A glucagon blood test measures the amount of a hormone called glucagon in your blood. Glucagon is produced by cells in the pancreas. It helps control your blood sugar level by increasing blood sugar when it is too low.
How the Test is Performed
How to Prepare for the Test
Your health care provider will tell you if you need to fast (not eat anything) for a period of time before the test.
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 a slight bruise. This soon goes away.
Why the Test is Performed
Glucagon stimulates the liver to release glucose. As the level of blood sugar decreases, the pancreas releases more glucagon. And as blood sugar increases, the pancreas releases less glucagon.
The provider may measure glucagon level if a person has symptoms of:
- Glucagonoma (rare tumor of the pancreas) with symptoms of a skin rash called necrotizing migratory erythema, weight loss, mild diabetes, anemia, stomatitis, glossitis
- Growth hormone deficiency in children
- Liver cirrhosis (scarring of the liver and poor liver function)
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- Multiple endocrine neoplasia type I (disease in which one or more of the endocrine glands are overactive or form a tumor)
- Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
The normal range is 50 to 100 pg/mL.
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.
What Abnormal Results Mean
Abnormal results may indicate that the person may have a condition described above under Why the Test Is Performed.
Glucagon can be increased by prolonged fasting.
Veins vary in size from one person 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)
Salwen MJ, Siddiqi HA, Gress FG, Bowne WB. Laboratory diagnosis of gastrointestinal and pancreatic disorders. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 22.
Update Date 10/25/2014
Updated by: Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.