Letters to the Editor

Case Report

Milk-Like Serum Suggests Markedly Elevated Triglycerides


Am Fam Physician. 2004 Sep 1;70(5):821.

to the editor: Occasionally, clinicians encounter a finding that is rarely seen, and thus is worth sharing. The accompanying figure is a serum sample from a 60-year-old woman with diabetes who presented for evaluation of severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting that had been worsening over a 24-hour period. She denied any chest pain, shortness of breath, fever, or chills. A nonfasting lipid panel revealed a triglyceride level of 8,535 mg per dL (96.3 mmol per L; normal range: 40 to 150 mg per dL [0.45 to 1.69 mmol per L]). Her lipase level was elevated at 1,476 U per L (normal range: 23 to 300 U per L).

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Serum sample from a 60-year-old woman with diabetes. Lactescent (milk-like) appearance suggests markedly elevated triglyceride level.


Serum sample from a 60-year-old woman with diabetes. Lactescent (milk-like) appearance suggests markedly elevated triglyceride level.

Approximately 1.3 to 3.8 percent of cases of acute pancreatitis may be secondary to hypertriglyceridemia.1 Serum triglyceride levels of about 1,000 mg per dL (11.29 mmol per L) can precipitate such attacks, although the exact mechanism is unknown. When the triglyceride level is above 4,500 mg per dL (50.81 mmol per L), as in this patient, the serum is described as lactescent (milk-like). Such appearance should prompt the physician to get an immediate lipid level.1


1. Fortson MR, Freedman SN, Webster PD 3d. Clinical assessment of hyperlipidemic pancreatitis. Am J Gastroenterol. 1995;90:2134–9.

The opinions and assertions contained herein are the private views of the authors and are not to be construed as official or as reflecting the views of the U.S. Navy Medical Department or the U.S. Navy Service at large.

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