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Rapid adrenocorticotropic hormone test in practice. Retrospective review.

Retrospective analysis of the rapid adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) test in a large adult population shows a marked interdependence of the basal cortisol concentration, peak cortisol concentration, and increase in cortisol concentration. Repetition of the rapid ACTH test in the same patient does not improve diagnostic accuracy. A significant number of falsely abnormal rapid ACTH test results were observed (in comparison to continuous ACTH infusion as a reference test). This supports the use of the rapid ACTH test as a screening test, but not as a diagnostic test for adrenocortical failure. It is proposed that a peak cortisol level greater than or equal to 20 micrograms/dl (550 nmol/liter) is a sufficient single criterion for normal adrenal function as assessed by the rapid ACTH test.

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