An ACTH test measures ACTH, a hormone released from the anterior pituitary gland in the brain.
A blood sample is needed. For information on how this is done, see: Venipuncture
ACTH levels change with the body's natural 24-hour cycle of processes (circadian rhythms). This test is most accurate if it is performed early in the morning.
The health care provider may advise you to stop taking steroid drugs. You may need to be at the laboratory or office where the blood is being drawn by or before 8 a.m.
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.
This test can help find the causes of hormone problems.
The main function of ACTH is to regulate the steroid hormone cortisol, which is released by the adrenal cortex.
Normal values: 9 - 52 pg/mL
Note: pg/mL = picograms per milliliter
The examples above are common measurements for results for these tests. Some laboratories use different measurements or may test different specimens. Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different labs. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.
Higher-than-normal levels of ACTH may be present with:
Lower-than-normal levels of ACTH may be seen with:
Other conditions under which the test may be performed:
Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.
Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:
Special handling of the blood sample is required.
Serum adrenocorticotropic hormone; Adrenocorticotropic hormone; Highly-sensitive ACTH
Stewart PM, Krone NP. The adrenal cortex. In: Kronenberg HM, Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 15.
Melmed S, Kleinberg D. Pituitary masses and tumors. In: Kronenberg HM, Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 9.
Updated by: Nancy J. Rennert, MD, Chief of Endocrinology & Diabetes, Norwalk Hospital, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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