Glucocorticoid induced adrenal insufficiency is common in steroid treated glomerular diseases - proposed strategy for screening and management

Alvin H K Karangizi, May Al-Shaghana, Sarah Logan, Sherwin Criseno, Rachel Webster, Kristien Boelaert, Peter Hewins, Lorraine Harper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: Glucocorticoids (GCs) are frequently used to treat glomerular diseases but are associated with multiple adverse effects including hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis inhibition that can lead to adrenal insufficiency (AI) on withdrawal. There is no agreed GC tapering strategy to minimise this risk.

METHODS: This is a single centre retrospective study, between 2013 to 2016, of patients with glomerular disease on GC therapy for more than 3 months screened for GC induced AI with short synacthen stimulation tests (SSTs) done prior to complete GC withdrawal. We investigated the prevalence of AI, predictors, choice of screening tool and recovery.

RESULTS: Biochemical evidence of GC induced AI was found in 57 (46.3%) patients. Total duration of GC did not differ between those with and without AI (p = 0.711). Patients with GC induced AI had a significantly lower pre-synacthen baseline cortisol as compared to patients without AI. A cut off pre-synacthen baseline cortisol of ≥223.5 nmol/l had a specificity of 100% for identifying individuals without biochemical AI. Patients with GC induced AI took a mean of 8.7 ± 4.6 months (mean ± SD) to recover. Patients with persistent AI had a significantly lower index post-synacthen cortisol measurement.

CONCLUSIONS: We demonstrate that biochemically proven GC induced AI is common in patients with glomerular diseases, is not predicted by daily dose or duration and takes a considerable time to recover. The study supports the use of morning basal cortisol testing as an appropriate means to avoid the need for SSTs in all patients and should be performed in all patients prior to consideration of GC withdrawal after 3 months duration.

Original languageEnglish
Article number154
JournalBMC Nephrology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2019


  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Cortisol
  • Medication
  • Renal disease
  • Screening
  • Short synacthen test
  • Steroids


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