AIM: To determine the usefulness of measuring amylase activity as an indicator of pancreatic disease in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positive patients. METHODS: A prospective study of 129 ambulant HIV positive males. Total amylase, pancreatic amylase, and lipase activities were assayed using commercial test kits on an automated analyser. Samples with raised amylase were examined for the presence of macroamylasaemia using cellulose acetate electrophoresis. RESULTS: Thirty six (28%) of the subjects had raised total amylase activities compared with healthy, age matched blood donors. However, almost half of these were because of an increase of the salivary fraction. Four subjects were found to have macroamylasaemia. Pancreatic amylase and lipase assays, more specific indicators of pancreatic disease, produced significantly fewer abnormal results. There was no association between abdominal symptoms and elevated enzyme levels. CONCLUSIONS: Total amylase is a poor indicator of pancreatic disease in HIV infected outpatients. Specific assays for pancreatic amylase offer advantages over the traditional total amylase assay. The lipase assay produced the least number of abnormal results and its use could improve the biochemical identification of patients with possible pancreatic disease and allow a more selective investigation of these cases.
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