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Amylase (Blood)

Does this test have other names?

Serum amylase

What is this test?

This test measures the level of the enzyme amylase in your blood.

About 40 percent of the amylase in your body is made by your pancreas, and the rest comes from your salivary glands. Amylase levels in your blood rise when your pancreas or your salivary glands are inflamed. This can be caused by an infection, cancer, or even alcohol or drugs you are taking.

Why do I need this test?

You might need this test to help your doctor diagnose or manage a medical condition. These conditions include:

  • Pancreatitis, especially acute pancreatitis

  • Pregnancy

  • Eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa

  • Gastrointestinal conditions, such as perforated peptic ulcers, appendicitis, infections, or tumors

The test may also be done in an emergency situation.

What other tests might I have along with this test?

Your doctor may also order these tests:

  • Lipase

  • Tripsinogen

  • Hematocrit

  • Liver function tests

  • Abdominal CT

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.

The normal range for amylase in a blood sample is 0 to 130 units per liter (U/L).

If your amylase levels are higher than normal, you may have one of a number of conditions. These include:

  • Acute pancreatitis, in which amylase levels are three times greater than normal

  • Pancreatic cancer

  • Abscess of the pancreas

  • Pancreatic pseudocysts

  • Ascites

  • Macroamylasemia

  • Perforated peptic ulcer

  • Intestinal infarction

  • Blockage in your intestines

  • Appendicitis

  • Acute cholecystitis

  • Ruptured ectopic pregnancy

  • Salivary gland inflammation

  • Peritonitis

  • Burns

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis

  • Renal insufficiency

  • Use of drugs such as morphine

  • Carcinomatosis of the lung, esophagus, or ovary

  • Alcohol use

  • Mumps

  • Prostate tumors

  • Eating disorders, such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa

Your levels may also be higher after a pancreatic procedure called a cholangiopancreatography.

Your amylase levels may be lower in these conditions:

  • Chronic pancreatitis

  • Hepatic necrosis

  • Cystic fibrosis

Other conditions, unrelated to pancreatic, abdominal, or salivary gland disease, may affect your amylase levels. These include:

  • Macroamylasemia, a benign condition that men may develop in their middle years

  • Kidney problems, especially kidney failure or recent transplant

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis

  • Alcoholism

  • Higher blood triglycerides, a type of fat, called hypertriglyceridemia

How is this test done?

The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your arm.

Does this test pose any risks?

Taking a blood sample with a needle carries risks that include bleeding, infection, bruising, or feeling dizzy. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight stinging sensation or pain. Afterward, the site may be slightly sore.

What might affect my test results?

Certain medications such as aspirin, drugs that contain estrogen, and opiates like morphine may affect your test results. Alcohol use can also affect your results. Pregnancy and having had a recent kidney transplant can also affect your results.

How do I get ready for this test?

You don't need to prepare for this test. But be sure your doctor knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use.