swelling.
A low level of albumin in the blood can be caused by malnutrition, too much water in the body, liver disease, kidney disease, severe injury such as burns or major bone fractures, and slow bleeding over a long period of time.
This is the group of proteins in your blood that helps to fight infections. It is actually comprised of about 60 different important proteins. Some of the proteins in the group play an important role in blood clotting. If your globulin level is abnormal, your doctor may want to measure some of the individual proteins that make up this group.
A simple way to tell if the albumin or globulin levels in the blood are abnormal is to compare the level of albumin to the level of globulin in your blood.
This element plays an important role in salt and water balance in your body. The adrenal hormone, aldosterone, and the rate of excretion in urine, regulate the blood sodium level.
Too much water intake, heart failure, or kidney failure because of fluid retention can cause a low sodium level in the blood. A low level can also be caused by loss of sodium in diarrhea, fluid, and vomit, or by a deficiency of adrenal hormone.
Too much intake of salt or not enough intake of water can cause a high level.
This element is found inside all cells. Its role is to maintain water balance inside the cells and help in the transmission of nerve impulses. The level of potassium in blood is of critical significance. Low levels may be found in patients on diuretics or in patients not receiving enough dietary potassium.
A low potassium level can cause muscle weakness and heart problems. A high level can be found in kidney disease or in overuse of potassium supplements. Some “salt” substitutes contain potassium instead of sodium, and an excessive use of these substitutes can cause dangerously high levels of potassium in the blood.
Adrenal hormone disorders can also alter blood potassium level.
Chloride is another element that plays a role in salt and water balance. It is almost never the only element that is low or high.
Changes in the chloride level are usually associated with changes in sodium or potassium. Borderline low or high levels of chloride usually have very little significance.
When there is too much or too little acid in the blood, chloride is an important clue to the cause of the acid abnormality.
The body must have iron to make hemoglobin and to help transfer oxygen to the muscles. If the body is low in iron, all body cells, particularly muscles in adults and brain cells in children, do not function properly.
On the other hand, if there is too much iron in the body, this can cause injury to the heart, pancreas, joints, testicles, ovaries, etc.
Iron excess is found in the heredity disease called hemochromatosis, which can be found in about 3 every 1000 people.
Total Iron Binding Capacity (TIBC)
Iron is transported in your blood bound to a protein called transferrin. Transferrin transports the iron in your body from the iron storage sites to where it is needed. It also transports the iron when not needed back to the storage sites. A low TIBC suggests malnutrition or iron excess. A high TIBC suggest iron deficiency.
Transferrin Percent Saturation
This percent is obtained by comparing the iron level to the TIBC level. It is a simple way to compare the amount of iron in the blood to the capacity of the blood to transport iron.
Cholesterol is an essential blood fat, but too high a level of this blood fat is associated with a higher risk of heart disease and clogged blood vessels. The total cholesterol level in blood includes LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol).
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is sometimes described as the “good” cholesterol. One of the important roles of HDL cholesterol in your body is to carry cholesterol away from your arteries to your liver. The more HDL cholesterol you have, the more cholesterol can be carried away and not clog your arteries.
Cholesterol/HDL Cholesterol Ratio
This number is obtained by comparing the total cholesterol level to the HDL cholesterol level: the higher the number, the greater the risk of coronary heart disease. A high HDL cholesterol level will result in a lower ratio, which means a lower risk. This could be true even if the total cholesterol level may be high.
This is a blood fat largely derived from dietary fat absorption, and to a limited extent, related to a higher risk of heart disease. You must not eat for at least 12 hours to obtain an accurate result for this test.
CRP (C-Reactive Protein) is a protein produced in the liver that circulates in the blood. High Sensitivity CRP is a blood test that is able to detect small amounts of CRP. Even low levels of CRP can help indicate your risk for heart disease and help predict risk of a first heart attack up to eight years in advance.
T4 controls the rate at which energy is used and released by the body. A low level of T4 (hypothyroidism) may cause tiredness, depression, or weight gain even though your appetite is decreased. A high level of T4 (hyperthyroidism) may cause nervousness, irritability or weight loss.
Amylase Test: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information
URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/amylase-test/
An amylase test measures the amount of amylase in your blood or urine. Amylase is an enzyme, or special protein, that helps you digest food.
Most of your amylase is made in the pancreas and salivary glands. A small amount of amylase in your blood and urine is normal.
A larger or smaller amount may mean that you have a disorder of the pancreas, an infection, alcoholism, or another medical condition.
Other names: Amy test, serum amylase, urine amylase
An amylase blood test is used to diagnose or monitor a problem with your pancreas, including pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas.
