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ACTH Stimulation Test

What is an ACTH stimulation test?
Why would a doctor recommend an ACTH stimulation test?
What does an ACTH stimulation test involve?
How long is the recovery after an ACTH stimulation test?

What is an ACTH stimulation test?

ACTH is a hormone made by the pituitary gland that tells the outer part of the adrenal gland to produce hormones such as cortisol. An ACTH stimulation test measures levels of cortisol in your blood before and after you are given a synthetic form of ACTH.

Why would a doctor recommend an ACTH stimulation test?

The test can help a doctor tell if a patient's adrenal and pituitary glands are normal. It is often used when a doctor suspects a patient has an adrenal gland disorder, such as Addison's disease.

What does an ACTH stimulation test involve?

A laboratory nurse or technician will first insert a needle into a vein in one of your arms, to collect a sample of your blood. You may feel a slight sting or moderate pain when the needle is inserted to draw your blood.

The nurse or assistant will then use a needle or IV to inject the synthetic ACTH into your bloodstream. A second blood sample will be taken after the ACTH has a chance to act. Both blood samples will be tested in the laboratory for levels of the hormone cortisol. Test results are usually available in one to two weeks.

Normally, a person's cortisol levels will increase after the ACTH injection. The cortisol levels of a patient with Addison's disease do not rise in the same way after the ACTH injection.

How long is the recovery after an ACTH stimulation test?

You may return home after the test and resume your normal activities. Some people may feel throbbing in their arm after the test, or feel slightly dizzy or faint.

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