Amylase is an enzyme that exists in two parts of the human body: as a secretion from the salivary glands or as secretions from the pancreas. In both cases, amylase is digestive substance that serves to break down starch in the mouth and further to break down complex sugars to maltose, dextrin, and other substances. Amylase is used in testing two aspects: the proper function of the pancreas and salivary glands. In the case of the salivary glands amylase test will indicate stress levels. Measuring peak plasma levels of amylase has to be done specifically when the pain of a pancreatitis is at its peak. This is because the substance is rapidly removed from the blood and excreted by the kidneys. An additional pancreatitis test is the test for lipase but since this is more difficult to test for amylase levels are the best indicator.
Serum amylase levels are used to check for any kind of problem in the pancreas. Specifically, high amylase plasma levels and acute pancreatitis usually go hand in hand. However, the test for serum amylase must be done immediately after a painful attack or it will be excreted. In pancreatitis, some kind of obstruction or infection to the pancreas or its related ducts will cause swelling and with that a secretion of pancreatic juice into the blood and surrounding tissue. To avoid the body digesting itself, amylase has to be removed from the body immediately. The amylase test is also used to check kidney function and mumps.
There are no specific preparations that you need to take before you give a sample of your blood for testing. If you have pancreatitis, then the requirement is that your serum amylase levels are checked during an attack of acute pain. Therefore, you might want to let your doctor know exactly when the pain occurs. Generally, pancreatitis pain increases greatly when a meal is being digested and you may be asked to consume some material at the very most.
Just like all blood tests, the doctor will wrap a rubber tube around your arm to make the veins visible. The doctor will then tap the inner area of your elbow to try and find the vein. The doctor will then insert a needle, loosen the rubber tube and let your blood flow into the test tube sample.