Objectives: There is little information on the prevalence of increased serum lipase levels and its determinants from population-based studies. The present study was performed to provide such information.
Methods: We used data from the 4275 subjects aged 20 to 79 years who were recruited for the population-based Study of Health in Pomerania. Serum lipase levels were determined colorimetrically; levels > or =3.17 micromol/s x l were considered increased.
Results: The prevalence of increased serum lipase levels was 3.4%. The prevalence of self-reported chronic pancreatitis in this population was 0.7%. Subjects with and without increased serum lipase levels did not differ with respect to symptoms indicative of pancreatitis including abdominal feeling of fullness, abdominal pain, nausea, and loss of weight. High serum lipase levels correlated with advanced age, increased serum creatinine levels, and use of steroids or enalapril.
Conclusions: Increased serum lipase levels are unrelated to pancreatitis-related symptoms. Renal insufficiency and prevalent pancreatitis explain increased serum lipase levels in a minority of subjects. In clinical practice, drugs including steroids and enalapril should be excluded as cause of increased serum lipase levels. The predictive roleof lipase measurements with respect to other pancreatic or extrapancreatic disorders has to be investigated in cohort studies.