How Doctors Diagnose Acromegaly: Diagnostic Tests
If you've been diagnosed with acromegaly, your doctor probably ordered certain tests to confirm your diagnosis and determine the right medical plan for you. Reading about these tests may be useful when communicating with your healthcare professional—because understanding these tests can help you understand more about the acromegaly disease itself.
A Tale of 2 Tests
A reliable way to diagnose acromegaly is to measure the levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) with a blood test. Another commonly used test for diagnosis is an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). Take a look at the table below to learn more about these 2 tests.
Because acromegaly involves an overproduction of growth hormone (GH), one would think that testing for GH levels would be used to make the diagnosis. However, GH levels fluctuate throughout the day and also vary based on age and how recently a person ate. Therefore, GH levels are not typically used to make a diagnosis. Some doctors do take a series of GH tests at random times and then obtain an average from the values to get an idea of GH levels.
Confirming the Diagnosis
Following the blood tests, your physician may want to confirm the diagnosis by having you get a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. The majority of cases of acromegaly are caused by a pituitary tumor that is benign, or noncancerous. The MRI is a “picture” of the location and size of the tumor. This information helps your physician determine the treatment course. The MRI is usually performed at either a hospital or a clinic.
In some rare cases of acromegaly, the MRI scan does not show a tumor. This may mean the cause of acromegaly is not a pituitary tumor. To diagnose these rare cases, a computed tomography scan of other parts of the body may be used to look for nonpituitary tumors that cause GH overproduction.
Once the diagnosis of acromegaly has been made, a few tests may be performed to check a person’s overall health, such as an electrocardiogram, chest x-ray, and eye tests. The results of these tests will also be factored into the overall treatment approach for the individual.
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