Lipase is a digestive enzyme secreted by the pancreas. Increased lipase levels are used to evaluate many medical conditions. Lipase is especially useful in diagnosing pancreatitis since the pancreas is the only organ that secretes it.
Lipase aids in fat digestion by breaking triglycerides down into fatty acids and glycerol. Fatty acids are the preferred energy source for the heart, as well as muscle during prolonged exertion. Fat metabolism provides energy during times of fasting.
Normal Lab Values
The normal range for lipase is 3 to 73 units/L. Many drugs affect lipase levels. An increase in lipase may be caused by Solumedrol (a steroid), morpine, codeine, narcotics, and indomethacin. Dialysis also increases levels, so blood samples should be drawn before dialysis. Lipase levels may be decreased if the patient is taking protamine or IV saline infusions.
Indications for Use
Lipase is released into the bloodstream when pancreatic cells are damaged. Increased levels indicate pancreatic disease, as well as acute and chronic pancreatitis. It also helps confirm pancreatic cancer. Many pancreatic conditions are diagnosed with lipase levels, including cysts, inflammation, and gall bladder inflammation. Renal failure can also be diagnosed since the kidneys excrete lipase during decreased kidney function.
Lipase samples are drawn from a vein using a small needle. The blood sample is injected into a red top lab tube. Only a small amount of blood is needed to run the test.
Interpretation of Results
Keep in mind that a single abnormal lab value rarely makes a definitive diagnosis of a medical condition. Other tests including other labs, urine analysis, x rays, MRIs and CT scans may be ordered by the healthcare provider to determine an accurate diagnosis.