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Lipase Test: How To Test For Pancreatitis
Updated on January 31, 2024
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Lipase Test: How To Test For Pancreatitis

Key Takeaways

Your doctor may order a lipase test when you have symptoms consistent with a swollen pancreas, such as abdominal pain. The test can also help your doctor assess if you have other medical conditions affecting your pancreas.

Lipase is an enzyme that helps your body digest fats so the intestine can easily absorb them. The pancreas produces most of this enzyme.1

Excessive levels of lipase in the body may indicate a swollen pancreas—a medical condition known as pancreatitis.2 

“The lipase test is most often used to diagnose acute pancreatitis, a life-threatening condition that may lead to sudden death if left untreated. Other conditions where lipase testing is useful diagnosing Crohn's disease, celiac disease, and cystic fibrosis,” says our in-house expert Dr. Rizza Mira.

Quick Facts On Lipase Blood Tests

  • Measures the lipase in your blood
  • Also called the serum lipase test  

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Why Take A Lipase Test?

Doctors use lipase testing to assess how well your pancreas is functioning. But they mostly order them to diagnose acute pancreatitis or an inflamed pancreas.

The pancreas is an organ the size of your fist behind your stomach. It makes pancreatic juices, called enzymes, during digestion to help break down specific food components. An example of this is lipase–an enzyme that breaks down fats in the body. 

Aside from that, medical experts also run lipase tests to diagnose chronic pancreatitis,  a persistent condition that can permanently damage your pancreas. 

Some other health conditions the lipase test can diagnose include:

  • Intestinal or bowel obstruction or injury
  • Pancreatic cysts
  • Peritonitis or swelling of the abdominal lining
  • Cystic fibrosis

Doctors also use a lipase test to monitor conditions such as Crohn’s disease and Celiac disease. Both conditions occur when an insufficient lipase fails to absorb the nutrients from foods.

Summary

Lipase testing helps your doctor assess if your symptoms are caused by pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is characterized by an inflamed pancreas. High levels of lipase may indicate inflammation in the pancreas, which can be acute or chronic. Doctors also this test to diagnose and monitor other health conditions Crohn’s disease and Celiac disease.

What Do Lipase Tests Check For?

A lipase test measures the level of lipase in the blood. It’s normal to have lipase in your bloodstream since it helps during the digestion of fats. 

But, a damaged or swollen pancreas produces more than the normal amount of lipase. For example, people with acute pancreatitis have the highest lipase activity at the onset of their symptoms.  

Despite this, their lipase level usually returns to normal within 14 days.

When To Take A Lipase Test

You may take a lipase test if your doctor suspects that your symptoms are due to pancreatic conditions. The signs of acute pancreatitis include:

  • Abdominal pain that reaches your back
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Fast pulse
  • Pale stools
  • Bloatedness
  • Jaundice or yellowish skin or eyes

Sometimes, doctors may order just the lipase test alone. Other times, they may ask for additional lab work.

Imaging tests help you see the structure of the pancreas. Other blood tests, such as an amylase test, can also help them assess problems with the pancreas.3

Amylase is also an enzyme that helps your body digest carbohydrates. The presence of a small amount of amylase in your blood or urine is normal. But having too much or too little may be a sign of pancreatic disease or other disorders.

Summary

A lipase test measures the lipase activity in your blood. Your medical provider can order this test if you have signs of pancreatic problems, including abdominal pain, fever, vomiting, nausea, fast pulse, pale stools, bloatedness, and jaundice.

How Much Does A Lipase Test Cost?

The total cost of your lipase test may depend on the following factors:

  • The price of your doctor’s visit or hospital admission
  • Fees for taking your blood sample
  • Payment for the analysis of a sample

Medical insurance may cover most of these costs if you have any. But there’s a possibility of added expenses, such as co-payments of deductibles.

You may talk to your doctor or healthcare providers for exact information on the test’s cost. You can also reach out to your health insurance company and the hospital’s billing department. 

How Lipase Testing Works

Like most blood works, a lipase test needs your blood sample. Your doctor or other medical professionals can draw your blood in their offices, clinics, or hospital labs.

Before Your Test

Lipase testing often requires fasting. You must only consume water for at least eight hours prior to your test.4

Doctors usually ask that the lipase test be taken even without fasting for emergency conditions needing prompt diagnosis.

Before your test, inform your doctor about any prescribed or over-the-counter (OTC) medications you’re currently taking or recently took. 

Drugs such as birth control pills and opioid pain relievers can elevate your lipase levels. They can interfere with your test results.4

During Your Test

Medical technologists often collect blood samples from a vein in your arm. They will disinfect the skin on the vein and wrap a tourniquet tightly around your upper arm. 

Using a syringe with a small needle, they’ll pierce a vein through your skin to draw blood. It has a tube attached to the needle that collects the sample.

You may feel a slight sting or pain when the doctor or nurse inserts the needle, but this is completely normal. 

After Your Test

After the medical professional collects your blood, they’ll cover the injection site with a small bandage. They may ask you to keep it in place for several hours. 

You may feel slight pain or notice bruising where they inserted the needle. This is normal and will usually go away on its own shortly. 

However, talk to your doctor if you have any of these distinctive signs after the blood draw:

  • Persistent bleeding from the injection site
  • Fainting or feeling lightheaded
  • Blood collecting under the skin
  • Signs of an infection

Summary

Lipase testing needs your blood sample, which your doctor or a health professional can collect in a hospital or lab setting. You need to do an 8-hour fast before the test. Your doctor also needs to know the medications you've had or are currently taking.

After the blood collection, you may feel slight pain in the needle's insertion area. It should go away shortly. But notify your doctor if you feel unusual signs like persistent bleeding on the injection site, fainting, or signs of infection.

What Your Lipase Test Results Mean

Lipase test results may vary based on what testing method the lab used and other factors, including your:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Current health

Laboratories usually present your lipase blood test result in units per liter or U/L. Some lab facilities use the reference range of 10 to 140 U/L for healthy adults below 60.5

Meanwhile, the normal lipase level for adults 60 years and above may range from 24 to 151 U/L.5  

Different laboratories may have slight differences in the threshold value. If your test results are above or below the limit, you must hear from your doctor directly what the test outcome means.

Some medical experts consider a lipase level very high and suggestive of acute pancreatitis when it’s three to 10 times the threshold value.

Can You Take An At-Home Lipase Test?

No. Currently, at-home lipase tests are not available. 

Lipase testing requires a blood sample collected by trained medical professionals. A reliable laboratory needs to analyze the specimen they will send.

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Updated on January 31, 2024
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5 sources cited
Updated on January 31, 2024
  1. Lipases: Sources, Production, Purification, and Applications.” Recent Patents on Biotechnology.
  2. Biochemistry, Lipase.” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  3. Amylase (Blood).” University of Rochester Medical Center.
  4. Lipase Test: Purpose, Procedure, and Results.” GI Associates and Endoscopy Center.
  5. Lipase.” University of Rochester Medical Center.
Dr. Rizza Mira
Dr. Rizza Mira
Medical Reviewer
Dr. Rizza Mira is a medical doctor and a general practitioner who specializes in pediatrics, nutrition, dietetics, and public health.

As a pediatrician, she is dedicated to the general health and well-being of children and expecting parents. She believes that good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and prevention of illness are key to ensuring the health of children and their families.

When she’s not in the hospital, Rizza advocates and mobilizes causes like breastfeeding, vaccination drives, and initiatives to prevent illness in the community.
Cristine Santander
Cristine Santander
Content Contributor
Cristine Santander is a content writer for KnowYourDNA. She has a B.S. in Psychology and enjoys writing about health and wellness.
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