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Kristina Laugesen, Leonie H.a. Broersen, Simon Bøggild Hansen, Olaf M Dekkers, Henrik Toft Sørensen, and Jens Otto L. Jorgensen

Glucocorticoids are, besides non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the most widely used anti-inflammatory medications. Prevalence studies indicate substantial use of both systemic and locally acting agents. A recognized adverse effect of glucocorticoid treatment is adrenal insufficiency, which is highly prevalent based on biochemical testing, but its clinical implications are poorly understood. Current evidence, including randomized trials and observational studies, indicates substantial variation among patients in both risk and course of glucocorticoid-induced adrenal insufficiency, but both are currently unpredictable. Oral and intra-articular formulations, as well as long-term and high-dose treatments, carry the highest risk of glucocorticoid-induced adrenal insufficiency defined by biochemical tests. However, no route of administration, treatment duration, or dose can be considered without risk. More research is needed to estimate the risk and temporal pattern of glucocorticoid-induced adrenal insufficiency, to investigate its clinical implications, and to identify predictors of risk and prognosis. Randomized trials are required to evaluate whether hydrocortisone replacement therapy mitigates risk and symptoms of glucocorticoid-induced adrenal insufficiency in patients discontinuing glucocorticoid treatment. This review aims to provide an overview of available evidence, pointing to knowledge gaps and unmet needs.

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Femke M van Haalen, Leonie H A Broersen, Jens O Jorgensen, Alberto M Pereira, and Olaf M Dekkers

The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to investigate whether mortality is increased in patients biochemically cured after initial treatment for Cushing's disease. This is a systematic review and meta-analysis of follow-up studies in patients cured from Cushing's disease after initial treatment was performed. Eight electronic databases were searched from 1975 to March 2014 to identify potentially relevant articles. Original articles reporting the standardized mortality ratio (SMR) for patients cured of Cushing's disease were eligible for inclusion. SMRs were pooled in a random effects model. I 2 statistics was used for quantification of heterogeneity. Eight cohort studies with a total of 766 patients were included. Out of eight studies, seven showed an SMR above 1.0 for cured patients. The pooled SMR was 2.5 (95% CI 1.4–4.2). The I 2 statistics showed evidence for statistical heterogeneity (78%, Q-statistics P<0.001), which was largely explained by two outliers. This meta-analysis reveals that mortality remains increased in patients with Cushing's disease even after initial biochemical cure remission, suggesting that cure does not directly reverse the metabolic consequences of long-term overexposure to cortisol. Other conditions such as hypopituitarism, including persistent adrenocortical insufficiency after surgery, may also contribute to the increased mortality risk.

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Leonie H A Broersen, Femke M van Haalen, Tina Kienitz, Olaf M Dekkers, Christian J Strasburger, Alberto M Pereira, and Nienke R Biermasz


Adrenal crisis, the most feared complication of adrenal insufficiency, is a potentially life-threatening state of acute glucocorticoid deficiency. After successful surgery for Cushing’s syndrome, many patients develop (transient) adrenal insufficiency. The incidence of adrenal crisis in patients treated for hypercortisolism is unknown.


Cohort study included consecutive patients with Cushing’s syndrome with adrenal insufficiency after surgery from Leiden and Berlin from 2000 to 2015. We summarized the incidence of adrenal crisis, compared patients with and without adrenal crisis regarding potential risk factors for its occurrence and assessed the effect of better education in time on incidence of adrenal crisis.


We included 106 patients, of whom 19 patients had a total of 41 adrenal crises. There were 9.0 crises per 100 patient-years at risk (95% confidence interval (CI): 6.7–12.0). All crises occurred while on hydrocortisone replacement. The risk ratio for a recurrent crisis was 2.3 (95% CI: 1.2–4.6). No clear change in incidence of adrenal crisis due to better education in time was observed. There was no difference in recurrence rate between patients with, and without any crisis, but patients with adrenal crisis had more often pituitary deficiencies.


The incidence of adrenal crises after treatment for Cushing’s syndrome is substantial, and patients who suffered from an adrenal crisis have higher risk for recurrent crisis. Adrenal crisis tends to present early after remission of Cushing’s syndrome, which is probably the period of severest HPA axis suppression, despite in general higher hydrocortisone replacement doses for withdrawal complaints in this period. Additional pituitary hormone deficiencies may be a risk marker for increased risk of adrenal crisis. However, further risk factor analysis is needed to identify risks for a first crisis. Effective education methods to prevent adrenal crises should be identified and implemented, including stress instructions by trained nursing staff before hospital discharge.