How Do Doctors Diagnose Adrenal Insufficiency?

We often diagnose adrenal insufficiency through a blood test for hormones called cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). We draw the blood sample close to 8 a.m.

Sometimes, we draw blood for certain other hormones (such as 17-hydroxy progesterone and DHEA-s). We might need to do a test called an ACTH stimulation test. This test measures how well your child’s adrenal glands respond to a medication called cosyntropin, which is an artificial form of ACTH. For this test, we give your child an injection of cosyntropin. Then, we measure your child’s hormone levels in his or her blood 30 minutes later and again 60 minutes (1 hour) later. In some cases, we might check hormone levels only at 60 minutes (1 hour).

To figure out the cause of adrenal insufficiency, sometimes, we need imaging studies of the pituitary or adrenal glands or genetic testing.

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