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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Oct;85(10):3713-9.

A comparison between the 1-microg adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) test, the short ACTH (250 microg) test, and the insulin tolerance test in the assessment of hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis immediately after pituitary surgery.

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  • 1Department of Endocrinology, Erciyes University, Medical School, Kayseri, Turkey.

Erratum in

  • J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2001 Jul;86(7):3085.


The short ACTH stimulation test is an easy, reliable, and extensively used test in the assessment of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. However, its use immediately after pituitary surgery is a matter of debate. The insulin tolerance test (ITT) is the gold standard in the evaluation of the HPA axis, but it is not always without side effects and may be unpleasant early after pituitary surgery. Our aim was to investigate the value of the 1-microg ACTH test in the assessment of the HPA axis early after pituitary surgery. We also aimed to determine the value of the 1-microg and 250-microg ACTH tests and the ITT in the estimation of HPA axis status after 3 months postoperatively. Nineteen patients subjected to pituitary tumor surgery were included in the study, and the ITT and the 1-microg and 250-microg ACTH tests were performed between the 4th and 11th days of surgery. The tests were repeated at the first month in 3 patients with subnormal peak cortisol responses (454, 125, and 301 nmol/L) and in 18 patients at the third month postoperatively. ACTH stimulation tests were performed by using 1 microg and 250 microg ACTH iv as a bolus injection, and blood samples were drawn at 0, 30, and 60 min for measurement of serum cortisol levels. The ITT was performed by using iv regular insulin, and serum glucose and cortisol levels were measured. The 1-microg and 250-microg ACTH stimulation tests and the ITT were performed consecutively. At least 48 h were allowed between each test. A peak serum cortisol level of 550 nmol/L or greater was considered as a normal response for both the ITT and the ACTH tests. The serum cortisol level was measured by RIA using commercial kits. Serum glucose was determined by glucose oxidase method. There were correlations between the peak cortisol response to the ITT and the 1-microg ACTH test (r = 0.39, P < 0.05) in the early postoperative period. No correlation was found between the ITT and the 250-microg ACTH test responses. In the early postoperative period, two patients showed normal cortisol responses (> or =550 nmol/L) to the 1-microg ACTH test and five patients showed normal cortisol responses to the 250-microg ACTH test among the six patients with subnormal cortisol responses to the ITT. Three patients with subnormal cortisol responses to ITT and baseline cortisol values less than 240 nmol/L showed normal HPA axis at the end of the first month. In the late postoperative period, at the third month, all the patients showed normal HPA axis. In the early postoperative period of pituitary surgery, the 1-microg ACTH test results are more concordant than the 250-microg ACTH test in comparison with the ITT. Our results also indicate that HPA axis dysfunction shown by ACTH stimulation tests and the ITT in early postoperative period may be normalized 1-3 months after surgery. For this reason, we think that dynamic tests including the ITT may not be useful early after pituitary surgery.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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