Alternative names

The 17-hydroxycorticosteroids test measures the amount of 17-OHCS in urine.

How the test is performed
A 24-hour urine sample is needed.
The health care provider will instruct you, if necessary, to discontinue drugs that may interfere with the test.

  • On day 1, urinate into the toilet when you get up in the morning.  
  • Afterwards, collect all urine in a special container for the next 24 hours.  
  • On day 2, urinate into the container when you get up in the morning.  
  • Cap the container. Keep it in the refrigerator or a cool place during the collection period. Label the container with your name, the date, and the time of completion, and return it as instructed.

Thoroughly wash the area around the urethra. Open a Urine collection bag (a plastic bag with an adhesive paper on one end), and place it on the infant. For males, the entire penis can be placed in the bag and the adhesive attached to the skin. For females, the bag is placed over the labia. Diaper as usual over the secured bag. This procedure may take a couple of attempts - lively infants can displace the bag, causing the specimen to be absorbed by the diaper. The infant should be checked frequently and the bag changed after the infant has urinated into the bag. The urine is drained into the container for transport to the laboratory.

Deliver it to the laboratory or your health care provider as soon as possible upon completion.

The lab analyzes the sample for the amount of 17-OHCS.

How to prepare for the test
The health care provider will instruct you, if necessary, to discontinue drugs that may interfere with the test.

If the collection is being taken from an infant, a couple of extra collection bags may be necessary.

How the test will feel
The test involves only normal urination, and there is no discomfort.

Why the test is performed

Cortisol is a steroid hormone released from the adrenal cortex in response to adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH). Cortisol is then metabolized into inactive products such as 17-OHCS by the liver and other tissues. These inactive products are excreted by the body in the urine. Measurements of 17-OHCS in the urine can be helpful in determining if the body is producing too much cortisol.

Normal Values

Normal values are as follows:

  • Male: 4 to 14 mg/24 hr  
  • Female: 2 to 12 mg/24 hr

Note: mg/24 hr = milligrams per 24 hours

Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories.

What abnormal results mean
Elevated levels of 17-OHCS may indicate:

Elevated levels may also exist with:

  • Obesity  
  • Pregnancy  
  • Severe hypertension  
  • Hydrocortisone therapy

Lower than normal levels of 17-OHCS may indicate:

  • Adrenal hemorrhage  
  • Adrenal insufficiency (suppressed from steroid therapy)  
  • Addison’s disease  
  • Adrenal infarction  
  • Hereditary enzyme deficiency  
  • Hypopituitarism  
  • Surgical removal of the adrenal gland

What the risks are
There are no risks.

Special considerations

Severe emotional or physical stress can affect the result.

Drugs that can increase 17-OHCS measurements include ampicillin and glucocorticoids.

Drugs that can decrease 17-OHCS measurements include: estrogens, oral contraceptives (birth control pills), and dexamethasone.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 8, 2012
by Armen E. Martirosyan, M.D.

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