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Growth Hormone

Risks

There is very little chance of a problem from having blood sample taken from a vein.

  • You may get a small bruise at the site. You can lower the chance of bruising by keeping pressure on the site for several minutes.
  • In rare cases, the vein may become swollen after the blood sample is taken. This problem is called phlebitis. A warm compress can be used several times a day to treat this.
  • Ongoing bleeding can be a problem for people with bleeding disorders. Aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), and other blood-thinning medicines can make bleeding more likely. If you have bleeding or clotting problems, or if you take blood-thinning medicine, tell your doctor before your blood sample is taken.

Results

A growth hormone (GH) test measures the amount of human growth hormone (GH) in the blood.

Normal

The normal values listed here—called a reference range—are just a guide. These ranges vary from lab to lab, and your lab may have a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should contain the range your lab uses. Also, your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. This means that a value that falls outside the normal values listed here may still be normal for you or your lab.

Growth hormone (GH)1
Men

Less than 5 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) (less than 226 picomoles per liter[pmol/L])

Women

Less than 10 ng/mL (less than 452 pmol/L)

Children

Less than 20 ng/mL (less than 904 pmol/L)

High values

  • High GH values may mean gigantism or acromegaly is present. These conditions are caused by a noncancerous tumor in the pituitary gland (adenoma). Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) levels should also be high.
  • High GH levels may also be caused by diabetes, kidney disease, or starvation. These conditions do not cause high IGF-1 levels.

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

What To Think About

  • Normal levels of growth hormone (GH) change during the day so other tests may be done to confirm the results of a GH test. Other tests can show whether low levels of GH (which can be normal) mean the pituitary gland is not working correctly.
    • IGF-1 blood levels are often done at the same time as a GH test. A high level of IGF-1 with a high level of GH generally means acromegaly is present. In this case, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is done to look at the pituitary gland. For more information, see the topic Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the Head.
    • The growth hormone suppression test (also called the glucose loading test) measures the level of GH in the blood before and after a person drinks fluid with a large amount of sugar (glucose) in it. Normally, the amount of GH drops to less than 1 ng/mL after drinking the glucose. Levels of GH that stay high may mean acromegaly is present.
    • The growth hormone stimulation test measures the level of GH in the blood before and after insulin or arginine is given in a vein (intravenously) in the arm. No detectable growth hormone can be found for people with normal pituitary function. A growth hormone stimulation test may be used to see if a person lacks GH. Normally, the amount of GH increases after insulin or arginine. A GH level that does not increase after the insulin or arginine is given may mean the person lacks growth hormone.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 02, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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