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Ann Intern Med. 1981 May;94(5):647-52.

Selective venous sampling for ACTH in Cushing's syndrome: differentiation between Cushing disease and the ectopic ACTH syndrome.


We performed selective venous catheterization and sampling for ACTH in six patients with ACTH-secreting pituitary adenomas (Cushing's disease) and four patients with occult ectopic ACTH-secreting neoplasms. In five patients with Cushing's disease in whom the inferior petrosal sinus could be catheterized, ACTH levels were unequivocally higher than simultaneous peripheral values: The ratio was greater than 2.0, with a range of 2.2 to 16.7. In contrast, the inferior petrosal sinus-to-peripheral ACTH ratio in three patients with ectopic ACTH secretion was less than 1.5. In the fourth patient, an arteriovenous gradient of 6.8 was shown 2 years before a bronchial carcinoid tumor was clinically apparent. Central-to-peripheral ACTH ratios at the level of the jugular bulb and jugular vein were not diagnostic. We conclude that selective venous ACTH sampling from the inferior petrosal sinus is a reliable and useful aid in the differential diagnosis of Cushing's syndrome when standard clinical and biochemical studies are inconclusive.

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