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Baseline and Peak Cortisol Response to the Low-Dose Short Synacthen Test Relates to Indication for Testing, Age, and Sex.


Context: Meta-analyses report that the low dose short Synacthen test (LDSST) is more sensitive but less specific than the standard dose test for the diagnosis of adrenal insufficiency, and there are concerns regarding the accuracy of dosing in the LDSST.

Objective: Perform a retrospective, observational study to review the outcomes of LDSSTs performed in a tertiary endocrine service from 2008 to 2014 (N = 335) and 2016 to 2020 (N = 160), and examine for relationships between cortisol measurements and indication for testing, age and sex.

Methods: LDSST were performed by endocrine nurses. Synacthen 500 ng/1.73m2 administered as IV bolus, sampling at 0, 15, 25, and 35 minutes.

Results: Mean (+/- 1SD) baseline cortisol was 221 +/- 120 nmol/L, peak 510 +/- 166 nmol/L and increment 210 +/- 116 nmol/L. 336 (70%) patients had a normal response (baseline cortisol >100 nmol/L, peak >450 nmol/L), 78 (16%) a suboptimal response (peak cortisol 350-450 nmol/L) and were prescribed hydrocortisone to during periods of stress only, 67 (14%) an abnormal response (baseline <100nmol/L or peak <350nmol/L) and were prescribed daily hydrocortisone. Basal, peak, and incremental increases in cortisol were higher in females (P =.03, P <.001, P =.03, respectively). Abnormal results occurred most frequently in patients treated previously with pharmacological doses of glucocorticoids or structural brain abnormalities (P <.001).

Conclusion: The low prevalence and strong association of abnormal results with indication for testing, suggests that over diagnosis occurred infrequently in this clinical setting.

Acceptance Date Mar 14, 2022
Publication Date Jun 1, 2022
Journal Journal of the Endocrine Society
Print ISSN 2472-1972
Publisher Oxford University Press
Pages bvac043 - ?
Keywords adrenal; Synacthen; hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis testing; HPA; low-dose short Synacthen test; hydrocortisone
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