Antidiuretic Hormone (ADH) Test

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Antidiuretic Hormone (ADH) Test


Antidiuretic hormone (ADH) test, also called the Vasopressin test, is a test for the antidiuretic hormone, which is released from the pituitary gland and acts on the kidneys to increase their reabsorption of water into the blood.


An ADH test is used to aid in the diagnosis of diabetes insipidus or the syndrome of inappropriate ADH called SIADH.


Certain drugs can either increase or decrease ADH levels. Drugs that increase ADH levels include acetaminophen, barbiturates, cholinergic agents, estrogen, nicotine, oral hypoglycemia agents, some diuretics (e.g., thiazides), cyclophosphamide, narcotics, and tricyclic antidepressants. Drugs that decrease ADH levels include alcohol, beta-adrenergic agents, morphine antagonists, and phenytoin (Dilantin).


The purpose of ADH is to control the amount of water reabsorbed by the kidneys. Water is continually being taken into the body in food and drink, as well as being produced by chemical reactions in cells. Water is also continually lost in urine, sweat, feces, and in the breath as water vapor. ADH release helps maintain the optimum amount of water in the body when there is an increase in the concentration of the blood serum or a decrease in blood volume. Physical stress, surgery, and high levels of anxiety can also stimulate ADH.

Various factors can affect ADH production, thereby disturbing the body's water balance. For example, alcohol consumption reduces ADH production by direct action on the brain, resulting in a temporarily increased production of urine. This may also occur in diabetes insipidus, when the pituitary gland produces insufficient ADH, or rarely, when the kidneys fail to respond to ADH. The reverse effect of water retention can result from temporarily increased ADH production after a major operation or accident. Water retention may also be caused by the secretion of ADH by some tumors, especially of the lung.


The test requires collection of a blood sample. The patient must be fasting (nothing to eat or drink) for 12 hours, be adequately hydrated, and limit physical activity for 10-12 hours before the test.


Risks for this test are minimal, but may include slight bleeding from the blood-drawing site, fainting or feeling lightheaded after venipuncture, or hematoma (blood accumulating under the puncture site).

Normal results

ADH normal ranges are laboratory-specific but can range from 1-5 pg/ml or 1.5 ng/L (SI units).

Abnormal results

Patients who are dehydrated, who have a decreased amount of blood in the body (hypovolemia), or who are undergoing severe physical stress (e.g., trauma, pain or prolonged mechanical ventilation) may exhibit increased ADH levels. Patients who are overly hydrated or who have an increased amount of blood in the body (hypervolemia) may have decreased ADH levels.

Other conditions that cause increased levels include SIADH, central nervous system tumors or infection, or pneumonia.



Pagana, Kathleen Deska. Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests. St. Louis: Mosby, Inc., 1998.


Diabetes insipidus A metabolic disorder in which the pituitary gland produces inadequate amounts of antidiuretic hormone (ADH) or the kidneys are unable to respond to release of the hormone. Primary symptoms are excessive urination and constant thirst.

Pituitary gland The pituitary gland is sometimes referred to as the "master gland." As the most important of the endocrine glands (glands which release hormones directly into the bloodstream), it regulates and controls not only the activities of other endocrine glands but also many body processes.