Amylase

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Also known as: Amy
Formal name: Amylase
Related tests: Lipase, Trypsin, Trypsinogen

At a Glance

Why Get Tested?

To diagnose and monitor pancreatitis or other pancreatic diseases

When to Get Tested?

When you have symptoms of a pancreatic disorder, such as severe abdominal pain, fever, loss of appetite, or nausea

Sample Required?

A blood sample drawn from a vein in the arm; sometimes a 24-hour urine sample or a sample of peritoneal fluid

Test Preparation Needed?

None

The Test Sample

What is being tested?

This test measures the amount of amylase in the blood or urine or sometimes peritoneal fluid. Amylase is one of several enzymes produced by the pancreas to help digest carbohydrates. It is secreted through the pancreatic duct into the duodenum, where it helps break down dietary carbohydrates. Amylase is also produced by other organs, particularly the salivary glands.

Amylase is usually present in the blood and urine in small quantities. When cells in the pancreas are injured, as in pancreatitis, or the pancreatic duct is blocked by a gallstone or rarely by a pancreatic tumor, increased amounts of amylase find their way into the bloodstream, increasing concentrations in the blood and the urine, which is the excretion path for amylase from the blood.

How is the sample collected for testing?

A blood sample is obtained by inserting a needle into a vein in the arm. Sometimes a 24-hour urine sample or peritoneal fluid is collected.

NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.

Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.

Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?

No test preparation is needed.

The Test

Common Questions

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Article Sources

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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.

Sources Used in Current Review

Dugdale, D. (Updated 2009 January 28). Amylase – blood. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003464.htm. Accessed May 2010.

Mathew, A. et. al. (Updated 2009 November 11). Hyperamylasemia. eMedicine [On-line information]. Available online at http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/186389-overview through http://emedicine.medscape.com. Accessed May 2010.

Gardner, T. and Berk, B. (Updated 2009 December 29). Pancreatitis, Acute. eMedicine [On-line information]. Available online at http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/181364-overview through http://emedicine.medscape.com. Accessed May 2010.

Obideen, K. and Wehbi, M. (Updated 2009 December 22). Pancreatitis, Chronic. eMedicine [On-line information]. Available online at http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/181554-overview through http://emedicine.medscape.com. Accessed May 2010.

Khoury, G. and Deeba, S. (Updated 2009 January 26). Pancreatitis. eMedicine [On-line information]. Available online at http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/775867-overview through http://emedicine.medscape.com. Accessed May 2010.

Lew, M. and Lewandrowski, K. (2010 March). Q&A. CAP Today [On-line information]. Available online through http://www.cap.org. Accessed May 2010.

Pagana, K. D. & Pagana, T. J. (© 2007). Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 8th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO. Pp 60-62.

Clarke, W. and Dufour, D. R., Editors (© 2006). Contemporary Practice in Clinical Chemistry: AACC Press, Washington, DC. Pp 281-287.

Wu, A. (© 2006). Tietz Clinical Guide to Laboratory Tests, 4th Edition: Saunders Elsevier, St. Louis, MO. Pp 100-107.

Kasper DL, Braunwald E, Fauci AS, Hauser SL, Longo DL, Jameson JL eds, (2005). Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 16th Edition, McGraw Hill Pp 1891-1898.

Tietz Textbook of Clinical Chemistry and Molecular Diagnostics. Burtis CA, Ashwood ER, Bruns DE, eds. St. Louis: Elsevier Saunders; 2006 Pg 616.

Sources Used in Previous Reviews

Pagana, Kathleen D. & Pagana, Timothy J. (© 2007). Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 8th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO. Pp 60-62.

Thomas, Clayton L., Editor (1997). Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary. F.A. Davis Company, Philadelphia, PA [18th Edition]. Pg 87.

Stone, C. (2005 February 14, Updated). Amylase Test. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003464.htm.

Kolatkar, N. (2005 May 17, Updated). Amylase - urine. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003607.htm.

(2004 February). Pancreatitis. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse [On-line information]. Available online at http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/pancreatitis/ through http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov.