Lipase Blood Test: Purpose, Preparation, Risks, Results

Lipase Blood Test: Purpose, Preparation, Risks, Results

A lipase test is a blood test that measures the level of lipase in your blood. Lipase is an enzyme mostly produced in the pancreas but also made in the stomach and salivary glands. It helps in the digestion of fats in the body.

A lipase test can indicate whether you have high or low lipase levels in your body. Lipase test results are often used to diagnose pancreatitis. They can also indicate other health conditions such as intestinal obstruction, gall bladder diseases, chronic kidney diseases, salivary gland disorders, peptic ulcers, alcohol use disorders, and pancreatic cancer. 

A lipase test helps to determine the levels of lipase in your blood. High or low lipase levels may indicate several health conditions, usually involving the pancreas. A few of such conditions include:

  • Acute or chronic pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas
  • Cholecystitis: Inflammation of the gallbladder
  • Intestinal obstruction: Blockage of the small or large intestine
  • Appendicitis: Inflammation of the appendix
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis: High levels of ketone in the body
  • Kidney failure: Kidneys can no longer function due to an underlying condition

Your healthcare provider may recommend a lipase test if you have symptoms of pancreatic disorders. A few common symptoms are:

  • Pain in your abdomen that sometimes spreads to your back 
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Weight loss

In some cases, your healthcare provider may also recommend an amylase test (another blood test) along with the lipase test to confirm the diagnosis of your pancreatic disorder.

A lipase test involves drawing blood from a vein in your arm using a small needle. Blood sample collection usually occurs at your healthcare provider’s office, a diagnostic clinic, or a hospital. Talking to your healthcare provider before the test helps you to understand what to expect during the test and how to prepare.

Before the Test

Your healthcare provider may ask you not to drink or eat anything 8-12 hours before the test. You may also want to inform your healthcare provider about any medications or supplements that you take. Certain medications, including birth control pills, opiates, and certain types of diuretics can interfere with the test results.

The test mostly requires you to sit comfortably in a chair. However, you can also lie down if you have a history of panic attacks or fainting during blood tests.

During the Test

During the lipase test, your healthcare provider or a phlebotomist (a medical professional trained to draw blood) draws blood from a vein in your arm. The blood drawing process involves:

  • Cleaning of the area using an antiseptic solution
  • Putting an elastic band on the upper arm that puts pressure on the area
  • Inserting the needle into the vein and collecting blood in an airtight vial or a tube attached to the needle
  • Removing the needle and band from your arm
  • Putting a bandage on the needle site

The entire process usually takes less than five minutes.

After the Test

You may feel slight pain or a stinging sensation at the needle site. There might also be slight throbbing at the site after drawing blood. However, such symptoms should go away quickly.

You can go home almost instantly after the test is over. People who experience dizziness or nausea after the test may be asked to stay until they feel better.

Risks from blood drawing during a lipase test are rare. Some people may experience:

  • Infection at the needle site
  • Collection of blood under the skin
  • Lightheadedness
  • Bleeding from the needle site
  • Pain in and around the needle site
  • Nerve damage

Talking to your healthcare provider before the lipase test will help clear any confusion and ensure the test goes smoothly. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Location: The test usually takes place at the healthcare provider’s office, a diagnostic clinic, or a hospital per your provider’s recommendation.
  • Attire: You may want to wear short or loose sleeves that you can fold up easily to make your arm accessible for the test.
  • Food and drink: Your healthcare provider may recommend you not drink or eat anything for 8-12 hours before the test.
  • Medications: Certain medications or supplements can interfere with your test results. You should inform your healthcare provider about any medication or supplements you take. They will let you know whether you can continue or should stop for the test.
  • Items to bring: You may want to bring your health insurance card for the test. You may also ask your healthcare provider if you need to bring any other documents along.
  • Emotional support: You can bring someone to accompany you for the test, especially if blood tests make you feel anxious or uncomfortable.
  • Cost and insurance: You can ask your insurance provider about your benefits and coverage to understand if they will cover the cost of the test or if you’ll be paying any amount out of pocket.

The time it takes to get your lipase test results varies by clinic. Then, based on your result, your healthcare provider may recommend further tests or treatment procedures.

Normal lipase levels in the blood range from 0-160 units per liter (U/L) or 0-2.67 microkat/L (µkat/L). Different providers may vary the ranges slightly, but significant deviations from these levels may indicate pancreatic disorders or other health conditions.

High Lipase Levels

High lipase levels may be indicative of certain health conditions, including:

  • Acute pancreatitis: This is a short-term condition causing inflammation of the pancreas. Lipase levels increase after about 3-6 hours of onset of acute pancreatitis.
  • Pancreatic cancer: High lipase may indicate cancer in the cells of the pancreas.
  • Peptic ulcer: This is when the acid in your stomach damages the lining of your stomach or intestine and leaves an open sore.
  • Intestinal obstruction: Lipase levels can indicate a small or large intestine blockage.
  • Gallbladder diseases: Diseases affecting the gallbladder, such as cholecystitis, can lead to high lipase levels.                           
  • Chronic kidney diseaseHigh lipase levels can indicate kidney damage, which may lead to loss of renal function.       
  • Celiac disease: Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition where the small intestine reacts negatively to gluten. 
  • Salivary gland disorder: High lipase levels may suggest problems with salivary glands, such as infection or cancer.
  • Alcohol use disorder: Lipase levels can be high due to uncontrolled or frequent alcohol use.

Low Lipase Levels

Low lipase levels often mean permanent damage to your pancreatic cells that make lipase. This can occur due to:

  • Chronic pancreatitis: This is a long-lasting condition that causes permanent damage to the pancreas.
  • Cystic fibrosis: This is a genetic condition that affects the cells that produce mucus, sweat, and digestive fluids. It causes a build-up of thick, sticky fluids which can damage the pancreas.

A lipase test helps to determine lipase levels in your blood. Both high and low lipase levels may indicate pancreatitis, as well as other health problems. Your healthcare provider may recommend a lipase test if you have abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, abdominal swelling, weight loss, and other symptoms.

Your provider might recommend treatment approaches or further diagnostic tests depending on your test results.

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