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Children's Health

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Adrenocorticotropic Hormone


There is very little chance of a problem from having a 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.
  • Bruising may be more likely in people with high ACTH and cortisol levels.


An adrenocorticotropic hormone test measures the level of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) in the blood.

Results of an ACTH test are usually available in a few days.


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.

Normal ACTH levels 1

Less than 80 pg/mL or less than 18 pmol/L


Less than 50 pg/mL or less than 11 pmol/L

High values

High levels of ACTH may be caused by:

  • Emotional or physical stress (such as recent surgery or severe pain).
  • Diseases such as Addison's disease (failure of the adrenal glands camera.gif), Cushing's disease (a tumor of the pituitary gland camera.gif), or a tumor outside the pituitary (such as in the lung).

Low values

Low levels of ACTH may be caused by:

ACTH and cortisol levels in specific conditions
Condition ACTH Cortisol

Cushing's disease



Cushing's syndrome



Addison's disease






WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
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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