24 December 2020
Diagnosis of pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID) is problematic because of large variations in ACTH concentrations.
Compare the test characteristics of baseline and post–thyrotropin‐releasing hormone (TRH) stimulation plasma ACTH concentrations in horses using diagnostic cutoff values (DCOVs) and reference intervals (RIs) and determine the clinical consequences of using each method.
Prospective case‐controlled study. Horses underwent monthly TRH stimulation tests. Diagnostic cutoff values were determined monthly by receiver operating characteristic curves using the Youden index. Reference intervals were determined monthly by a robust method. For each case age, sex and body condition score (BCS) were recorded.
Baseline ACTH concentrations varied by month ( P < .001) with significant “month × age” ( P = .003), “month × sex” ( P = .003), and “month × BCS” ( P = .007) effects. Baseline ACTH concentrations were accurate to diagnose PPID (0.91 ± 0.06) with DCOVs increasing the test sensitivity (0.61 ± 0.21 to 0.87 ± 0.05, P = .002) and RI increasing test specificity (0.85 ± 0.12 to 0.98 ± 0.01, P = .01). Thyrotropin‐releasing hormone stimulation improved test accuracy (0.91 ± 0.06 to 0.97 ± 0.03, P = .004).
ACTH concentrations follow a circannual rhythm and vary with physiological factors. As using DCOVs increases the ability to detect mild cases and using RI decreases the risk of unnecessary treatments, ACTH concentrations should be interpreted within a specific clinical context. The TRH stimulation test improves the diagnosis of PPID.