Wednesday April 6th 2016

Pancreatic Lipase Tests

Lipase is an enzyme produced by the pancreas that is normally used to aid in digesting food by breaking down triglycerides into fatty acids which can then be used by your body or stored for later usage. In cases of pancreatitis this enzyme is usually elevated in the bloodstream and can be tested to help diagnose the problem. When you have symptoms that seem to be of a pancreatic disorder such as severe abdominal pain, loss of appetite, fever, or nausea your Doctors might order this test.

Normally the enzyme is released by the pancreas into the small intestines to help digest the food that you eat but it is also present in your blood in small quantities. During a pancreatic attack its levels will generally rise in the bloodstream then drop back towards normal after 5-7 days. In most cases it is a good indicator of the severity of a pancreatic attack.

Many times Doctors will order an amylase test at the same time even though it is less specific and also can indicate other problems. Amylase is a less specific test than lipase for indicating pancreatitis which is why many times the two tests are ordered at the same time. By evaluating the results of the two tests together Doctors can diagnose or rule out pancreatitis as the cause of the symptoms.

Both tests are done by drawing a blood sample from your arm. When the pancreas is inflamed by injury or blockage there is an increase in the amount of both enzymes that enters the bloodstream. With acute pancreatitis the lipase levels, which normally run from 3 to 71 units/L, can increase by 10 times or more. The concentrations will rise within 24 to 48 hours of a pancreatic attack and remain high for 5 to 7 days.

However, these tests are not a perfect indicators of a pancreatic condition since their values tend to fall as the pancreas becomes more damaged. This is why other tests including labs, urine analysis, x-rays, MRI’s, and CT scans are used by Doctors to help make an accurate diagnosis.

It is especially important to treat pancreatitis as soon as possible because of the potential serious medical problems. Although you can recover from an acute pancreatic episode if treated properly, it can also develop into a chronic problem that can cause irreversible damage and even death. As the pancreas becomes scarred it can cause diabetes and/or problems with digesting foods.

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