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Amylase Serum Test

About the test

If your physician finds something amiss with your pancreas (the organ responsible for helping you digest your food), she/he may recommend an amylase serum test. The amylase enzyme helps to break down the starches and carbohydrates into sugar.

Amylase Test

It is a standard test recommended by the doctor when an individual has complaints regarding the pancreas and the salivary glands. Pancreas, an organ located behind the stomach is also responsible for secretion of insulin in the body and managing diabetes. The Amylase is primarily known to be a special protein or enzyme.

Level of Amylase in the Body

When the pancreas is damaged or inflamed, it produces too much amylase or too little amylase. This gives rise to a pancreatic disorder in the body. To determine the health of the pancreas, an amylase blood test is recommended by the doctors. The levels of amylase in the body determine the health of the pancreas. They should be in the normal range only.

If amylase is found in your blood, it is no reason to panic as it is normal to some amount present in the blood. But if it is more than the normal amount, it is an indication that a duct or tube in the pancreas is injured or blocked. The signs to look out are:

  1. Stomach pain concentrated around the navel
  2. Appetite loss
  3. Fever
  4. Nausea

Please note:

Before going for the amylase test, the individual should not drink liquor/alcohol for at least 24 hours. Alcohol in the blood can interfere with the results. Also, the patient should be on an empty stomach, i.e., not have eaten or had anything to drink for at least two hours before the test.

If the individual is undergoing medication for other health problems, they should inform their doctor beforehand. This is important because certain medicines should not be taken before the test. Medication will be stopped temporarily until the analysis is completed or an adjustment will be made to the medicine dose.

What is this test done for?
Amylase is an enzyme that helps in breaking down the carbohydrates and starches we eat into simple sugars. As sugars are ultimately converted to glucose, which is essential for the smooth functioning all of our body processes, amylase is very important. The primary source of production of amylase is salivary glands and the pancreas (an organ, which is located behind the stomach). It measures the amount of amylase levels in the blood. Under normal conditions, small amounts of amylase are found in the blood. An increased number of amylase in the blood can indicate conditions in which the pancreas is injured, inflamed, or blocked.
Why is it Done?
This is a specialized blood test that checks the amount of amylase released into the blood from the pancreas. High levels of this enzyme are seen in response to damage to the pancreas. The test is done to:
  • Identify the diseases of the pancreas such as:
    • Acute or chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
    • Gallstones
    • Blockage of the duct carrying amylase and other substances from the pancreas to the small intestine
    • Pancreatic Cyst
    • Peritonitis
    • Cancer of the pancreas
  • Monitor the treatment of chronic pancreatitis and cancer of the pancreas.
  • Monitor patients with cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition in which thick mucus blocks pancreatic ducts and passages of the lungs and digestive system. This leads to repeated lung infections and problems with absorbing nutrients.
  • Monitor for gallstones after the removal of gallstones.
When should it be performed?
The test is typically performed when a person is suspected to have acute or chronic pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer, and the patient presents with symptoms as follows:
  • Symptoms of acute pancreatitis
    • Pain in the abdomen around the navel, radiating to the back
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Fever
    • Diarrhea
    • Jaundice
    • Rapid pulse rate
    • Loss of appetite
  • Signs of pancreatic cancer
    • Weight loss
    • Jaundice
    • Dark yellow urine and light-colored stool
    • Abdominal pain, radiating to the back
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Itching
    • Loss of appetite
  • Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis
    • Abdominal pain
    • Diarrhea
    • Fatty, loose and pale stools (steatorrhea)
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Weight loss
    • Excessive thirst and fatigue
How is it done
The amylase serum test is a short procedure requiring less than five minutes. In this procedure, a blood sample will be collected from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. Sometimes even a random urine sample, a 24-hour urine sample, or a sample of peritoneal fluid is used. Results are generally expected in one or two days.
The test results for amylase function are interpreted as follows:
  • The test results are high if amylase levels are more than160 U/L and indicate:
    • Acute or chronic pancreatitis
    • Cancer of the pancreas
    • Pancreatic duct obstruction
    • Acute cholecystitis
    • Postoperative for abdominal surgery
    • Mesenteric thrombosis
    • Mumps
    • Tubal pregnancy
    • Pancreatic Cyst
    • Decreased kidney function
  • Increased blood amylase levels with normal to low urine amylase levels may indicate:
    • The presence of a benign complex of amylase and other proteins that accumulates in the blood
  • Presence of pancreatitis symptoms, but low amylase level in the blood and urine may indicate:
    • Permanent damage to the amylase-producing cells in the pancreas.
    • Kidney disease
    • Toxemia of pregnancy
Other Tests
Other tests that are routinely done with the amylase test are:
  • Lipase levels
    • High levels of amylase along with lipase indicate acute pancreatitis
  • Urinary amylase
    • Presence of amylase in the urine in high quantities indicates pancreatitis
  • Isoamylase
    • This is a specialized blood test carried out to evaluate the amount of an isomer of amylase, i.e., isoamylase, levels in the blood
    • Elevated levels of isoamylase indicate pancreatic cancer or pancreatic insufficiency.
  • Done along with urine amylase to help evaluate the ratio of amylase to creatinine that is filtered by the kidneys
  • Helps to assess kidney function (improper function leads to a slower rate of amylase clearance)
  • Amylase test of the peritoneal fluid
  • In cases of accumulation of fluid in the abdomen (ascites), this test helps diagnose pancreatitis.
Based on your specific readings, your doctor will guide you regarding medications and lifestyle changes to maintain or improve your current health status.
Special Precautions
This is a simple blood test and does not require any special preparation or fasting before testing. However as certain drugs might alter the test results, you should inform your doctor about any medications you are on.
Normal Values
Normal amylase levels are 40–140 U/L and are indicative of:
  • No pancreatitis
  • No suggestive evidence of peritonitis or pancreatic cyst
  • Good response to the therapy for chronic pancreatitis
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