Amylase Enzyme Test
An enzyme that is synthesized primarily in the pancreas and salivary glands, amylase (alpha-amylase or AML) helps digest starch and glycogen in the mouth, stomach, and intestine. In cases of suspected acute pancreatic disease, measurement of serum or urine AML the most important laboratory test.
Procedure and posttest care
Normal serum amylase levels range from 25 to 160 U/L. (More than 20 methods of measuring serum AML exist, with different ranges of normal values. Test values cannot always be converted to a standard measurement.)
After the onset of acute pancreatitis, AML levels begin to rise within 2 hours, peak within 12 to 48 hours, and return to normal within 3 to 4 days. Determination of urine levels should follow normal serum AML results to rule out pancreatitis. Moderate serum elevations may accompany obstruction of the common bile duct, pancreatic duct, or ampulla of Vater; pancreatic injury from a perforated peptic ulcer; pancreatic cancer; and acute salivary gland disease. Impaired kidney function may increase serum levels.
Levels may be slightly elevated in a patient who is asymptomatic or responding unusually to therapy. An AML fractionation test is used to determine the source of the AML and the need for additional tests.
Decreased levels can occur in chronic pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, cirrhosis, hepatitis, and eclampsia.
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