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.
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.
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.
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.
This article was last reviewed on July 11, 2014. | This article was last modified on February 24, 2015.
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