Vol 56, No 6 (2005)
Review paper
Published online: 2006-06-26

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Hiperprolactinaemia - pitfalls in PRL assessment

Wojciech Zgliczyński, Piotr Zdunowski
Endokrynol Pol 2005;56(6):980-985.


Prolactin (PRL) is one of the most commonly assessed hormones, and hyperprolactinaemia seems to be often endocrine disorder. Hyperprolactinaemia is not a disease, but only a symptom indicating relevant medical conditions to be diagnosed and properly treated. Laboratory findings should be always cautiously interpreted with reference to clinical context. Possible problems could be evoked by errors during sampling and assessment itself. While interpreting laboratory results, one have to pay attention on pulsate secretion profile of PRL (within hours), and shows marked diurnal cycle (with maximum during sleep period). PRL level depends also on emotional status (stress amplifies PRL secretion), and also on dietary habits and stimulants. Lastly, a grooving body of evidence proven that in some cases elevated PRL level could be caused by presence of polymeric form of PRL – so called “macroprolactin”. This form has diminished receptor-binding specificity and weak, if any, biological effect while immunoreactivity is preserved. In clinical practice, in cases of macroprolactinaemia high level of circulating hormone does not correlate with slight, if even, clinical symptoms. To avoid errors in prolactin assessment blood should be drawn fasting, preferentially in series or during dynamic test after dopaminergic blockade with metoclopramide. Interpretation must parallel include clinical data. It is essential that PRL level is proportional to pituitary lactotroph tumor size. Extremely high PRL concentration could exceed technical capability of laboratory equipment and remain underestimated, or even undiagnosed. Beneath presented algorithm could be useful in planning diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.

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