- Also Known As:
- Blood Lipase Test
- LPS Test
- Serum Lipase Test
Test Quick Guide
Lipase is an enzyme produced by the pancreas that helps the body digest fats. An elevated amount of lipase in the blood can be a sign that the pancreas is swollen and inflamed, a condition called pancreatitis. Lipase may also be elevated due to other issues in the pancreas, the use of certain medications, or health conditions such as kidney disease, cancer, and problems with the gallbladder or esophagus.
A lipase test measures the amount of lipase in the blood. Your doctor may order a lipase test for you if you are having abdominal pains or other symptoms that could be caused by pancreatitis. Your doctor may also order it to evaluate other health conditions you may have.
About the Test
Purpose of the test
The purpose of lipase testing is to assess for diseases of the pancreas, most commonly acute pancreatitis. The pancreas is an organ located behind the stomach that produces important hormones as well as chemicals called enzymes. Acute pancreatitis is a health condition in which the pancreas becomes inflamed and swollen. Acute pancreatitis develops quickly and often gets better after treatment.
Lipase testing is sometimes used in the diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis, a long-term condition that can cause permanent damage to the pancreas. The lipase test may also be ordered to diagnose other health conditions including:
- Intestinal obstruction or injury
- Pancreatic cysts
- Cystic fibrosis
What does the test measure?
A lipase test measures the amount of the pancreatic enzyme lipase found in the blood.
Lipase is a digestive enzyme produced by the pancreas. Digestive enzymes help to break down foods during digestion so they can be absorbed by the body. Lipase plays an important role in digesting fats, so it’s normal to have some amount of lipase in the blood.
When the pancreas is damaged or inflamed, it produces larger amounts of lipase. In patients with acute pancreatitis, blood levels of lipase are usually highest during the first day that symptoms develop. Levels of lipase usually return to normal within 14 days.
When should I get a lipase test?
Your doctor may recommend a lipase test if you are experiencing symptoms that could be related to an abnormal pancreatic condition, especially symptoms suggestive of acute pancreatitis.
Symptoms of acute pancreatitis may include:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Abdominal swelling or tenderness
- Vomiting and nausea
- Rapid heartbeat
- Pale stools
- A full or bloated feeling
- Jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes
The lipase test may be given alone or in combination with imaging tests or other blood tests such as an amylase test.
Finding a Lipase Test
How to get tested
Your doctor is usually the one to order a lipase test for you. The lipase test may be conducted in a hospital setting or in your doctor’s office. Your doctor may also refer you to an outside lab to conduct the test.
Can I take the test at home?
No at-home lipase test is currently available. The lipase test requires laboratory analysis of a blood sample drawn by a trained health care professional.
How much does the test cost?
The total cost of lipase testing may be made up of several components. These can include the price of your doctor’s appointment or hospital admission, fees for taking your blood sample, and fees for analyzing your sample.
If you have medical insurance coverage, your insurance provider will routinely cover many of these costs. You will likely still be responsible for certain out-of-pocket expenses such as copayments or deductibles.
To learn more about the expenses you could incur from this test, you can talk to your doctor or other members of your medical team. It may also be helpful to discuss expenses with your health insurance company and the billing department of the lab or hospital.
Taking a Lipase Test
The lipase test is most often performed on a blood sample drawn from a vein. The blood draw may be performed in a hospital, clinic, laboratory, or at your doctor’s office.
Before the test
The lipase test often requires fasting. This means that you should not eat anything or drink anything besides water for at least eight hours before your test.
Before you take a lipase test, be sure to tell your doctor about any prescription or
over-the-counter drugs you regularly take or have recently taken. Some drugs, such as birth control pills and opioids like codeine, can cause elevated levels of lipase and interfere with the interpretation of test results.
During the test
The blood sample used for lipase testing is frequently collected from a vein in your arm, often from the pit of your elbow.
The health professional who takes your blood sample will clean the skin around the vein with a sterile wipe and may apply a band called a tourniquet to your upper arm. Your blood is drawn through a small needle that is inserted through your skin and into your vein. The blood collects in a tube that is attached to the needle.
It’s normal to feel a small amount of stinging or pain when the phlebotomist inserts or withdraws the needle. The complete process of drawing blood rarely takes longer than a few minutes.
After the test
When the health professional finishes drawing blood, they will place a small bandage over the injection site. You can keep this in place for several hours if needed. You may notice slight pain or a bruise where the needle went in, but these are typically minor and will go away in a short while.
If you fasted before taking the test, you may wish to bring a snack with you in case you are hungry once the test is complete.
Lipase Test Results
Receiving test results
Your lipase test results are usually ready within a few hours to a couple of days, depending on where you have the test performed and how urgent your condition may be.
If you are in the hospital, your doctor may be able to discuss the test results with you shortly after the lab completes its analysis. You may also be able to access your results through an online portal, or you may receive them by postal mail or email.
Your doctor may wish to discuss your test results in person at a follow-up appointment. You may also be able to discuss them over the phone or by email.
Interpreting test results
Lipase results are commonly reported as units per liter, or U/L. They may also be given as microkatals per liter, represented as microkat/L or µkat/L.
You will see a reference range included in your test results. The reference range indicates the expected values of lipase in the blood for healthy adults. The range given can depend on the method used to conduct the test and the laboratory performing the analysis.
