When you have symptoms of a pancreatic disorder, such as severe abdominal pain, fever, loss of appetite, or nausea
A blood sample drawn from a vein in your arm
Lipase is one of several enzymes produced by the pancreas to help digest dietary fats. This test measures the amount of lipase in the blood.
Lipase is transported through the pancreatic duct and into the first part of the small intestine (duodenum), where it helps break down dietary triglycerides (a form of fat) into fatty acids. The pancreas is the primary source of lipase, but cells in other areas of the body involved with digestion and nutrient absorption also produce lipase, including those in the tongue, stomach and liver.
Lipase is usually present in the blood in small quantities. When cells in the pancreas are injured, like with pancreatitis, or when the pancreatic duct is blocked by a gallstone or, in rare cases, by a pancreatic tumor, increased amounts of lipase enter the blood and result in higher concentrations in the blood.
How is the sample collected for testing?
A blood sample is obtained by inserting a needle into a vein in the arm.
Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?
No test preparation is needed.
How is it used?
The blood test for lipase is most often used, along with an amylase test, to help diagnose and monitor acute pancreatitis. It may also be used to diagnose and monitor chronic pancreatitis and other disorders that involve the pancreas but is not as useful of a test for these conditions because lipase levels remain elevated for longer periods and may not reveal clinical progress.
When is it ordered?
- Severe abdominal or back pain
- Loss of appetite
It may also be ordered at intervals when a health practitioner wants to monitor someone with a pancreatic condition to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment and to determine whether the lipase levels are increasing or decreasing over time.
What does the test result mean?
A high lipase level in the blood may indicate the presence of a condition affecting the pancreas.
In acute pancreatitis, lipase levels are frequently very high, often 5 to 10 times higher than the highest reference value (often called the upper limit of normal). Lipase concentrations typically rise within 4 to 8 hours of an acute pancreatic attack and remain elevated for up to 7 to 14 days. Lipase levels cannot be used to determine the severity of an acute pancreatic attack.
Is there anything else I should know?
When acute pancreatitis occurs, lipase levels usually rise in about the same time as blood amylase concentrations, about 4-8 hours, but lipase levels will remain elevated longer than amylase levels. Lipase testing is thought to be more reliable than amylase testing for the initial diagnosis of acute pancreatitis and is also more sensitive to detecting acute pancreatitis caused by alcohol consumption.
Drugs that may increase lipase levels include pain medications like codeine, indomethacin, and morphine, birth control pills, thiazide diuretics, and cholinergic drugs, among others.
What are the long-term consequences of pancreatitis?
With acute pancreatitis, there is usually no long-term damage and often no further problems develop. Chronic pancreatitis, which may present as a series of acute attacks or as an ongoing upset, can cause permanent damage. As the pancreas becomes scarred, some people develop diabetes and/or the inability to digest foods, especially fats. The lack of normal pancreatic enzymes may lead to adverse effects on food digestion and waste production, causing malabsorption, abdominal pain, greasy stools, and the formation of stones in the pancreas. Even if the disease is controlled, the damage is often irreversible. If the disease progresses, it could lead to death.
Do elevated lipase levels always mean I have a pancreatic condition?
In some cases, an elevated lipase level may be due to a condition other than pancreatitis. In pancreatitis, the lipase level rises quickly and drops in 7 to 14 days. In other conditions, the rise is usually not as great and the level may be maintained for a longer period. Moderately increased lipase values can occur in other conditions, such as kidney disease, and may also be due to decreased clearance from the blood, salivary gland inflammation, gallbladder inflammation, celiac disease, a bowel obstruction, or peptic ulcer disease. The lipase test is not, however, usually used to monitor these conditions. Your health practitioner will determine whether you have a pancreatic disorder and will make a diagnosis based on your symptoms, medical history, and test results.
Why might lipase and amylase tests be ordered together?
Blood amylase tests are sensitive for pancreatic disorders but are not specific for the disorders. That means an elevated amylase level may indicate a problem, but a disorder unrelated to the pancreas may be the cause. Lipase tests are usually more specific than amylase for diseases of the pancreas, particularly for acute pancreatitis and for acute alcoholic pancreatitis. Evaluating the results of the two tests together helps to diagnose or rule out pancreatitis and other conditions.
On This Site
Elsewhere On The Web
Pancreas.org: Patient Information
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Pancreatitis
National Pancreas Foundation: Acute Pancreatitis
National Pancreas Foundation: Chronic Pancreatitis