A lipase test is a blood test that measures protein lipase. Lipase is an enzyme made by the pancreas which aids in the digestion and absorption of fats. It is natural for a low amount of lipase to circulate in the blood, but higher levels can be a sign of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) or another type of pancreatic disease.
This article will discuss the lipase test, including its purpose, how it is performed, and interpretation of results.
Objective of the test
A lipase test is done whenever there is suspicion of pancreatic damage. Lipase overflows from the pancreas when it is damaged. Acute pancreatitis is the most common cause of elevated lipase levels, but elevated lipase levels alone are not diagnostic of pancreatitis or pancreatic injury.
Damage to the bile ducts, gallstones, inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis), kidney failure and cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) can also be associated with high levels of lipase.
A gastroenterologist (a specialist in conditions that affect the gastrointestinal system) often uses lipase levels to help make a diagnosis, especially if they suspect there is a problem with the pancreas.
Serum amylase, a digestive enzyme involved in the breakdown of starches, is often prescribed in addition to a lipase test. If serum amylase and lipase levels are elevated, a computed tomography (CT) scan or abdominal ultrasound may be ordered to check for inflammation or potential damage to the pancreas or surrounding organs.
Risks and contraindications
A lipase test is a relatively low-risk procedure performed by taking a blood sample. The benefits far outweigh the risks. Currently, there are no contraindications to doing a lipase test.
Before the test
Before a lipase test, your healthcare provider may ask you to fast (stop eating and drinking) for eight to 12 hours before your test.
They may also ask you to stop taking certain medications, such as Indocin (indomethacin), birth control pills, and thiazide diuretics such as Diuril (chlorothiazide) that may interfere with your lipase test results. Typically, medications are restarted immediately after the lipase test is completed.
Time and place
The lipase test is a blood test. The sample is often taken at an outpatient clinic. The blood test is done in less than a minute, but give yourself time to fill out the medical forms before your appointment.
If you don’t have any medical complications, you can go home after the exam. A lab will determine your lipase levels. The timing of your results will depend on the workload of the lab.
If a lab is affiliated with your clinic or you are having this test done at the hospital, you can get your results during your visit. But on an outpatient basis, a member of the medical staff will call you with the results.
what to wear
A lipase test only requires a blood test. You can wear whatever you want, although a short-sleeved shirt can make it easier to reach your arm. A needle will be inserted to collect the blood sample. You do not need to bring a change of clothes for this procedure.
Food and drink
You will need to fast for eight to 12 hours before the lipase test is performed. This means no food or drink except water.
Cost and health insurance
Most insurance plans cover your lipase test, and it doesn’t require prior approval. A lipase test costs between $40 and $60 if you don’t have insurance.
What to bring
Most healthcare facilities allow you to complete your paperwork before your appointment to reduce the time you need to spend at your appointment. Be sure to bring a copy of your Medicare card (the physical card, a photocopy, or an electronic Medicare card is usually fine).
Bring a small snack to eat after your exam as you will have had to fast first.
During the test
A lipase test is a blood test that requires you to fast and possibly abstain from certain medications for a day. There are no other special considerations.
Less commonly, lipase levels can be checked in urine. A urinary lipase test does not require any special preparation.
Before the test, you will complete medical forms (if you haven’t already). Measurements such as weight, blood pressure and temperature can be taken. A member of the healthcare staff may also ask you questions about your medical condition and review your medications and any allergies you may have.
A health care provider will discuss the potential risks and side effects of the procedure, such as injection site pain, bleeding, and injection.
If you are afraid of needles, share this information with your healthcare provider so they can guide you through the process.
Throughout the test
Blood samples are often taken by a phlebotomist, a person trained in blood collection. Sometimes a nurse or other health care provider will take the blood sample.
They will verify your identity and label the blood collection tubes. They’ll ask you to roll up your sleeve, put on a rubber band, and clean the area with an alcohol swab. Then they will use a sterile needle to puncture the skin and collect the blood in a vial.
The needle prick may feel like a little pinch, causing you a little pain. The pain usually subsides fairly quickly.
The elastic band will be removed once the blood has been drawn and a bandage will be placed over the puncture site.
After the test is complete, your provider may ask you how you are feeling. If you feel good, you are free to leave. Post-test instructions will be explained to you and provided in writing regarding when you will receive your results and follow-up instructions.
After the test
After your test, be sure to drink plenty of water. Not only will this help to avoid post-fasting dehydration, but it’s an essential part of managing acute pancreatitis, the most common reason for a lipase test. If you need follow-up testing, your healthcare professional will let you know.
Management of side effects
Typically, pain at the needle stick site – the most common side effect of a lipase test – resolves within 72 hours of the procedure. An over-the-counter pain reliever can help reduce your pain, but often the pain is temporary and goes away on its own without the need for medication.
When to call a health care provider
Contact a health care provider if you experience extreme pain at the injection site, fever, bruising, or bleeding that does not stop.
Abnormal lipase levels do not always indicate that there is an underlying medical condition, but they indicate the need for further investigation, even in the absence of symptoms that can support a certain diagnosis.
Normal lipase ranges may vary depending on the laboratory and method used. These should be included in your medical record report. A normal range of lipases for adults 60 and under is 10 to 140 units per liter (U/L). For adults over 60, the normal range for lipase is 24 to 151 U/L.
High lipase levels often mean that there is damage to an organ that produces or uses lipase, such as the pancreas (which has the highest concentration of lipase), kidneys, gallbladder, liver, intestines and stomach.
High lipase levels can also result from the use of certain medications such as indomethacin, birth control pills, and thiazide diuretics.
Increases 3 to 10 times above the upper limits of normal are more characteristic of acute pancreatitis.
Low levels of lipase can mean that the cells that create lipase in the pancreas are damaged.
Depending on your results, you may be referred to a gastroenterologist to determine the best follow-up and treatment procedures.
If you have additional questions about the tests or are unsure of the results, do not hesitate to ask your health care provider for a detailed explanation. The more you know about your test results, the more likely you are to comply with treatment and follow-up care.
A lipase test is a blood test that measures the protein lipase, an enzyme made by the pancreas that aids in the digestion and absorption of fat. It is most often indicated when there is a clinical suspicion of acute pancreatitis or other damage to the pancreas.
A word from Verywell
A lipase test is often used to detect pancreatic injury, such as acute pancreatitis. A diagnosis of acute pancreatitis can help encourage people to make lifestyle changes, such as stopping drinking and adopting a low-fat diet, as alcohol consumption and high triglyceride levels are the most common causes of pancreatitis. acute pancreatitis.