An amylase urine test may be ordered along with or after an amylase blood test. Urine amylase results can help diagnose pancreatic and salivary gland disorders.
One or both types of tests may be used to help monitor amylase levels in people who are being treated for pancreatic or other disorders.
Your health care provider may order an amylase blood and/or urine test if you have symptoms of a pancreatic disorder. These symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
Your provider may also order an amylase test to monitor an existing condition, such as:
- Eating disorder
For an amylase blood test, a health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
For an amylase urine test, you will be given instructions to provide a “clean catch” sample. The clean catch method includes the following steps:
- Wash your hands
- Clean your genital area with a cleansing pad given to you by your provider. Men should wipe the tip of their penis. Women should open their labia and clean from front to back.
- Start to urinate into the toilet.
- Move the collection container under your urine stream.
- Collect at least an ounce or two of urine into the container, which should have markings to indicate the amounts.
- Finish urinating into the toilet.
- Return the sample container as instructed by your health care provider.
Your health care provider may request that you collect all your urine during a 24-hour period. For this test, your health care provider or laboratory will give you a container and specific instructions on how to collect your samples at home.
Be sure to follow all instructions carefully. This 24-hour urine sample test is used because the amounts of substances in urine, including amylase, can vary throughout the day.
So collecting several samples in a day may give a more accurate picture of your urine content.
You don't need any special preparations for an amylase blood or urine test.
There is very little risk to having a blood test. During a blood test, you may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
There is no known risk to having a urine test.
If your results show an abnormal level of amylase in your blood or urine, it may mean you have a disorder of the pancreas or other medical condition.
High levels of amylase may indicate:
- Acute pancreatitis, a sudden and severe inflammation of the pancreas. When treated promptly, it usually gets better within a few days.
- A blockage in the pancreas
- Pancreatic cancer
Low levels of amylase can indicate:
- Chronic pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas that gets worse over time and can lead to permanent damage. Chronic pancreatitis is most often caused by heavy alcohol use.
- Liver disease
- Cystic fibrosis
Be sure to tell your health care provider about any prescription or over-the-counter medicines you are taking, as they can affect your results. To learn more about your results, talk to your health care provider.
If your health care provider suspects you have pancreatitis, he or she may order a lipase blood test, along with an amylase blood test. Lipase is another enzyme produced by the pancreas. Lipase tests are considered to be more accurate for detecting pancreatitis, especially in pancreatitis related to alcohol abuse.
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Amylase – blood
Pancreatitis – blood amylase
Amylase is an enzyme that helps digest carbohydrates. It is made in the pancreas and the glands that make saliva. When the pancreas is diseased or inflamed, amylase releases into the blood.
A test can be done to measure the level of this enzyme in your blood.
Amylase may also be measured with an amylase urine test.
Blood is drawn from a vein (venipuncture), usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. A needle is inserted into the vein, and the blood is collected in an air-tight vial or a syringe. Preparation may vary depending on the specific test.
A blood sample is taken from a vein.
No special preparation is needed. However, you should avoid alcohol before the test. The health care provider may ask you to stop taking drugs that may affect the test. DO NOT stop taking any medicines without first talking to your provider.
Drugs that can increase amylase measurements include:
- Birth control pills
- Cholinergic medicines
- Ethacrynic acid
- Opiates (codeine, meperidine, and morphine)
- Thiazide diuretics
You may feel slight pain or a sting when the needle is inserted to draw blood. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.
This test is most often used to diagnose or monitor acute pancreatitis. It may also detect some digestive tract problems.
The test may also be done for the following conditions:
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Pancreatic pseudocyst
The normal range is 40 to 140 units per liter (U/L) or 0.38 to 1.42 microkat/L (µkat/L).
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some laboratories use different measurement methods. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your test results.
Increased blood amylase level may occur due to:
Decreased amylase level may occur due to:
- Cancer of the pancreas
- Damage to the pancreas with pancreatic scarring
- Kidney disease
- Toxemia of pregnancy
Slight risks from having blood drawn may include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Fainting or feeling lightheaded
- Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
- Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)
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Forsmark CE. Pancreatitis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 144.
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Last reviewed on: 1/26/2019
Reviewed by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
Lipase Test: Purpose, Procedure, and Results
Lipase is a protein that occurs naturally in the body, and it is released by the pancreas to help the body absorb fats properly.
If you have symptoms that may indicate that something is wrong with your pancreas, one of the first things your doctor will do is to order a lipase test to ensure that the pancreas is working properly.
If it is not, this may be indicative of a problem in the pancreas, which could be serious. Read on to learn more about lipase and what the test is if you need a lipase test, and what to do when you receive results.
What Is a Lipase Test?
