Home About AllHealth Website Sitemap Contact Us
All Health 
You are here: Home > Endocrine System > Adrenal disorders - Addisons (hidden) [19.1.1] > ACTH stimulation test


ACTH stimulation test

Alternative Names 
cortrosyn stimulation test, tests of adrenal reserve

This test checks how the adrenal glands respond to a certain hormone. The hormone is called adrenocorticotrophic hormone, or ACTH. ACTH is made in the pituitary gland and travels through the bloodstream to the adrenal glands. ACTH stimulates the adrenal gland to release cortisol. Cortisol is important for many functions in the body's metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, sodium, potassium, and protein.

Who is a candidate for the test? 
This test is ordered when the doctor suspects that a person's adrenal gland is not working properly.

How is the test performed? 
Cortisol levels in the bloodstream are measured before and after an intravenous or intramuscular injection of ACTH. A blood sample is taken from a vein in the forearm or hand. First, the skin over the vein is cleaned with an antiseptic. Next, a strong rubber tube, or tourniquet, is wrapped around the upper arm. This enlarges the veins in the lower arm by restricting blood flow through them. A fine needle is gently inserted into a vein, and the tourniquet is removed. Blood flows from the vein through the needle, and is collected in a syringe or vial for testing in the laboratory. After the needle is withdrawn, the puncture site is covered for a short time to prevent bleeding.

What is involved in preparation for the test? 
A person should request specific instructions from his or her doctor.

What do the test results mean? 
Normally, an injection of ACTH will stimulate the adrenal glands. There will be an increase in cortisol.

If cortisol levels do not rise after the injection of ACTH, the following conditions may be present:
  • Addison's disease, which is caused by a deficiency of adrenocortical hormones after the adrenal gland is damaged
  • Cushing's syndrome, which is caused by an excess of adrenocortical hormones
  • hypopituitarism, which is caused by a decrease in hormones produced by the pituitary gland
  • pituitary tumour, or an abnormal growth in the pituitary gland
  • acute adrenal crisis, which is a condition in which the adrenal glands suddenly stop working properly
Author: David T. Moran, MD
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 15/03/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


Back Email a Friend View Printable Version Bookmark This Page


eknowhow | The World's Best Websites
    Privacy Policy and Disclaimer