Objective. The insulin tolerance test (ITT) is the gold standard endocrine test used to assess the integrity of the growth hormone (GH) and cortisol axes. The ITT has potential risks, and severe hypoglycaemia may necessitate intravenous glucose rescue. There is no clear consensus as to the optimal insulin dose for the ITT. Therefore, we sought to compare the standard dose (0.15 U/kg) and a low-dose ITT (0.1 U/kg). Design. Single-centre audit of ITT data (2012-2021). Patients and Measurements. Patients who underwent an ITT to assess possible GH deficiency/adrenal insufficiency were included. Glucose, GH, and cortisol were measured at baseline and 30, 45, 60, 90, and 120 minutes following I.V. insulin bolus (0.15 U/kg or 0.10 U/kg). Results. Of the ITTs performed, only 3/177 (1.7%) did not achieve adequate hypoglycaemia (≤2.2 mmol/L) with a single insulin dose. In total, 174 patients (43.5 ± 12.1 yrs, mean ± standard deviation) were included for analysis (0.15 U/kg: n = 113, 0.10 U/kg: n = 61). All 174 subjects had adequate hypoglycaemia regardless of baseline fasting blood glucose level or insulin dose. Neither nadir glucose nor glucose delta (i.e., baseline minus nadir) differed between insulin doses. Trends in both cortisol and GH responses over time were similar between groups, and a greater proportion of patients receiving the standard dose had an adequate cortisol response (77/106 (72.6%) vs. 32/60 (53.3%), p=0.01). The rates of glucose rescue did not differ in a subset of 79 patients, with on-demand glucose rescue in 4/35 (11%) for the standard dose and 2/44 (5%) for the low dose (p=0.25). Conclusions. Our results suggest that the low-dose ITT produces comparable glucose, cortisol, and GH responses to the higher dose. Given the risks associated with hypoglycaemia, the low dose appears to be preferable to the standard dose ITT in most circumstances.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7360282
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Endocrinology
Early online date8 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Insulin tolerance test
  • growth hormone
  • glucose
  • Response


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