A survey of the current methods used in the UK to assess pituitary function

J R Soc Med. 1996 Mar;89(3):159P-64P.


A national survey of the current methods used by specialists to evaluate pituitary function in the UK was performed by postal questionnaire. Seventy-three respondents, of whom 89% were consultants and 80% clinical endocrinologists, returned the questionnaire. Fifty per cent routinely used the insulin stress test (IST) to evaluate the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, while 50% routinely used tetracosactrin stimulation, there being little overlap between the two groups. This represents a significant change in clinical practice since the last survey in 1988. In those who used ACTH stimulation there was almost an equal split into those who administered the tetracosactrin intramuscularly (45%) or intravenously (47%). Furthermore, either the peak or 60 min cortisol value was used by 71% when interpreting the result of the test, despite the fact that in previous studies only the 30 min cortisol value has been shown to correlate with the IST result. The IST remains the most frequently used method to assess growth hormone reserve in adult subjects. The thyrotrophin-releasing-hormone and gonadotrophin-releasing-hormone tests are still used routinely by approximately a quarter of clinicians. These results provide data that could be used to develop guide-lines for the use of tests to investigate pituitary function.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Gonads / physiology
  • Growth Hormone / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology
  • Insulin
  • Pituitary Function Tests / methods
  • Pituitary Function Tests / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiology
  • Professional Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Thyroid Function Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • United Kingdom


  • Insulin
  • Growth Hormone