How Do Endocrine Diagnostics Work?

Reviewed on 1/12/2022


Endocrine diagnostics are a class of drugs used as an adjunctive diagnostic tool for serum thyroglobulin testing in thyroid cancer, as a medical test in people with Cushing's syndrome (an endocrine disorder caused by high levels of cortisol: a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands), and in adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation test that helps diagnose adrenal gland disorders such as Addison's disease (a disease characterized by progressive anemia, low blood pressure, weakness, and bronze discoloration of the skin caused by inadequate secretion of hormones by the adrenal cortex) and hypopituitarism (deficiency of pituitary hormones).

Endocrine diagnostics work in the following ways:

  • They bind to the thyrotropin receptors found on any residual thyroid cells or tissues that stimulate radioactive iodine uptake for better radiodiagnostic imaging.
  • The pituitary gland in the brain sends signals to the adrenal glands to produce a natural substance called “cortisol” that is responsible for maintaining healthy bodily functions.
  • They are used to test if the pituitary gland is sending proper signals to the adrenal glands for appropriate production of cortisol.
  • They are used as part of a medical test to measure growth hormone deficiency.


Endocrine diagnostics are used to diagnose various conditions such as:

  • Cushing's syndrome: to differentiate between pituitary and ectopic ACTH production in patients with ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome
  • Pituitary stimulation: to measure human growth hormone reserve for conditions such as panhypopituitarism, pituitary dwarfism, chromophobe adenoma, postsurgical craniopharyngioma, hypophysectomy, pituitary trauma, acromegaly, gigantism, and problems of growth and stature
  • Pancreas dysfunction: stimulation of pancreatic secretions, including bicarbonate, to aid in the diagnosis of pancreatic exocrine dysfunction
  • Gastrinoma: stimulation of gastrin secretion to aid in the diagnosis of gastrinoma (a gastrin-secreting tumor that can occur in the pancreas)
  • Ampulla of Vater and accessory papilla: stimulation of pancreatic secretions to facilitate the identification of the ampulla of Vater and accessory papilla during endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography 
  • Serum thyroglobulin testing: an adjunctive diagnostic tool for serum thyroglobulin testing with or without radioiodine imaging in the follow-up of patients with well-differentiated thyroid cancer who have previously undergone thyroidectomy
  • Remnant thyroid tissue ablation: adjunctive treatment for radioiodine ablation of thyroid tissue remnants in patients who have undergone a near-total or total thyroidectomy for well-differentiated thyroid cancer and who do not have evidence of distant metastatic thyroid cancer
  • Screening of adrenocortical insufficiency (shortage of cortisol hormone)
  • Diagnosis of adult growth hormone deficiency


Some of the common side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Stomach upset
  • Asthenia (abnormal physical weakness or lack of energy)
  • Abdominal discomfort

Other rare side effects include:

  • Dizziness (feeling faint, weak, or unsteady)
  • Tingly feeling in the face, neck, or chest
  • Unusual hoarseness
  • Tightness in the chest or throat
  • Tachycardia (fast heartbeat)
  • Xerostomia (dryness of the mouth)

Information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible side effects, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure these drugs do not cause any harm when you take them along with other medicines. Never stop taking your medication and never change your dose or frequency without consulting your doctor.


Generic and brand names of endocrine diagnostics include:


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