Parathyroid hormone (PTH) blood test

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Definition

The PTH test measures the level of parathyroid hormone in the blood.

PTH stands for parathyroid hormone. It is a protein hormone released by the parathyroid gland.

A laboratory test can be done to measure the amount of PTH in your blood.

Alternative Names

Parathormone; Parathormone (PTH) intact molecule

How the Test is Performed

A blood sample is needed. For information on how this is done, see: Venipuncture

How to Prepare for the Test

Ask your health care provider if you should stop eating or drinking for some period of time before the test. Most often, you will not need to fast or stop drinking.

How the Test will Feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing or slight bruising. This soon goes away.

Why the Test is Performed

Parathyroid hormone (PTH) is released by the parathyroid glands. The four tiny parathyroid glands are located in the neck, near or attached to the back side of the thyroid gland. PTH controls calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D levels in the blood. It is important for regulating bone growth. Your health care provider may order this test if:

  • You have a high calcium level or low phosphorus level in your blood.
  • You have severe osteoporosis that cannot be explained or does not respond to treatment.

To help understand whether your parathyroid hormone level is normal, your doctor will measure your blood calcium at the same time.

Normal Results

Normal values are 10 to 55 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL).

Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different specimens. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

What Abnormal Results Mean

A higher-than-normal level may occur with:

  • Disorders that increase phosphate or phosphorous levels in the blood, such as chronic kidney disease
  • Failure of the body to respond to parathyroid hormone (pseudohypoparathyroidism)
  • Lack of calcium, which may be due to not eating enough calcium, not absorbing calcium in the gut, or losing too much calcium in your urine
  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding (uncommon)
  • Swelling in the parathyroid glands, called primary hyperparathyroidism
  • Tumors in the parathyroid gland, called adenomas
  • Vitamin D disorders, including not enough sunlight in older adults and problems absorbing, breaking down, and using vitamin D in the body

A lower-than-normal level may occur with:

Other conditions for which the test may be ordered include:

Risks

Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight, but may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

Considerations

References

Bringhurst FR, Demay MB, Kronenberg HM. Hormones and disorders of mineral metabolism. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 28.

Wysolmerski JJ, Insogna KL. The parathyroid glands, hypercalcemia, and hypocalcemia. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 253.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 11/7/2013
  • Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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This page was last updated: April 14, 2014

         
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