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At a Glance
Why Get Tested?
To diagnose and monitor pancreatitis or other pancreatic diseases
When To Get Tested?
When you have symptoms of a pancreatic disorder, such as severe abdominal pain, fever, loss of appetite, or nausea
Sample Required?
A blood sample drawn from a vein in the arm
What is being tested?
This test measures the amount of lipase in the blood. Lipase is one of several enzymes produced by the pancreas to help digest dietary fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. It is transported through the pancreatic duct and into the duodenum, where it helps break down dietary triglycerides (a form of fat) into fatty acids.

Lipase is usually present in the blood in small quantities. When cells in the pancreas are injured (as in pancreatitis) or the pancreatic duct is blocked (by a gallstone or rarely by a pancreatic tumor), increased amounts of lipase leak into the bloodstream, increasing blood concentrations.

How is the sample collected for testing?

A blood sample is taken by needle from a vein in the arm.
Accordion Title
Common Questions
  • How is it used?
    The blood test for lipase is ordered, often along with an amylase test, to help diagnose and monitor acute pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), chronic pancreatitis, and other disorders that involve the pancreas.

    Lipase testing is also occasionally used in the diagnosis and follow-up of cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, and Crohn's disease.

  • When is it ordered?
    A lipase test may be ordered when a patient has symptoms of a pancreatic disorder, such as severe abdominal pain, fever, loss of appetite, or nausea. It may also be ordered at intervals when a doctor wants to monitor a patient with a pancreas condition to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment and to determine whether the lipase levels are increasing or decreasing over time.
  • What does the test result mean?
    In acute pancreatitis, lipase levels are frequently very high, often 5 to 10 times higher than the highest reference value (often called the upper limit of normal). In acute pancreatitis, lipase concentrations rise within 24 to 48 hours of an acute pancreatic attack and may remain elevated for about 5 to 7 days. Concentrations may also be increased with pancreatic duct obstruction, pancreatic cancer, and other pancreatic diseases.

    Moderately increased lipase values may occur in other conditions such as kidney disease (due to decreased clearance from the blood), salivary gland inflammation, a bowel obstruction, or peptic ulcer disease, although the lipase test is not usually used to monitor these conditions. Decreased lipase levels may indicate permanent damage to the lipase-producing cells in the pancreas.

    Since the reference values for lipase will vary from laboratory to laboratory, depending on the test method used, there is no universally accepted number that can be called normal or high.

  • Is there anything else I should know?
    In acute pancreatitis, elevated lipase levels usually parallel blood amylase concentrations, although amylase levels tend to rise and fall a bit sooner than lipase levels. Drugs that may increase lipase levels include codeine, indomethacin, and morphine.
  • What are the long-term consequences of pancreatitis?
    With acute pancreatitis there is usually no long term damage, and often no further problems develop. Chronic pancreatitis, which may present as a series of acute attacks or as an ongoing upset can cause permanent damage. As the pancreas becomes more scarred, some people develop diabetes and/or the inability to digest foods, especially fats. The lack of normal pancreatic enzymes may lead to adverse effects on food digestion and waste production, causing abdominal pain, greasy stools, and formation of stones in the pancreas. Even if the disease is controlled, the damage done is often irreversible. If the disease progresses, it could lead to death.
  • Do elevated lipase levels always mean I have a pancreatic condition?
    In some cases, an elevated lipase may be due to a condition other than pancreatitis. In pancreatitis, the lipase rises quickly quickly and drops in 5 to 7 days. In other conditions, the rise is usually not as great, and the level may be maintained for a longer period. Your doctor is the best one to determine if you have a pancreatic disorder. He will make a diagnosis based on your symptoms, medical history, and test results.
  • Why are lipase and amylase tests usually ordered together?
    Blood amylase levels are sensitive for pancreatic disorders but are not specific. An elevated amylase may indicate a problem but nonpancreatic disorders can cause increased amylase levels. Lipase levels are usually increased in pancreatic disorders and are more specific than amylase for diseases of the pancreas. Evaluating the results of the two tests together help to diagnose or rule out pancreatitis and other conditions.
View Sources
Pagana, Kathleen D. & Pagana, Timothy J. (© 2007). Mosby’s Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 8th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO. Pp 598-599.

Thomas, Clayton L., Editor (1997). Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary. F.A. Davis Company, Philadelphia, PA [18th Edition]. Pp 1117.

Stone, C. (2005 February 14). Lipase test [13 paragraphs]. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available FTP:

(2004 February). Pancreatitis [42 paragraphs]. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse [On-line information]. Available FTP: