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Amylases are a group of hydrolases that degrade complex carbohydrates into fragments. Amylase is produced by the exocrine pancreas and the salivary glands to aid in the digestion of starch. It is also produced by the small intestine mucosa, ovaries, placenta, liver, and fallopian tubes.
Measurement of amylase in pancreatic cyst fluid is often used in conjunction with tumor markers, carcinoembryonic antigen and CA19-9, as an aid in the differential diagnosis of pancreatic cysts lesions. Amylase seems to be particularly helpful in excluding pancreatic pseudocysts. A number of studies have demonstrated that amylase levels are typically very high, usually in the thousands in pseudocysts, therefore, low amylase values virtually excludes pseudocysts. Based on the evidence available, the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) practice guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Neoplastic Pancreatic Cysts suggest that an amylase cutoff value of 250 U/L is useful to exclude pseudocysts.
Aids in distinguishing between pseudocysts and other types of pancreatic cysts, when used in conjunction with imaging studies, cytology, and other pancreatic cyst fluid tumor markers
A pancreatic cyst fluid amylase concentration of <250 U/L indicates a low risk of a pseudocyst and is more consistent with cystic neoplasms such as mucinous cystic neoplasms (MCN), intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm (IPMN), serous cystadenomas, cystic neuroendocrine tumor, and mucinous cystadenocarcinoma. High pancreatic cyst fluid amylase values are nonspecific and occur both in pseudocysts and some mucin-producing cystic neoplasms including MCN, IPMN, and mucinous cystadenocarcinoma.
In-house studies to verify this cutoff value showed that 94% (66/70) of pseudocysts had a value of > or =250 U/L. Cysts with amylase levels of <250 U/L included 69% of adenocarcinomas, 31% of intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasia, 55% of mucinous cystadenomas, 64% serous cystadenomas, and 6% of pseudocysts. Therefore, using a cutoff of <250 U/L to exclude a pseudocyst has 94% sensitivity and 42% specificity.
This test result should not be the sole basis for diagnosis. Test results should always be correlated with imaging and cytology.
An interpretive report will be provided.
1. Snozek CL, Mascarenhas RC, O'Kane DJ: Use of cyst fluid CEA, CA19-9, and amylase for evaluation of pancreatic lesions. Clin Biochem 2009;42:1585-1588
2. van der Waaij LA, van Dullemen HM, Porte RJ: Cyst fluid analysis in the differential diagnosis of pancreatic cystic lesions: a pooled analysis. Gastrointest Endosc 2005;62:383-389
3. Khalid A, Brugge W: ACG practice guidelines for the diagnosis and management of neoplastic pancreatic cysts. Am J Gastroenterol 2007;102:2339-2349