To diagnose and monitor pancreatitis or other pancreatic disease
If you have symptoms of a pancreatic disease, such as severe tummy pain, fever, loss of appetite or nausea
A blood sample drawn from a vein in the arm
Lipase is an enzyme made by the pancreas. It is released into the digestive tract to help digest fatty foods. It is also important in maintaining cell permeability, that is, allowing the cell wall to let nutrients easily flow in and to let waste easily flow out. It is normally found in the blood in small amounts. When the pancreas is damaged or inflamed (for example in pancreatitis) it releases more lipase resulting in a higher level in the blood.
A blood sample is taken by needle from a vein in the arm.
No test preparation is needed.
The blood test for lipase is used to help diagnose pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) and other pancreatic diseases. Less commonly lipase is used in the diagnosis and follow-up of cystic fibrosis, coeliac disease and Crohn's disease.
A lipase test may be used if you show symptoms of a pancreatic disorder, such as severe abdominal pain, fever, loss of appetite or nausea.
Normal values for lipase depend on the test used to measure it. In acute pancreatitis, lipase levels are very high, often 2 to 5 times normal. Slightly high lipase values may occur in other conditions such as kidney disease, salivary gland inflammation, or peptic ulcer disease. Occasionally lipase is high due to a tumour (cancer). A rapid and sharp rise of lipase in the blood within hours after the beginning of an attack, and a decline after about 4 days, usually indicates acute pancreatitis.
In acute pancreatitis, the changes seen in lipase levels are usually similar to levels of another enzyme called amylase, but remains elevated longer (for 5 to 7 days).
Lipase and amylase are sometimes used together to diagnose acute pancreatitis. Both may also be used to monitor chronic pancreatitis. Both may be moderately elevated in chronic pancreatic disease but levels may fall if the cells that produce amylase and lipase in the pancreas become damaged or destroyed.
Medications that may increase lipase levels include codeine, indomethacin and morphine.
Treatment depends upon the symptoms. If they are absent or mild, there may be no treatment; if they are more severe, your doctor may suggest 'resting the pancreas' using a range of options, from not eating solid foods to fasting combined with fluid replacement through a drip for several days to a few weeks (usually requiring admission into hospital). This use of medicines and surgery may also be considered for patients with severe symptoms. Sometimes you may need pain management medicines. Nutritional support, such as low-fat diets and frequent small meals, may help relieve symptoms. Oral pancreatic enzyme replacement is another possible choice.
Conditions: Cystic fibrosis, diabetes, pancreatic diseases, pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer
Better Health Channel: Pancreatitis explained
RCPA Manual: Lipase - serum
Last Review Date: March 21, 2021