What Is a Lipase Test?

A lipase test is a blood test that measures the protein lipase. Lipase is an enzyme made by the pancreas that aids in the digestion and absorption of fat. It is natural for a low amount of lipase to circulate in the blood, but higher levels may be a sign of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) or some other type of pancreatic disease.

This article will discuss the lipase test, including its purpose, how it is performed, and the interpretation of results.

Two lab professionals organizing blood tubes for testing

Purpose of Test 

A lipase test is performed whenever there is suspicion of injury to the pancreas. Lipase spills out of the pancreas when it is damaged. Acute pancreatitis is the most common cause of elevated lipase levels, but a high lipase level alone is not diagnostic of pancreatitis or pancreatic injury.

Damage to the bile ducts, gallstones, inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis), kidney failure, and cirrhosis (liver scarring) may also be associated with high lipase levels.

A gastroenterologist (a specialist in conditions that affect the gastrointestinal system) often uses lipase levels to help make a diagnosis, especially if they suspect that there is a problem with the pancreas.

Serum amylase, a digestive enzyme involved in the breakdown of starches, is often ordered alongside a lipase test. If serum amylase and lipase levels are high, a computed tomography (CT) scan or abdominal ultrasound may be ordered to look for potential inflammation or injury to the pancreas or surrounding organs.  

Risks and Contraindications

A lipase test is a relatively low-risk procedure accomplished by drawing a blood sample. The benefits far outweigh the risk. Currently, there are no contraindications to getting a lipase test. 

Before the Test

Prior to a lipase test your healthcare provider may ask you to fast (cease eating and drinking) for eight to 12 hours prior to your test.

They may also ask you to stop taking some medications—such as Indocin (indomethacin), birth control pills, and thiazide diuretics such as Diuril (chlorothiazide)—that may interfere with your lipase test results. Typically, medications are restarted immediately after the lipase test is complete. 

Timing and Location

The lipase test is a blood test. The sample is often drawn in an outpatient office. The blood draw is performed in under a minute, but give yourself time to fill out medical forms before your appointment. 

If you are not experiencing medical complications, you can go home after the exam. A laboratory will determine your lipase levels. The timing of when you get your results will depend on the volume of work the laboratory has.

If a lab is affiliated with your clinic or you are getting this test done at the hospital, you may get your results during your visit. But in outpatient settings, a medical staff member will call you with the results.

What to Wear

A lipase test requires only a blood draw. You can wear whatever you’d like, although a short-sleeve shirt may make it easier to access your arm. A needle will be inserted to collect the blood sample. You do not need to bring a change of clothes for this procedure. 

Food and Drink

You will need to fast for eight to 12 hours before the lipase test is drawn. That means no food or drink besides water.

Cost and Health Insurance 

Most insurance plans cover your lipase test, and it does not require preapproval. A lipase test costs between $40 and $60 if you do not have insurance. 

What to Bring

Most healthcare facilities allow you to fill out your paperwork before your appointment to decrease the time you have to spend at your appointment. Be sure to bring a copy of your health insurance card (the physical card, a photocopy, or an electronic health insurance card is usually fine).

Bring a small snack to eat after your exam since you will have had to fast beforehand.

During the Test

A lipase test is a blood test that requires you to fast and possibly abstain from taking certain medications for a day. There are no other special considerations. 

Less frequently, lipase levels may be checked in the urine. A urine lipase test does not require any special preparation. 


Prior to the test you will fill out medical forms (if you have not already). Measurements such as weight, blood pressure, and temperature may be taken. A member of the healthcare staff may also ask you questions about how you’re feeling and review your medication and any allergies you may have.

A healthcare provider will discuss the potential risks and side effects of the procedure, such as pain at the injection site, bleeding, and injection.

If you have a fear of needles, share that information with your healthcare provider so they can walk you through the process. 

Throughout the Test

Blood draws are often performed by a phlebotomist, a person trained in blood collection. Sometimes a nurse or other healthcare provider will perform the blood draw.

They will verify your identity and label the blood collection tubes. They will ask you to roll up your sleeve, place an elastic band, and clean the area with an alcohol pad. Next, they will use a sterile needle to puncture the skin and collect the blood in a vial.

The needlestick may feel like a small pinch, causing you a small amount of pain. The pain usually subsides pretty quickly.

The elastic band will be removed once the blood is collected, and a bandage is placed over the puncture site.


After the test is completed, your provider may ask you how you are feeling. If you are feeling well, you are free to go. Post-test instructions will be explained to you and provided in writing regarding when you will receive your results and follow-up care instructions. 

After the Test

After your test, be sure to drink a lot of water. Not only will this help stave off dehydration after fasting, but it is a critical part of management for acute pancreatitis, the most common reason for a lipase test. If you need any follow-up tests, your healthcare provider will notify you.

Managing Side Effects

Typically, pain at the needlestick site—the most common side effect of a lipase test—goes away within 72 hours of the procedure. An over-the-counter pain reliever may help reduce your pain, but oftentimes the pain is temporary and remits on its own without the need for medication. 

When to Call a Healthcare Provider

Contact a healthcare provider if you are feeling extreme pain at the injection site, fever, bruising, or bleeding that won’t stop. 

Interpreting Results

Abnormal lipase levels do not always indicate that there is an underlying medical condition, but they do point to the need for further investigation, even in the absence of symptoms that may support a certain diagnosis.

Normal ranges for lipase may vary by lab and method used. These should be included in the report in your medical record. One normal lipase range for adults 60 and younger is 10 to 140 units per liter (U/L). For adults over 60, the normal lipase range is 24 to 151 U/L.

High lipase levels often mean that there is some injury to an organ that produces or uses lipase, such as the pancreas (which has the highest concentration of lipase), kidneys, gallbladder, liver, intestines, and stomach.

High lipase levels may also occur from the use of certain medications such as indomethacin, birth control pills, and thiazide diuretics.

Increases 3 to 10 times higher than the upper limits of normal are more characteristic of acute pancreatitis.

Low lipase levels may mean that the cells that create lipase in the pancreas are damaged.


Depending on your results, you may be referred to a gastroenterologist to determine the best follow-up care and treatment procedures. 

If you have additional questions about the tests or are unsure about the results, feel free to ask your healthcare provider for a detailed explanation. The more knowledgeable you are about your test results, the more likely you are to comply with treatment and follow-up care. 


A lipase test is a blood test that measures the protein lipase, an enzyme made by the pancreas that aids in the digestion and absorption of fat. It is most commonly indicated when there is clinical suspicion of acute pancreatitis or some other injury to the pancreas.

A Word From Verywell

A lipase test is often used to detect pancreatic injury, such as acute pancreatitis. A diagnosis of acute pancreatitis may help encourage people to make lifestyle changes like quitting drinking and eating a low-fat diet, as alcohol use and high triglyceride levels are the most common causes of acute pancreatitis.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Shamard Charles, MD, MPH
Shamard Charles, MD, MPH is a public health physician and journalist. He has held positions with major news networks like NBC reporting on health policy, public health initiatives, diversity in medicine, and new developments in health care research and medical treatments.