At a glance
Also known as
Why get tested?
To identify diseases and conditions caused by deficiencies and overproduction of growth hormone (GH), to evaluate pituitary function and to monitor the effectiveness of GH treatment
When to get tested?
When a pituitary disorder is suspected; when a person has slow growth, short stature, delayed development or low blood sugar that suggest insufficient GH and IGF-1 production; when you have symptoms of (in children) or (in adults) that suggest excess GH and IGF-1 production; during and after treatment for GH abnormalities.
A blood sample drawn from a vein in your arm.
Test preparation needed?
None, unless instructed to fast
What is being tested?
Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and growth hormone are that are vital for normal bone and tissue growth and development. GH is produced by the pituitary gland, a grape-sized gland located at the base of the brain behind the bridge of your nose. GH is secreted into the bloodstream in pulses throughout the day and night with peaks that occur mostly during the night. IGF-1 is produced by the liver and to a lesser degree by skeletal muscles, primarily in response to GH stimulation. It mediates many of the actions of GH, stimulating the growth of bones and other tissues and promoting the production of lean muscle mass. The blood level of IGF-1 mirrors GH levels. However, unlike GH the blood IGF-1 level is stable and does not fluctuate throughout the day.
Like GH, IGF-1 levels are normally low in early childhood, increase gradually during childhood, peak during puberty, and then decline in adult life. Deficiencies in GH and IGF-1 may be caused by conditions such as hypopituitarism or by the presence of a non-GH-producing pituitary tumour that damages hormone-producing cells. Deficiencies in IGF-1 also occur where there is a lack of responsiveness to GH. This insensitivity may be primary (genetic) or secondary to conditions such as malnutrition and chronic diseases. Genetic GH insensitivity (GH resistance) is rare.
Deficiencies early in life can inhibit bone growth and overall development and can result in a child with a short stature. In adults, decreased production can lead to low bone densities, less muscle mass and altered lipids.
Excess GH and IGF-1 can cause abnormal growth of the skeleton and other signs and symptoms characteristic of and . In children, gigantism causes bones to grow longer, resulting in a very tall person with large feet and hands. In adults, acromegaly causes bones to thicken and soft tissues, such as the nose, to swell. Both conditions can lead to enlarged organs, such as the heart, and to other complications such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, increased risk of cardiovascular disease risk, arthritis and a decreased life span. The most common reason for the pituitary to secrete excessive amounts of GH is a GH-producing pituitary tumour (usually ). Frequently, the tumour can be surgically removed and/or treated with drugs or radiation. In most cases, this will cause GH and IGF-1 levels to return to normal or near normal levels.
How is the sample collected for testing?
A blood sample is obtained by inserting a needle into a vein in the arm.
Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?
In general, no test preparation is needed; however, since this test may be performed at the same time as others, fasting for at least 12 hours may be required.