Elevated lipase may be detected in a variety of health conditions. In acute pancreatitis, blood lipase may be greater than three times the upper limit of the reference range.
Many other conditions can cause lipase levels to be higher than normal, although lipase levels aren’t usually as high as in acute pancreatitis. These conditions include diseases of the kidneys and gallbladder, obstructions of the intestines, diabetes, and infections.
It’s important that you discuss your lipase test results with your doctor to learn what they mean for you. Your doctor can explain your results in relation to your health history and other tests you may have had.
Are test results accurate?
The lipase test is widely used and generally considered accurate. However, there is no blood test that can diagnose pancreatitis by itself. If your test results are suggestive of pancreatitis, your doctor will consider the results of this test alongside your symptoms, imaging tests, or other test results in making a diagnosis.
Many medications can temporarily affect the levels of lipase in the blood, including oral contraceptives, codeine and other narcotic drugs, diuretics, cholinergic drugs, and many others. Because these can impact the lipase results, it’s important to tell your doctor about all drugs you’ve been prescribed or have recently taken.
Do I need follow-up tests?
If your lipase test results are higher than three times the upper limit of normal, and if you have abdominal pain associated with pancreatitis, you may not need any further testing to diagnose this condition. Otherwise, you may need follow-up imaging tests, such as a CT scan or MRI.
If your lipase levels are higher than normal but your doctor does not suspect pancreatitis, follow-up lab tests may be performed. Possible follow-up tests include:
- Alanine aminotransferase (ALT)
- Aspartate aminotransferase (AST)
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Electrolyte panel
- Pregnancy test
Questions for your doctor about test results
When you discuss the results of your lipase test with a doctor, asking these questions may be helpful:
- What are my lipase test results?
- Is my lipase level within the reference range?
- What do my test results mean about my health?
- Will I need additional follow-up tests?
Lipase testing vs. amylase testing
Amylase is another enzyme released by the pancreas. Patients with acute pancreatitis may have high levels of both lipase and amylase in the blood. Because amylase can be increased in many other conditions and remains elevated for a shorter time than lipase, the lipase test is considered more reliable for diagnosing acute pancreatitis.
A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Chronic pancreatitis. Updated October 15, 2019. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000221.htm
A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Acute pancreatitis. Updated October 17, 2019. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000287.htm
A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Enzyme. Updated January 16, 2021. Accessed December 4, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002353.htm
A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Lipase test. Updated January 24, 2021. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003465.htm
A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Venipuncture. Updated April 24, 2021. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003423.htm
American Board of Internal Medicine. ABIM laboratory reference ranges. Updated July 2021. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://www.abim.org/Media/bfijryql/laboratory-reference-ranges.pdf
ARUP Consult. Acute pancreatitis. Updated November 2021. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://arupconsult.com/content/pancreatitis-acute
ARUP Consult. Chronic pancreatitis. Updated November 2021. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://arupconsult.com/content/pancreatitis-chronic
Bartel M. Acute pancreatitis. Merck Manuals Consumer Edition. Updated September 2020. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/digestive-disorders/pancreatitis/acute-pancreatitis
Bartel M. Acute pancreatitis. Merck Manuals Professional Edition. Updated September 2020. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/pancreatitis/acute-pancreatitis
Bartel M. Chronic pancreatitis. Merck Manuals Consumer Edition. Updated September 2020. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/digestive-disorders/pancreatitis/chronic-pancreatitis
Bartel M. Chronic pancreatitis. Merck Manuals Professional Edition. Updated September 2020. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/pancreatitis/chronic-pancreatitis
Devkota BP. Lipase. In: Staros EB, ed. Medscape. Updated November 18, 2019. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2088094-overview
Freedman SD, Forsmark CE. Chronic pancreatitis: Clinical manifestations and diagnosis in adults. In: Whitcomb DC, ed. UpToDate. Updated June 1, 2020. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/chronic-pancreatitis-clinical-manifestations-and-diagnosis-in-adults
MedlinePlus: National Library of Medicine. Lipase tests. Updated November 30, 2020. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/lipase-tests/
MedlinePlus: National Library of Medicine. Fasting for a blood test. Updated March 3, 2021. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/fasting-for-a-blood-test/
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Blood tests. Date unknown. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/blood-tests
National Cancer Institute. Introduction to the digestive system. Date unknown. Accessed December 4, 2021. https://training.seer.cancer.gov/anatomy/digestive/
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Pancreatitis. Updated November 2017. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/pancreatitis/all-content
Penner RM, Fishman MB. Evaluation of the adult with abdominal pain. In: Auerbach AD, Aronson MD, eds. UpToDate. Updated May 10, 2021. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/evaluation-of-the-adult-with-abdominal-pain
Pirahanchi Y, Sharma.S. Biochemistry, lipase. In: StatPearls. Updated July 22, 2021. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537346/
Vege SS. Approach to the patient with elevated serum amylase or lipase. In: Whitcomb DC, ed. UpToDate. Updated May 20, 2020. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/approach-to-the-patient-with-elevated-serum-amylase-or-lipase
Vege SS. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of acute pancreatitis. In: Whitcomb DC, ed. UpToDate. Updated October 28, 2021. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/clinical-manifestations-and-diagnosis-of-acute-pancreatitis
Vege SS. Management of acute pancreatitis. In: Whitcomb DC, ed. UpToDate. Updated November 8, 2021. Accessed November 30, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/management-of-acute-pancreatitis