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Minerva Endocrinologica 2004 December;29(4):207-24


language: English, Italian

Current diagnostic guidelines for biochemical diagnosis of acromegaly

Ferone D., Resmini E., Bocca L., Giusti M., Barreca A., Minuto F.


Acromegaly is a rare and chronic disease that, in the majority of cases, is due to the presence of a benign growth hormone (GH)-producing tumor of the pituitary. In the past, the diagnosis of acromegaly was established basically on physical changes, and only the patients with a severe clinical picture were brought to medical attention. The development of a radioimmunoassay for detecting GH allowed for the first time to confirm the diagnosis biochemically. Subsequently, methods for measuring insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-I) became available and added another important biochemical marker for the diagnosis and follow-up of these patients. Progressive improvements in assay methods have allowed for progressively better definitions of normality and, as a result, have permitted the diagnosis to be biochemically established in patients with only mild forms of the disease. Moreover, new potential markers of disease activity, such as other GH-dependent IGF system parameters, have been investigated and proposed in the diagnostic work-up and for monitoring the therapeutic outcome. Optimal assessment of disease activity, for both diagnostic and follow-up purposes, is mandatory. This subject has been strongly debated regarding proper cut-off values using highly sensitive GH assays as well as the problems linked to IGF system components measurement. Consequently, several consensus reports, as well as original studies, have been issued giving special attention to diagnostic procedures, cut-off revisions and definition of disease activity. The present review discuss principally the biochemical diagnosis of acromegaly based on these articles and on the experience collected in an endocrinological unit considered as reference center for pituitary diseases.

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