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This article was last reviewed on
This article waslast modified on
March 18, 2018.
At a Glance
Why Get Tested?

Primarily to diagnose and monitor acute pancreatitis; also sometimes to diagnose and monitor chronic 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 your arm

Test Preparation Needed?


You may be able to find your test results on your laboratory's website or patient portal. However, you are currently at Lab Tests Online. You may have been directed here by your lab's website in order to provide you with background information about the test(s) you had performed. You will need to return to your lab's website or portal, or contact your healthcare practitioner in order to obtain your test results.

Lab Tests Online is an award-winning patient education website offering information on laboratory tests. The content on the site, which has been reviewed by laboratory scientists and other medical professionals, provides general explanations of what results might mean for each test listed on the site, such as what a high or low value might suggest to your healthcare practitioner about your health or medical condition.

The reference ranges for your tests can be found on your laboratory report. They are typically found to the right of your results.

If you do not have your lab report, consult your healthcare provider or the laboratory that performed the test(s) to obtain the reference range.

Laboratory test results are not meaningful by themselves. Their meaning comes from comparison to reference ranges. Reference ranges are the values expected for a healthy person. They are sometimes called "normal" values. By comparing your test results with reference values, you and your healthcare provider can see if any of your test results fall outside the range of expected values. Values that are outside expected ranges can provide clues to help identify possible conditions or diseases.

While accuracy of laboratory testing has significantly evolved over the past few decades, some lab-to-lab variability can occur due to differences in testing equipment, chemical reagents, and techniques. This is a reason why so few reference ranges are provided on this site. It is important to know that you must use the range supplied by the laboratory that performed your test to evaluate whether your results are "within normal limits."

For more information, please read the article Reference Ranges and What They Mean.

What is being tested?

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.

Accordion Title
Common Questions
  • 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.

    Lipase testing is also occasionally used in the diagnosis and follow-up of cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, and Crohn disease.

  • When is it ordered?

    A lipase test may be ordered when a person has symptoms of acute pancreatitis or another pancreatic disorder, such as:

    • Severe abdominal or back pain
    • Fever
    • Loss of appetite
    • Nausea

    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.

    Concentrations may also be increased with pancreatic duct obstruction, pancreatic cancer, and other pancreatic diseases as well as with gallbladder inflammation or kidney disease.

    A low level of lipase in the blood may indicate permanent damage to the lipase-producing cells in the pancreas. This can occur in chronic diseases that affect the pancreas such as cystic fibrosis.

  • 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.

View Sources

Sources Used in Current Review

Devkota, Bishnu Prasad, et. al. (Updated Jan. 16, 2014.) Lipase. Medscape. Available online at through Accessed April 2014.

Burke, Darla. (June 11, 2012.) Lipase Test. Healthline. Available online at through Accessed April 2014.

Lipase Test. (Updated Jan. 21, 2013.) Medline Plus. Available online at through Accessed April 2014.

Test ID: LPS Lipase, Serum. Mayo Clinic. Available online at through Accessed April 2014.

Cartier, T, et. al. (Sept. 2006.) Normal Lipase Serum Level in Acute Pancreatitis: a Case Report. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Available online at through Accessed April 2014.

Case-Lo, Christine. (Updated May 29, 2013.) Amylase and Lipase Tests. Healthline. Available online at through Accessed April 2014.

Al-Kaade, Samer. (Updated Jan. 29, 2013.) Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency. Medscape. Available online at through Accessed April 2014.

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 598-599.

Thomas, Clayton L., Editor (1997). Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary. F.A. Davis Company, Philadelphia, PA [18th Edition]. Pg 1117.

Stone, C. (2005 February 14). Lipase test. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at

(2004 February). Pancreatitis. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse [On-line information]. Available online at through

Dugdale, III, D. (Updated 2009 January 28). Lipase test. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at Accessed May 2010.

(© 1995–2010) Unit Code 8328: Lipase, Serum. Mayo Clinic, Mayo Medical Laboratories [On-line information]. Available online at through Accessed May 2010.

Dowshen, S. (Reviewed 2009 January). Blood Test: Lipase. KidsHealth from Nemours [On-line information]. Available online at through Accessed May 2010.

Gardner, T. and Berk, B. (Updated 2009 December 29). Pancreatitis, Acute. eMedicine [On-line information]. Available online at through Accessed May 2010.

Khoury, G. and Deeba, S. (Updated 2009 January 26). Pancreatitis. eMedicine [On-line information]. Available online at through 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 598-599.

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 676-677.

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 p619.

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