What It Is
Lipase is an enzyme produced mainly by the pancreas (an organ located near the stomach) and secreted into the small intestine, where it helps breaks down fats (lipids) we eat into fatty acids and glycerol. A lipase test measures the amount of lipase in the blood.
Small amounts of lipase are normally present in the blood. However, increased amounts may be released into the blood when the pancreas is injured or the pancreatic duct, the channel that carries enzymes from the pancreas to the small intestine, is blocked.
Why It's Done
The lipase test may be ordered if a doctor suspects pancreatic dysfunction, including pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), gallstones, an injury to the pancreas, or a blockage of the pancreatic duct. Symptoms of a pancreatic disorder may include abdominal pain, fever, loss of appetite, or nausea.
A lipase test also may be used to help monitor kids with cystic fibrosis (a genetic condition in which thick mucus clogs the lungs and pancreas, causing repeated lung infections and problems with nutrient absorption in the small intestines), celiac disease (an autoimmune condition in which the intestine becomes damaged when exposed to wheat and certain other grains in the diet), and inflammatory bowel disease.
Because the lipase test is more accurate when performed after fasting, your child may be asked to stop eating and drinking for 10-12 hours before this blood test. You should also tell your doctor about any medications your child is taking, because certain drugs might alter the test results.
It may help to have your child wear a T-shirt or short-sleeved shirt on the day of the test to make things faster and easier for the technician who will be drawing the blood.
A health professional will usually draw the blood from a vein. For an infant, the blood may be obtained by puncturing the heel with a small needle (lancet). If the blood is being drawn from a vein, the skin surface is cleaned with antiseptic and an elastic band (tourniquet) is placed around the upper arm to apply pressure and cause the veins to swell with blood. A needle is inserted into a vein (usually in the arm inside of the elbow or on the back of the hand) and blood is withdrawn and collected in a vial or syringe.
After the procedure, the elastic band is removed. Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed and the area is covered with cotton or a bandage to stop the bleeding. Collecting the blood for the test will only take a few minutes.
What to Expect
Either method (heel or vein withdrawal) of collecting a blood sample is only temporarily uncomfortable and can feel like a quick pinprick. Afterward, there may be some mild bruising, which should go away in a day or so.
Getting the Results
The blood sample will be processed by a machine. The results are commonly available within a day or two.
In general, increased levels may mean lipase is building up in the blood due to pancreatic injury or disease. However, to get a fuller picture of pancreatic function, doctors frequently order a test to measure amylase — another pancreatic enzyme that helps with the breakdown of carbohydrates — along with a lipase test.
The lipase test is considered a safe procedure. However, as with many medical tests, some problems can occur with having blood drawn. These include:
- fainting or feeling lightheaded
- hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin causing a lump or bruise)
- pain associated with multiple punctures to locate a vein
Helping Your Child
Having a blood test is relatively painless. Still, many children are afraid of needles. Explaining the test in terms your child can understand might help ease some of the fear.
Allow your child to ask the technician any questions he or she might have. Tell your child to try to relax and stay still during the procedure, as tensing muscles and moving can make it harder and more painful to draw blood. It also may help if your child looks away when the needle is being inserted into the skin.
If You Have Questions
If you have questions about the lipase test, speak with your doctor. You can also talk to the technician before the procedure.
Reviewed by: Yamini Durani, MD
Date reviewed: July 2014
|Cystic Fibrosis Foundation This organization offers information about the illness, public policy, clinical trials and local chapters.|
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|Crohn's Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) CCFA's mission is to cure and prevent Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis through research, and to improve the quality of life of children and adults affected by these digestive diseases through education and support.|
|Celiac Disease Foundation The Celiac Disease Foundation provides support, information and assistance to people affected by celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis. The site provides information on celiac disease and helps people locate support groups.|
|Gluten Intolerance Group This non-profit organization offers information, support, and resources for people living with celiac disease.|
|Lab Tests Online This non-commercial site was developed by laboratory professionals to educate caregivers, patients, and patients' families about lab tests.|
|Pancreatitis Pancreatitis is sometimes mistaken for a stomach virus because symptoms can include fever, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Symptoms usually get better on their own, but sometimes treatment is needed.|
|Definition: Pancreas The pancreas is a long, flat gland that lies in the abdomen behind the stomach.|
|Endocrine System Although we rarely think about them, the glands of the endocrine system and the hormones they release influence almost every cell, organ, and function of our bodies.|
|Celiac Disease Kids who have celiac disease, a disorder that makes their bodies react to gluten, can't eat certain kinds of foods. Find out more - including what foods are safe and where to find them.|
|Inflammatory Bowel Disease Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to two chronic diseases that cause intestinal inflammation: ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Although they have features in common, there are some important differences.|
|Blood Test: Amylase An amylase test may be ordered if a doctor suspects inflammation of the pancreas, gallstones, or other pancreatic problems. The test may also be used to help monitor cystic fibrosis.|
|Cystic Fibrosis Cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disorder that particularly affects the lungs and digestive system, makes kids who have it more vulnerable to repeated lung infections.|
|A to Z: Cholelithiasis (Gallstones) Learn about cholelithiasis, the presence of gallstones (hard, pebble-like objects made of bile).|
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2014 KidsHealth® All rights reserved.
Images provided by iStock, Getty Images, Corbis, Veer, Science Photo Library, Science Source Images, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com