Reasons, Preparation and Results of Alpha-Amylase Test

Submitted on March 27, 2012

Alpha-Amylase Test

An alpha-amylase test is done to measure the content of the alpha-amylase enzyme in the blood. The levels of alpha-amylase are usually low in the urine and blood. But damage or blockage of the salivary glands or pancreas can cause an increased release of the enzyme.

Reason Why It is Conducted

Alpha-amylase testing is done to detect disease or damage to the pancreas. It can also be used to determine if the treatment for pancreatic conditions is working well. Conditions of the salivary glands can also be detected through this test.


When taking an alpha-amylase test, the individual must not consume alcohol for a 24 hour period before the test. In case of a blood test for alpha-amylase, one must not drink or eat for a couple of hours before the test and only water can be taken during this time. An alpha-amylase urine test involves urine collection over a 24 hour period, and hence the individual must consume adequate liquids to prevent dehydration. In case of female going through menstruation, the urine test must be rescheduled for a later date. One must also inform the doctor about medications that are being taken.

Method of Testing

A blood test involves taking a blood sample from the individual. A urine test involves the collection of urine over a 24-hour or 2-hour period. In a 24 hour period, the individual must note down the time of the first urination of the day. Here begins the 24-hour period and following this, all the urine during this period must be collected. A large container is provided by the medical center for the collection and the individual must collect the urine in a smaller container and then pour it into the large container, without touching the insides of the container and it must be kept refrigerated. When the last urination of the 24-hour period occurs, the time must be recorded. A 2 hour urine sample involves the same procedure, but for a period of two hours.

Interpretation of Test Results

High values of alpha-amylase indicate conditions such as pancreatitis, cancer of the pancreas, mumps or other inflammations of the salivary glands, damage or obstruction of the intestines, stomach ulcers, gall stones, pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy, cystic fibrosis and macroamylasemia, in which the alpha-amylase binds to a protein contained in the blood.

Low values of alpha-amylase could also indicate macroamylasemia, pregnancy, preeclampsia, cystic fibrosis or liver disease.

Conditions that can affect test results include certain medications, cirrhosis, hepatitis or other severe damage to the pancreas, presence of blood in the urine, intake of alcohol before the test, presence of saliva in the blood or urine sample, caused due to sneezing or coughing over an uncovered sample and chronic liver disease.