What Are Pancreatitis Blood Tests (Amylase and Lipase)?

Amylase and lipase are digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas. Abnormal levels of amylase and lipase are associated with a condition known as pancreatitis.

The pancreas is a digestive gland located near the stomach. The pancreas performs two important digestive functions: Making insulin and producing digestive enzymes.

Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. Elevated amylase and lipase may be an indication of pancreatitis but does not cause pancreatitis. It is estimated that acute pancreatitis, or sudden and short-lived pancreatitis, causes 275,000 hospitalizations a year, and chronic (or long-lasting) pancreatitis leads to 86,000 hospitalizations a year.

A pancreatitis blood test aims to diagnose pancreatitis by looking for high or low levels of amylase and lipase. In this article, learn more about the pancreatitis blood test and what its results can mean.

Vile of blood


Purpose of Test 

Acute pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. In the United States, acute pancreatitis is one of the top gastrointestinal reasons for hospitalization.

Patients with acute pancreatitis often experience abdominal pain (usually in the upper middle to right side of the abdomen, right below the ribs), nausea, and vomiting. Due to the common nature of pancreatitis within gastrointestinal conditions, people who display the clinical symptoms often have blood drawn.

Amylase and lipase are digestive enzymes present in the bloodstream. When the levels of amylase or lipase are three or more times higher than the normal upper limit of the normal range, it is a strong indication the person has pancreatitis.

Risks and Contradictions

The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) states that amylase or lipase in the blood that's at least three times higher than the upper limit of the normal range is one of the two indicators for pancreatitis. Other indicators to diagnose pancreatitis include upper abdominal pain, usually on the right side, the middle of the abdomen just below the ribs or radiating into the back, and evidence of pancreatitis on radiographic imaging—usually an ultrasound or computed tomography (CT) scan.

Amylase and lipase blood tests are the most common laboratory tests for identifying pancreatitis in people who have upper abdominal pain. However, interpretation of amylase and lipase elevation should not be the only testing to diagnose pancreatitis. There are conditions other than pancreatitis that can elevate amylase and lipase, such as pancreatic cancer or diabetic ketoacidosis.

Before the Test

Amylase and lipase are tested in samples of blood drawn from the person experiencing the abdominal pain. The testing is conducted by a healthcare professional using a small needle to withdraw a sample of blood from a vein in your arm. It is not necessary to fast before amylase and lipase testing. There are no special requirements before amylase and lipase testing with respect to:

  • Timing
  • Location
  • Wearing certain clothes

It is likely that the location for the withdrawal of the blood sample will require at least some of the following items:

  • A valid healthcare provider order for amylase and lipase testing
  • Photographic identification to verify the person who will be having the blood sample drawn
  • Health insurance verification, such as a health insurance card or funds to cover the expense of the blood draw and blood sample testing

During the Test

Obtaining a blood sample for amylase and lipase is performed by a healthcare professional trained in venipuncture (the puncture of a vein). It is important for the healthcare professional to prevent any risk of infection to the person who will be undergoing the venipuncture procedure. To achieve this, the healthcare professional ensures the work area is clean, all supplies needed for testing are close at hand, proper hand hygiene is performed, and personal protective equipment, such as gloves, are worn.

The healthcare professional will identify a vein that will be adequate for obtaining enough blood for the amylase and lipase testing. A tourniquet will likely be applied to the person's arm to ensure the vein is both visible and has enough blood for sampling. The venipuncture site will be cleaned thoroughly with an appropriate solution, such as isopropyl alcohol or chlorhexidine. When the skin area is dry, the healthcare professional will insert a small needle and withdraw the necessary quantity of blood into a laboratory tube or syringe.

After the Test

When enough blood has been obtained to test for levels of amylase and lipase, the healthcare professional will remove the needle from the vein, place a sterile gauze or bandage over the venipuncture site, and apply pressure. This pressure will help control any bleeding from the venipuncture site.

