My patient with Covid-19 and abdominal pain has an elevated lipase. Is there a connection between Covid-19 and acute pancreatitis?

Acute pancreatitis as a complication of Covid-19 is infrequent.1 Despite reports of elevated amylase/lipase and/or acute pancreatitis in some patients with Covid-19,2 the exact role that SARS-CoV-2 plays in causing acute pancreatitis is unclear at this time.

A retrospective study of over 11,000 hospitalized patients with Covid-19 in the U.S. found a point prevalence of acute pancreatitis of only 0.27%,3 while another retrospective study of Covid-19 patients seen in Spanish emergency rooms reported acute pancreatitis in only 0.07% of cases.4 Of interest, in the latter study, Covid-19 was associated with lower frequency of acute pancreatitis. Further adding to the controversy on the causative role of Covid-19 is lack of an observed increase in the incidence of acute pancreatitis during Covid-19 pandemic. 1

An earlier study from China reported mild elevation (<3x upper limits of normal) of amylase and/or lipase in 17% of patients with Covid-19 pneumonia, none of whom had abdominal pain. 5

The temporal relationship between Covid-19 and acute pancreatitis has varied from abdominal symptoms at the onset of Covid-19 symptoms to days after diagnosis of Covid-19? 1

Despite these disparate findings, Covid-19 related acute pancreatitis or pancreatic injury is plausible. Pancreatic ductal, acinar and islet cells express ACE2, an important receptor for SARS-CoV-2.1 Infection in the GI tract (virus can easily be found in the stool) may potentially spread from the duodenal epithelium to the pancreatic duct and the pancreatic parenchyma itself. Immune-mediated inflammatory response or endotheliitis caused by SARS-CoV-2 may also potentially explain reports of pancreatic injury in Covid-19. 1,2

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that SARS-CoV-2 has been found in pancreatic tissue of some patients who succumbed to Covid-19 and has been shown to infect human pancreatic beta cells in-vitro.6  Perhaps we should be on the lookout for diabetes as a consequence of Covid-19 as well!

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 References

  1. De-Madaria E, Capurso G. Covid-19 and acute pancreatitis: examining the causality. Nature Reviews Gastroenterol Hepatol 2021;18: 3-4. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41575-020-00389-y
  2. Kandasamy S. An unusual presentation of Covid-19: acute pancreatitis. Ann Hepatobiliary Pancreat Surg 2020;24:539-41. https://synapse.koreamed.org/upload/SynapseXML/2110ahbps/pdf/AHBPS-24-539.pdf
  3. Inamdar S, Benias PC, Liu Y, et al. Prevalence, risk factors, and outcomes of hospitalized patients with coronavirus disease 2019 presenting as acute pancreatitis. Gastroenterol 2020;159:2226-28. https://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085(20)35115-5/pdf
  4. Miro O, Llorens P, Jimenez S, et al. Frequency of five unusual presentations in patients with Covid-19: results of the UMC-19-S. Epidemiol Infect 2020;148:e189. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32843127/
  5. Wang F, Wang H, Fan J, et al. Pancreatic injury patterns in patients with coronavirus disease 19 pneumonia. Gastroenterology 2020;159:367-70. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7118654/
  6. Wu C-T, Lidsky PV, Xiao Y, et al. SARS-CoV-2 infects human pancreatic beta cells and elicits beta cell impairment. Cell Metab 2021 May 18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8130512/

 

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis or its affiliate healthcare centers, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School or its affiliated institutions. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

My patient with Covid-19 and abdominal pain has an elevated lipase. Is there a connection between Covid-19 and acute pancreatitis?

Is it possible to have acute pancreatitis with normal serum lipase?

Yes! Although an elevated serum lipase has a negative predictive value of 94%-100% for acute pancreatitis (1), there are ample reports in the literature of patients with CT findings of pancreatitis in the presence of abdominal symptoms but with normal serum lipase and/or amylase (2,3).

