Lipase value

Definition: What is the lipase value?

Pancreatic lipase (here: lipase) is an enzyme used to digest fats, especially in the small intestine. Lipase is produced in the pancreas and released into the small intestine, where it splits the fats absorbed with food. A certain amount of lipase also always enters the bloodstream and can therefore be measured in the blood value. In certain diseases, the level of lipase in the blood may be too high or too low.

How and where is the lipase value determined?

The lipase value is usually determined in the blood. For this purpose, a blood sample is taken and sent to a laboratory for determination of the lipase value. Usually the determination of the lipase value is carried out together with the measurement of other enzymes.

A determination of lipase is mainly prescribed by a doctor if there is a suspicion of pancreatic inflammation (pancreatitis). However, lipase levels are also increasingly being determined as part of a routine examination, although this procedure is increasingly being criticized. Less frequent occasions for determining lipase are, for example, suspected pancreatic insufficiency or pancreatic tumors. The lipase value is also rarely determined in cases of ascites (abnormal accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity).

What are the standard values?

The unit of lipase is enzyme unit (U) per liter. The reference value depends on the test method and therefore in case of doubt the reference value given by the laboratory should always be considered as the standard value. Adults should have a lipase value of 13-60 U/l, in children values up to 40 U/l are normal.

What increases the lipase level?

When pancreatic cells die, for example in an inflammation, lipase enters the bloodstream, increasing the level of lipase in the blood. The most common cause of an elevated blood lipase level is acute pancreatitis (acute inflammation of the pancreas). The pancreas value can also be elevated after gastrointestinal surgery.

Other, rarer causes of an increased lipase level are, for example, renal insufficiency, inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), inflammation of the gall bladder (cholecystitis), diabetic ketoacidosis or the administration of the drug heparin. If, despite increased lipase, no disease can be identified as the cause, clarification of a gluten intolerance (Sprue) may also be useful, since in some patients with unknown gluten intolerance the lipase level may be increased. If the lipase level is increased, the reason for the increase should be clarified in order to treat the cause of the lipase increase.

Since in most cases there is an inflammation of the pancreas, it must be treated. It is particularly important to avoid alcohol consumption, as alcohol consumption is the most common cause of pancreatic inflammation. If a bacterial infection is the cause of the inflammation of the pancreas, treatment with antibiotics is usually ordered by the doctor.

Since lipase is needed to break down fats in the small intestine, it is also produced by the pancreas when fats are ingested with food. This process is not a problem for a healthy pancreas. Therefore, in healthy individuals, the lipase level should not increase even when eating fatty foods.

However, if the pancreas is burdened by an inflammation, for example, the digestion of fatty foods is an additional burden. Therefore, in the event of an acute increase in lipase levels, avoid fatty foods until the cause has been clarified. Depending on the cause of the increased lipase level, a change in diet may be necessary. This should be discussed individually with your doctor.