What Do Lipase Numbers Mean?

What Do Lipase Numbers Mean?

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Lipase is an enzyme found primarily in the pancreas that aids in the digestion and absorption of fats. When food that contains fat passes through the digestive system, the pancreas releases lipase which breaks fat down into fatty acids that are more easily absorbed. The lipase lab test measures the concentration of this enzyme in your blood.

Purpose of Test

The lipase blood test is used to diagnose and monitor acute and chronic pancreatitis, Chron's disease, cystic fibrosis and celiac disease. Some of the symptoms of a pancreatic disorder include severe abdominal pain, fever, loss of appetite and nausea. Labs for lipase and amylase, another pancreatic enzyme, are usually ordered together.

Normal Range

A normal lab value for lipase falls within 16 to 63 units per liter (U/L). Keep in mind that normal ranges can vary greatly between labs. Check with your doctor for more information about your results.

Elevated Levels

Elevated lipase levels may indicate acute pancreatitis. For this diagnosis, the American Journal of Gastroenterology states that lipase levels need to be at least two times the normal range, but could be as high as five to 10 times this amount. Lipase concentrations rise 24 to 48 hours after an acute pancreatic attack and can remain elevated for up to seven days. If lipase levels remain high, this could indicate blockage of the pancreatic duct or persistent pancreatic inflammation. High levels are also associated with cholecystitis, renal insufficiency, intestinal perforation, and pancreatic cancer. Medications that can increase lipase concentrations include codeine, indomethacin, and morphine.

Low Levels

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, familial lipoprotein lipase deficiency is diagnosed in part through absent or low lipase levels. Lipase concentrations below the normal range may also be caused by permanent damage to the cells that produce lipase in the pancreas.


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