A case series and review of literature of acute pancreatitis with normal lipase and amylase failed to reveal any specific risk factors for such observation (2). More specifically, the etiologies of acute pancreatitis in the reported cases have varied, including drug-induced, cholelithiasis, alcohol, hypertriglyceridemia, and postoperative causes.

But what accounts for this phenomenon? Many cases have been associated with the first bout of pancreatitis without evidence of pancreatic calcifications which makes the possibility of a “burned-out” pancreas without sufficient acinar cells to release lipase as a frequent cause unlikely. Other potential explanations for normal lipase in acute pancreatitis have included measurement of serum lipase at a very early phase of the disease before significant destruction of acinar cells has occurred (increases in 3-6 h, peaks at 24 h [4]) and more rapid renal clearance of serum lipase due to tubular dysfunction (2).

Of note, unlike amylase, lipase is totally reabsorbed by renal tubules under normal conditions (5). Thus, it’s conceivable that even a reversible tubular dysfunction may lead to increased clearance of serum lipase and potentially lower its levels.

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References
1. Ko K, Tello LC, Salt J. Acute pancreatitis with normal amylase and lipase. The Medicine Forum. 2011;11 Article 4. https://jdc.jefferson.edu/tmf/vol11/iss1/4/
2. Singh A, Shrestha M. Acute pancreatitis with normal amylase and lipase-an ED dilemma. Am J Emerg Med 2016;940.e5-940.e7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26521195
3. Limon O, Sahin E, Kantar FU, et al. A rare entity in ED: normal lipase level in acute pancreatitis. Turk J Emerg Med 2016;16:32-34. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4882216/
4. Shah AM, Eddi R, Kothari ST, et al. Acute pancreatitis with normal serum lipase: a case series. J Pancreas (Online) 2010 July 5;11:369-72. PDF
5. Lott JA, Lu CJ. Lipase isoforms and amylase isoenzymes: assays and application in the diagnosis of acute pancreatitis. Clin Chem 1991;37:361-68. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1706232

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis or its affiliate healthcare centers, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School or its affiliated institutions. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Is it possible to have acute pancreatitis with normal serum lipase?

Is measurement of amylase and lipase useful in patients with renal insufficiency suspected of pancreatitis?

Depends on how high the serum levels are! Although the clearance of both amylase and lipase appears to be impaired in patients with significant renal insufficiency (eg,  creatinine clearance <50ml/min), serum levels greater than 2-4 times the upper limits of normal for these enzymes are still considered suggestive of pancreatitis in these patients1-3.

Interestingly, in hemodialysis patients, elevation of lipase may also be due to the lipolytic effect of heparin during this procedure.  That’s why obtaining serum lipase levels before, not after,  hemodialysis has been recommended4

Also fascinating is that most of the elevation of serum amylase in patients with significant renal insufficiency appears to be related to the elevation of salivary, not pancreatic, isoenzyme of amylase4.

Final fun fact: Did you know that at one time the diagnosis of pancreatitis was based on the activity of serum on starch (for amylase) and olive oil (for lipase)? 5

References

  1. Levitt MD, Rapoport M, Cooperband SR. The renal clearance of amylase in renal insufficiency, acute pancreatitis, and macroamylasemia. Ann Intern Med 1969;71:920-25. http://annals.org/aim/article/683643/renal-clearance-amylase-renal-insufficiency-acute-pancreatitis-macroamylasemia
  2. Collen MJ, Ansher AF, Chapman AB, et al. Serum amylase in patients with renal insufficiency and renal failure. Am J Gastroenterol 1990;85:1377-80. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1699413
  3. Royce VL, Jensen DM, Corwin HL. Pancreatic enzymes in chronic renal failure. Arch Intern Med 1987;147:537-39. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2435254
  4. Vaziri ND, Change D, Malekpour A, et al. Pancreatic enzymes in patients with end-stage renal disease maintained on hemodialysis. Am J Gastroenterol 1988;83:410-12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2450453
  5. Editorial. Pancreatic enzymes. N Engl J Med 1963;268:901-2. http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJM196304182681613
Is measurement of amylase and lipase useful in patients with renal insufficiency suspected of pancreatitis?