Children's Hospital is part of the UPMC family.
adrenocorticotropic hormone test measures the level of
adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) in the blood to
check for problems with the
pituitary gland and
ACTH is made in the pituitary gland in response to
the release of another hormone, called corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH),
hypothalamus. In turn, the adrenal glands then make a
hormone called cortisol, which helps your body manage stress. Cortisol is
needed for life, so its levels in the blood are closely controlled. When
cortisol levels rise, ACTH levels normally fall. When cortisol levels fall,
ACTH levels normally rise.
Both ACTH and cortisol levels change
throughout the day. ACTH is normally highest in the early morning (between 6
a.m. and 8 a.m.) and lowest in the evening (between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.). ACTH
levels may be tested in the morning or evening if your doctor thinks that they
are abnormal. Cortisol levels are often measured at the same time as
ACTH is released in bursts, so its levels in the blood
can vary from minute to minute. Interpretation of the test results is hard
and often requires the skill of an
A test to measure ACTH is done to check
You may not be able to eat or drink for
10 to 12 hours before an ACTH test. Your doctor may ask you to eat
low-carbohydrate foods for 48 hours before the test. Be sure to ask your doctor
if there are any foods that you should not eat.
Many medicines can
change the results of this test. Be sure to tell your doctor about all the
nonprescription and prescription medicines you take. If you take a medicine,
such as a
corticosteroid, that could change the test results,
you will need to stop taking it for up to 48 hours before the test. Your doctor
will tell you exactly how long depending on what medicine you take.
Do not exercise for 12 hours before this test.
Try to avoid
emotional stress for 12 hours before the test.
blood sample at the right time is often important. Your blood will be drawn in
the morning if your doctor wants a peak ACTH level. Your blood will be drawn in
the evening if your doctor wants a low (trough) ACTH level.
your doctor about any concerns you have about the need for the test, its
risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you
learn about this test and how important it is, fill out the
medical test information form (What is a PDF document?).
The health professional drawing blood
The blood sample is taken from a vein in
your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight.
You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or
There is very little chance of a problem from
having a blood sample taken from a vein.
An adrenocorticotropic hormone test
measures the level of
adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) in the blood.
Results of an ACTH test are usually available in a few
The normal values listed here-called a reference range-are just a guide. These ranges vary from lab to lab, and your lab may have a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should contain the range your lab uses. Also, your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. This means that a value that falls outside the normal values listed here may still be normal for you or your lab.
Less than 80
pg/mL or less than 18
Less than 50 pg/mL or less than 11
High levels of ACTH may be caused
Low levels of ACTH may be caused
Reasons you may not be able to
have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
There are other medicines that may affect the test results,
so talk with your doctor about any medicines you are taking.
Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
Other Works Consulted
Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis: Saunders. Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical Reviewer Alan C. Dalkin, MD - Endocrinology
Current as ofMay 3, 2017
Current as of:
May 3, 2017
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Alan C. Dalkin, MD - Endocrinology
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Children's Hospital's main campus is located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. Our main hospital address is:
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One Children’s Hospital Way
4401 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
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