A lipase test measures the level of a protein called lipase in your blood.
Lipase helps your body absorb fats. It’s released by the pancreas, a long, flat gland between your stomach and spine.
When your pancreas is inflamed or injured, it releases more lipase than usual. Your doctor may want to find out the level of this protein in your blood to find how your pancreas is doing.
A lipase test may also be referred to as a serum lipase or LPS.
What Conditions Can This Test Find?
A doctor will order a lipase test if they suspect that you may have acute pancreatitis — an inflammation of the pancreas that causes abdominal pain.
The following symptoms can be a sign of pancreas inflammation:
- Severe abdominal or back pain
- Loss of appetite
The test may also be used to monitor your pancreas if you’ve already been diagnosed with acute (sudden, severe) or chronic (ongoing) pancreatitis. It can find out whether lipase levels are increasing or decreasing. It can also be used to find out whether a treatment is working well.
Sometimes, a lipase test will also be used to monitor other conditions including:
- Peritonitis (inflammation of the lining of your inner abdominal wall)
- Strangulated or infarcted bowel (bowel that has restricted blood supply)
- Pancreatic cyst
- Cystic fibrosis (an inherited disease in which thick mucus can damage organs)
- Crohn’s disease (inflammation of your digestive tract)
- Celiac disease (triggered by the protein gluten, your immune system attacks your small intestine)
How Do I Prepare?
If you have a lipase test scheduled ahead of time, you’ll need to fast.
You’ll likely be asked to stop eating or drinking anything other than water for 8 to 12 hours beforehand.
Your doctor may also ask you to stop taking some medications that can affect the test results. Be sure they know all the prescription medications, over-the-counter meds, and supplements you take.
What Happens During a Test?
In a lipase test, a lab tech will take a small blood sample. They will likely put a band around your upper arm to help make your veins easier to find.
They will then insert a needle into one of your veins. After enough blood goes into a tube, the band will come off and they’ll take out the needle. They’ll put a bandage on where the needle went in.
Any Risks with Taking This Test?
You may feel a slight sting or pain during the blood draw. You may feel throbbing at the site afterwards.
The risks of getting blood drawn are minor and include:
- Slight pain
- Redness and swelling
- Rare chance of fainting
What Do the Results Mean?
A high level of lipase in the blood indicates that you may have a condition affecting the pancreas.
Normal levels vary slightly between labs, so you and your doctor will look at the ranges given with your results to figure out how your lipase levels compare with the normal.
In acute pancreatitis, levels are often 5 to 10 times higher than the highest reference value. Other conditions can also cause slightly increased lipase levels, including:
- Blockage of the bowel (bowel obstruction)
- Celiac disease
- Pancreatic cancer
- Infection or swelling of the pancreas
- Cystic fibrosis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Renal (kidney) failure
- Use of certain medicines including some pain medications and birth control pills
Will I Take Any Other Tests?
Although doctors consider the lipase test the best one to diagnose acute pancreatitis, your doctor may also order a blood test for amylase, another enzyme that rises with pancreatitis.
You may also have a scan — such as an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI — so your doctor can see any physical abnormalities or swelling of your pancreas.
- Lab Tests Online: “Pancreatitis,” “Lipase.”
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: Pathology: “What is the pancreas?”
- Medscape: “Lipase.”
- Northwestern University: Blood Draw Consent Forms.
- University of Rochester Medical Center: “Lipase.”
- American Journal of Emergency Medicine: “Markedly elevated lipase as a clue to diagnosis of small bowel obstruction after gastric bypass.”
- Mayo Clinic: “Peritonitis,” “Crohn’s Disease.”
- NIH. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Genetics Home Reference: “Cystic Fibrosis.”
- Celiac Disease Foundation: “What Is Celiac Disease?”