Every time you eat food, lipase is released into your digestive tract from the pancreas. The release of lipase helps you absorb fats properly. More technically, lipase converts triglycerides to monoglycerides as well as two fatty acids.
It is a protein that is a small, yet important part of how the digestive system works. Overall, lipase helps maintain cell function within the digestive system. If there is too much lipase in the blood, however, this can be indicative of a health problem in the pancreas.
Certain pancreatic diseases to be mindful of include:
- Pancreatic cancer
- Chronic pancreatitis (a recurring swelling of the pancreas)
- Acute pancreatitis (an abrupt swelling of the pancreas)
Your doctor may also order an amylase test along with the lipase test. Amylase is another enzyme produced by the pancreas, but amylase is also found in the salivary glands.
An amylase test is not typically ordered alone in modern times, because even though it can help diagnose pancreatic disease, it can also come back with false positives.
Ordering a lipase and an amylase test together is quite common.
When Do I Need a Lipase Test?
You need a lipase test if your doctor suspects you have a disease of the pancreas. If you have symptoms such as:
- Intense upper abdominal/stomach pain
- Fatty stool
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Back pain
- Nausea (with or without vomiting)
These certain symptoms can be indicative of pancreatic disease. A lipase test is a definitive test used for initial diagnosis. Part of the reason an amylase test is not used solitarily is because, in addition to pancreatic disease, high amylase can also be a sign of:
- Kidney disease
- Gallbladder inflammation
- Celiac disease
If you are diagnosed with the above conditions or with a pancreatic disease, your doctor may commonly order lipase and amylase tests together in order to monitor your progress.
What Is the Preparation for the Test?
There is very little preparation involved when it comes to taking a lipase test. Because it is a standard blood test a complete blood count (CBC), it requires very little preparation.
It is best if the patient has been fasting prior to the test, however, and most doctors will order a fasting test. For a lipase test specifically, the doctor will want you to be fasting for 8 to 12 hours prior to the administration of the test.
If you’ve never taken a fasting blood test before, there are a few things to keep in mind.
It’s a good rule of thumb to not fast for more than 12 hours, as this may negatively affect the results of the test. If your doctor has ordered a fasting blood test, prepare to go to the phlebotomist or laboratory first thing in the morning, or make an appointment early in the day.
Do not eat any food for 8 to 12 hours before your test. It is a common myth that it is okay to drink black coffee in the morning prior to a blood test, but this is not true. Coffee is a diuretic, and it contains caffeine and soluble plant matter, so it should be avoided for a fasting exam.
Similarly, do not drink alcohol 8 to 12 hours before your test. In fact, your doctor may advise you not to imbibe for up to a full 24 hours before taking a lipase test.
It is important to continue your regular medication regimen unless otherwise instructed by your doctor. Some medications that may affect lipase test results include birth control medications, codeine, morphine, and some thiazide diuretics. Check with your doctor if you currently take any of these medications.
How Is the Test Administered?
A lipase test is administered just any other typical blood test. A healthcare provider in a laboratory will take a blood sample from your arm.
If for any reason, you cannot give blood from your arm, the phlebotomist may be able to use your hands or your feet. The phlebotomist will draw the blood into a tube and send it to a laboratory to be analyzed.
Very rarely are non-emergency tests analyzed the same day. Most ly, your physician will call you within two to three days with your results.
What Are the Risks of the Test?
The risks of the serum lipase blood test are very minimal, and mainly involve risks from any type of blood draw.
If you are sensitive to normal blood draws, you may feel pain or discomfort at the injection site, or you may have slight bruising.
Inform your healthcare provider right away if you have extreme pain or unusual bruising. There are general risks associated with any blood draw, which include:
- Development of infection where the skin is broken
- An inexperienced clinician or a dehydrated patient, resulting in multiple “sticks”
- Fainting from the sight of blood
- The accumulation of blood under the skin post-test (which is known as a hematoma)
When it comes to blood draws, the lihood of accurate results much outweighs the possibility of any side effects.
What Do My Test Results Mean?
Healthy adults age 16 and over should have lipase levels between 10-73 U/L, which is units per liter. If you are above or below this threshold, your doctor will explain to you what your units/liter are and what this means.
Low lipase levels may be telling of chronic pancreatitis or cystic fibrosis, while higher-than-normal lipase levels may indicate the presence of pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer. High lipase levels may also indicate gastroenteritis (stomach flu), an ulcer, or a bowel obstruction.
Your doctor is ly to order more invasive tests if your lipase levels are on either side of the normal range.
If you need more information on a lipase test or feel you may be struggling with some pancreatic symptoms, request an appointment today at Gi Associates & Endoscopy Center. We have three distinct Mississippi locations for your convenience and for individualized care.