Performance of Total Testosterone Measurement to Predict Free Testosterone for the Biochemical Evaluation of Male Hypogonadism
Anawalt BD, Hotaling JM, Walsh TJ, Matsumoto AM. J Urol. 2012 Feb 15. [Epub ahead of print]


Departments of Medicine, University of Washington and Geriatric Research, Seattle, Washington.



Guidelines recommend serum total testosterone measurement as the initial test to evaluate male hypogonadism, reserving free testosterone assessment for men with suspected sex hormone-binding globulin abnormalities or total testosterone near the lower limit of normal. We determined the performance of total testosterone measurement as a test to identify men with normal vs low free testosterone.


We examined the electronic medical records of all 3,672 men evaluated for hypogonadism by a serum testosterone panel, including total testosterone, sex hormone-binding globulin, albumin and calculated free testosterone, from January 1, 1997 through December 31, 2007 in a network that serves veterans in Washington.


The sensitivity and specificity of low total testosterone (less than 280 ng/dl) to rule out and predict low calculated free testosterone was 91.0% and 73.7%, respectively. At thresholds of less than 350 and less than 400 ng/dl the sensitivity of total testosterone for low calculated free testosterone increased to 96.8% and 98.2%, and at thresholds of less than 150 and less than 200 ng/dl specificity increased to 98.9% and 92.6%, respectively.


Total testosterone between 280 and 350 ng/dl is not sensitive enough to reliably exclude hypogonadism. Total testosterone must exceed 350 to 400 ng/dl to reliably predict normal free testosterone. Except when levels are less than 150 ng/dl total testosterone measurement has low specificity for the biochemical diagnosis of hypogonadism.