Adrenocortical function in patients with macrometastases of the adrenal gland

A Lutz, M Stojkovic, M Schmidt, W Arlt, B Allolio, M Reincke

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31 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: Metastases of the adrenal gland are a frequent finding in patients with malignant tumors like bronchogenic carcinoma or breast cancer. Only limited and conflicting data on adrenocortical function in these patients are available.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional study.

METHODS: We investigated the impact of adrenal macrometastases on adrenocortical function in a series of 28 tumor patients using the ACTH(1-24) stimulation test and dexamethasone suppression test. Seven normal controls (Con), eleven patients without adrenal metastases (No Met), eight patients with unilateral (Uni Met) and nine patients with bilateral adrenal metastases (Bil Met) were investigated.

RESULTS: The prevalence of adrenal insufficiency was low in our study population, with only two of nine patients with bilateral metastases having subclinical adrenocortical insufficiency. In the remaining patients with uni- or bilateral metastases, baseline and stimulated cortisol concentrations were higher than in controls and cancer patients without metastases (baseline cortisol (in nmol/l): Con: 307+/-33.2 vs Uni Met: 440+/-53.5, and Bil Met: 637.6+/-92.1, P=0.04 by ANOVA; cortisol 60 min after ACTH(1-24): Con: 794.6+/-41.2 vs Uni Met: 990.8+/-92.9, and Bil Met: 1151.4+/-155.5, P=0.03 by ANOVA). Simultaneously, baseline and stimulated serum aldosterone concentrations were significantly blunted in the tumor groups.

CONCLUSIONS: Adrenal insufficiency is infrequent and develops only in patients with bilateral metastases. However, the majority of patients have activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis despite adrenal metastases with strongly elevated cortisol concentrations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-7
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Endocrinology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2000


  • Adrenal Cortex
  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aldosterone
  • Cosyntropin
  • Dexamethasone
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


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