What’s a glucagon test?

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A glucagon test measures the amount of glucagon in a patient’s blood to check for malfunctioning pancreatic or pituitary glands. Patients may need to fast before the test, and normal results show 50 to 100 picograms per milliliter of the hormone. Other hormone tests may also be requested.

A glucagon test is a laboratory test to measure the amount of glucagon, a hormone produced by the pancreas, in a patient’s blood. A doctor may order this test when there is a suspicion that the pancreatic or pituitary gland is malfunctioning to learn more about a patient’s hormone levels. Patients may need to fast before the test and the doctor will provide more information on how to prepare for the glucagon test in cases where this is necessary. Test results can take several hours or days, depending on where the test is performed.

The pancreas uses glucagon to control blood sugar. When blood sugar levels drop, the pancreas produces more of this hormone, causing the liver to release stored glucose into the bloodstream to stabilize blood sugar levels. A patient with low blood sugar, warning signs of diabetes, or unusual weight loss may be a candidate for a glucagon test. A doctor may also order it if they suspect a patient’s pituitary gland isn’t working properly, as this will impact pancreatic function.

In the test, a nurse or technician takes a blood sample for analysis in the laboratory. With a fasting glucagon test, the patient cannot eat or drink right before the test, to get a sample of the hormone level when blood sugar is low and the hormone should be high. Nurses can conduct a series of tests after offering food to the patient to see how levels change in response to eating sugar in the diet. This test can be uncomfortable, as low blood sugar can make patients feel irritable, restless, or tired.

Normal glucagon test results will show 50 to 100 picograms per milliliter of this hormone. It is important to be aware that different laboratories use their own references and that results may vary between laboratories. If the test is repeated, it is recommended that it be performed at the same laboratory facility. Otherwise, variations between results may be attributable to different reference samples and laboratory techniques, rather than an actual change in the patient’s condition.

At the same time a doctor requests a glucagon test, they may also ask the patient to consider other tests for hormones such as insulin, depending on the reason for the test. This will require further blood samples to be taken. As always when a lab test is ordered, if a patient is unsure why the test was requested, they can ask for clarification and discuss the purpose of the test, possible results and what the next step in treatment might be. depending on the nature of the results.

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