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Latest Edit: Hector 2014-03-21 (EDT)

See Also Lab Tests

Amylase is an enzyme that aids in the breakdown of carbohydrates (starch) to their component simple sugars. It is secreted from pancreatic acinar cells into the pancreatic duct, and then into the duodenum. Therefore damage to pancreatic acinar cells or obstruction of pancreatic duct flow can lead to an outpouring of this enzyme into the intrapancreatic lymph system and the free peritoneum.[1],[2]


  • This test is used to detect and monitor pancreatitis or other pancreatic diseases.
  • The test is usually ordered when a person presents with severe abdominal pain, fever, loss of appetite or nausea.
  • Although the test is sensitive for pancreatic disorders, it is not specific as other nonpancreatic diseases such as a peptic ulcer can also cause amylase levels in the serum to rise.

Patient Preparation

  • No fasting is required.
  • Factors which can cause increased levels:
  • Drugs: aminnosalicylic acid, aspirin, azathioprine, corticosteroids, dexamethasone, ethyl alcohol, glucocorticoids, iodine-containing contrast media, loop diuretics (e.g. furosemide), methyldopa, narcotic analgesics, oral contraceptives, and prednisone.
  • Factors which can cause decreased levels:
  • IV dextrose solutions, serum lipemia
  • Drugs: citrates, glucose, and oxalates

Clinical Implications

High levels indicate:

  • Acute pancreatitis
  • Chronic relapsing pancreatitis
  • Penetrating peptic ulcer into the pancreas
  • GI disease
  • Acute cholecystitis
  • Parotiditis (mumps)
  • Ruptured ectopic pregnancy
  • Renal failure
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Pulmonary infarction
  • After endoscopic retrograde pancreatography

Low levels indicate:

  • None noted

Associated Tests


  1. Pagana Kathleen D., Pagana Timothy J Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, Mosby, Inc
  2. Weatherby Dicken, Ferguson Scott Blood Chemistry and CBC Analysis: Clinical Laboratory Testing from a Functional Perspective, Bear Mountain