After ensuring any bleeding from the venipuncture site has stopped, the healthcare professional will apply a bandage. This bandage should stay in place for 15 minutes to ensure that the bleeding has fully stopped. The bandage ensures the body has time to fully seal the vein after the venipuncture has ended and the needle has withdrawn from the vein.

Interpreting Results 

High levels of amylase and lipase usually indicate acute pancreatitis. However, they could also indicate other diseases or dysfunctions of the pancreas, such as pancreatic cancer or a blockage in the pancreas.

Low levels of amylase and lipase can indicate chronic pancreatitis, liver disease, or cystic fibrosis.

It is important to follow up with the healthcare provider who ordered the amylase and lipase testing for the appropriate understanding of laboratory results. Depending on current symptoms and the results of a comprehensive history and physical, the healthcare provider might order additional laboratory testing, radiologic imaging (such as ultrasound or CT scans), or send the person to see a specialist, such as a gastroenterologist, for additional evaluation.


Amylase and lipase are digestive enzymes produced in the pancreas. Their function is to assist with digestion. When a person develops abdominal pain, mainly in the upper to right side of the abdomen below the ribs, amylase and lipase tests are two blood tests performed to identify whether pancreatitis is present. Amylase and lipase tests alone are not enough to diagnose pancreatitis; high or low levels of amylase and lipase can also indicate other gastrointestinal diseases.

Shortly after testing for amylase and lipase, it is important to follow up with the healthcare professional ordering the tests to identify if acute pancreatitis or a different gastrointestinal condition is present.

A Word From Verywell

Experiencing a sudden onset of upper abdominal pain can be overwhelming. One of the conditions that could cause this sudden abdominal pain is pancreatitis. Understanding some of the testing that should be considered, particularly amylase and lipase testing, will help you advocate for your health. Getting an accurate diagnosis is a key step in getting the right treatment for what's causing your abdominal pain, including pancreatitis.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is pancreatitis only diagnosed through a blood test?

    The AGA clinical practice guidelines recommend basing the diagnosis of pancreatitis on at least two of the following characteristics:

    • Upper abdominal pain, usually on the right side or middle of the abdomen, just below the ribs
    • Amylase or lipase levels at least three times above the upper limit of the normal range
    • Radiographic imaging, usually an ultrasound or CT scan, indicating pancreatitis on cross-sectional images
  • Can a full blood count test diagnose pancreatitis?

    A full blood count test usually refers to a complete blood count (CBC). A CBC test shows the level of white blood cells and red blood cells in the blood, among other components. A CBC test can indicate a possible infection related to pancreatitis. However, a full blood count alone is not enough to diagnose pancreatitis.

  • How soon do pancreatitis symptoms show up?

    Acute pancreatitis symptoms include upper abdominal pain (usually right below the ribs in the center or right side of the upper abdomen), nausea, and vomiting.

    People affected by pancreatitis often fall very ill very suddenly and need to seek immediate medical attention.

  • Does pancreatitis go away on its own?

    People affected by acute pancreatitis are often hospitalized for one to three days to provide for proper hydration and pain management. For two-thirds of the people affected with acute pancreatitis, recovery occurs with no additional interventions. For the one-third that do not get better, more testing is necessary to determine if there is an infection or significant damage to the pancreas. In those cases, antibiotics and occasionally surgery might be necessary.

8 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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  3. UpToDate. Approach to the patient with elevated serum amylase and lipase. Updated May 20, 2020.

  4. MedlinePlus. Amylase test. Updated July 30, 2020.

  5. Elsevier Clinical Skills. Blood specimen collection: venipuncture. Updated April 2020.

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  8. Boumitri, Christine et al. “Necrotizing Pancreatitis: Current Management and Therapies.” Clinical endoscopy vol. 50,4 (2017): 357-365. doi:10.5946/ce.2016.152

By Pamela Assid, DNP, RN
Pamela Assid, DNP, RN, is a board-certified nursing specialist with over 25 years of expertise in emergency, pediatric, and leadership roles.