Is a Lipase Test?
Your pancreas makes
an enzyme called lipase. When you eat, lipase is released into your
digestive tract to help your intestines break down the fats in the food you’re
eating. Lipase also allows cell nutrients and cell waste to move through the
walls of the cells in your body.
Certain levels of lipase are needed to maintain normal
digestive and cell function. Abnormally high levels of the enzyme in your blood
can be a sign of a health problem.
The serum lipase
test is used to measure the amount of lipase in the body. The
lipase test is often ordered at the same time as the amylase test. An amylase test is used to diagnose
diseases of the pancreas. The results from these tests are typically used to
diagnose and monitor specific health conditions, including:
- acute pancreatitis, which is a sudden swelling
of the pancreas
- chronic pancreatitis, which is a chronic or
recurrent swelling of the pancreas
- celiac disease
- Crohn’s disease
- cystic fibrosis
- pancreatic cancer
Is the Test Ordered?
The lipase test is commonly ordered when you have one of the
health conditions noted above. Increases in the level of lipase may signal the
worsening of a disease. Your doctor can also use the test to find out how
effective your treatment plan is. Your doctor will be looking for lowered
lipase levels if you have pancreatitis. The lipase test will help your doctor
to monitor treatment effectiveness and outcomes.
Although the lipase test can be used to monitor certain
health conditions, the test can also be used for initial diagnosis. Your doctor
may order the test if you have clinical symptoms of a pancreatic disorder.
- severe upper abdominal pain or back pain
- oily or fatty stools
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- nausea with or without vomiting
for the Test
You’ll need to fast for eight hours before you get the test.
Typically, this means that no food or drink, except water, can be taken by
mouth after midnight the night before.
Additionally, you may need to stop taking certain
medications or herbal supplements before the test. These medications may
interfere with the test results. Talk to your doctor about your medications. Don’t
stop taking any of your medications without checking with your doctor first.
Common medications that may affect the results of the lipase
- birth control pills
- thiazide diuretics
Is the Test Administered?
The lipase test is performed on blood taken from a standard
blood draw. The blood sample is commonly taken from your arm by a healthcare
professional in a clinical setting. The blood will be collected in a tube and
sent to a laboratory for analysis.
Once the results are reported, your doctor will be able to give
you more information about the results and what they mean.
Are the Risks of the Test?
You may have discomfort during the blood draw. Needle sticks
may result in pain at the site where your blood is drawn during the test.
Following the test, you may experience pain or throbbing at the site of the
blood draw. You may also notice bruising after the test is over.
The risks of the lipase test are minimal. These risks are common
for most blood tests. Potential risks for the test include:
- difficulty obtaining a sample, resulting in
multiple needle sticks
- fainting from the sight of blood, which is
called a vasovagal response
- an accumulation of blood under your skin, which
is called a hematoma
- the development of infection where the skin is
broken by the needle
The results of the lipase test will vary based on the
laboratory completing the analysis. The normal range of lipase is typically
under 140 units per liter (U/L), although there are minor differences from lab
to lab. Depending on your specific health issues, as well as age, values as
high as 200 U/L may be considered normal. Your doctor will explain what results
are considered normal for you.
You may have a health condition that blocks the flow of lipase
from your pancreas if the results of your lipase test are higher than normal.
- a bowel obstruction
- celiac disease
- an ulcer
- pancreatic cancer
Lipase tests that consistently show low lipase levels, or
values below 110 U/L, may indicate the presence of other health conditions that
can affect your pancreas. In particular, decreased levels of lipase may
indicate the presence of cystic fibrosis.
The lipase test can provide important health information.
Your doctor will most likely order this test if they’re concerned about your
pancreas or a digestive disorder.