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Tests & Procedures : Lab Tests

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Lipase

Does this test have other names?

Serum lipase

What is this test?

This test measures the amount of lipase in your blood. Lipase is an enzyme that is made by your pancreas. It helps your body digest fats.

Higher levels of lipase may mean you have a problem with your pancreas – most often, acute pancreatitis, or sudden inflammation of the pancreas.

Why do I need this test?

You may need this test if your doctor suspects that you have a pancreatic disorder. Signs and symptoms of acute pancreatitis include:

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting'

  • Rapid pulse

  • Fever

  • Abdominal (belly) or back pain

You also may also have this test if you already have pancreatitis and are being treated. Your doctor can use this test to see how well your treatment is working.

What other tests might I have along with this test?

Your doctor may also order other blood tests, including one to check your levels of amylase, another digestive enzyme whose blood levels rise if you have pancreatitis.

You may also have an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI of your pancreas. These scans look for gallstones or other abnormalities that sometimes occur with acute pancreatitis.

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.

Results are given in units per liter (U/L). The normal range for adults younger than 60 is 0 to 160 U/L. 

Higher than normal levels of lipase mean that you have a problem with your pancreas. If your blood contains at least three times the normal level of lipase, then it's likely that you have acute pancreatitis.

High lipase levels also mean you may have kidney failure, cirrhosis, or a bowel problem.

How is this test done?

The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your arm.

Does this test pose any risks?

Taking a blood sample with a needle carries risks that include bleeding, infection, bruising, or feeling dizzy. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight stinging sensation or pain. Afterward, the site may be slightly sore.

What might affect my test results?

Dialysis and a number of medications can affect your test results.

How do I get ready for this test?

You may need to stop eating or drinking anything except water for eight to 12 hours before this test. Be sure your doctor knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use.