What Is a Lipase Test?
Lipase is an enzyme made by the pancreas. When you eat, lipase is released into the digestive tract to aid in the breakdown of fats. Lipase also functions to increase cell permeability. Cell permeability allows vital nutrients and wastes to flow across the cell wall. The nutrients nourish the cell.
Although certain levels of lipase are needed to maintain normal digestive and cell function, increased levels of the enzyme in the blood may indicate the presence of certain health conditions.
The lipase test is used to measure the amount of lipase in the body. In many instances, the lipase test will be ordered in conjunction with 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
- chronic pancreatitis
- celiac disease
- Crohn’s disease
- cystic fibrosis
- pancreatic cancer
Why 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 evaluate the effectiveness of treatment. In the case of pancreatitis, treatment should result in a reduction of lipase levels. The lipase test will enable 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 diagnosis. Your doctor may order the test if you have clinical symptoms of a pancreatic disorder. These include:
- severe abdominal pain or back pain
- loss of appetite
The lipase test is used in conjunction with other blood tests, including the amylase test and can be used to confirm diagnosis of problems with the pancreas.
Preparation for the Test
You will need to fast for eight hours before the test is administered. 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. Do not stop taking any of your medications before consulting with your doctor.
Common medications that may affect the results of the lipase test include:
- birth control pills
- thiazide diuretics
How 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 nurse or doctor in a clinical setting. The blood will be collected in a tube and will be sent to a laboratory for analysis.
Once the results are reported from the laboratory, your doctor will be able to provide you with more information about the results and what they mean.
What Are the Risks of the Test?
Patients undergoing the lipase test may experience some discomfort when the blood sample is drawn. Needle sticks may result in pain at the blood-draw site during the test. Following the test, patients may experience pain or throbbing at the blood-draw site. Bruising may also occur after the test is completed.
The risks of the lipase test are minimal. These risks are common to most blood tests. Potential risks for the test include:
- difficulty obtaining a sample, resulting in multiple needle sticks
- excessive bleeding at the needle site
- fainting as a result of blood loss
- accumulation of blood under the skin, known as a hematoma
- development of infection where the skin is broken by the needle
Understanding Your Results
The results of the lipase test will vary based on the laboratory completing the analysis. The normal range of lipase is typically under 160 units per liter (U/L). Depending on your specific health issues, values as high as 200 U/L may be considered normal. Talk to your doctor about your specific results and the results of other tests.
If the results of your lipase test are higher than normal, this may indicate the presence of a health condition that blocks the flow of lipase from the pancreas. Examples include:
- gall stones
- a bowel obstruction
- celiac disease
- an ulcer
- pancreatic cancer
Lipase tests that consistently demonstrate low lipase levels (values below 110 U/L) may indicate the presence of other health conditions that can affect the pancreas. In particular, decreased levels of lipase may indicate the presence of cystic fibrosis.
Although the lipase test can provide important health information, it is typically used as part of a comprehensive health examination.