The recovery time of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis after curative resection of adrenal tumors in patients with Cushing's syndrome is poorly documented. Eight consecutive patients were treated with a standardized hydrocortisone replacement strategy after curative resection of a cortisol-secreting tumor and the time to recovery of the HPA axis was determined. Hypercortisolism was documented by elevated 24-hour urinary free cortisol levels. Cure was documented by undetectable postoperative morning serum cortisol levels. Each patient received replacement hydrocortisone after surgery and was reevaluated every 3 to 6 months with an adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) stimulation test. Each patient was also monitored carefully for symptoms and signs of adrenal insufficiency, which was defined as symptoms consistent with this diagnosis that responded to increases in hydrocortisone levels. After surgical resection, each patient was cured of hypercortisolism. Subsequently, despite replacement hydrocortisone, each patient had symptoms of hypocortisolism, and in four of eight patients the dose of hydrocortisone was increased to relieve the symptoms. Patients required a median time of 15 months (range, 9 to 22 months) to recover a normal ACTH stimulation test and 19 months (range, 12 to 24 months) to allow discontinuation of replacement doses of hydrocortisone. The results suggest that surgical resection of a cortisol-secreting adrenal tumor will result in rapid cure of hypercortisolism, but complete recovery of the HPA axis and discontinuation of replacement steroids will require between 1 and 2 years. Normal adrenal function, as assessed by the cortisol response to ACTH, returns despite replacement doses of hydrocortisone, and replacement doses of hydrocortisone can be tapered rapidly or discontinued after a normal ACTH stimulation test.
View details for Web of Science ID A1990EL87300022
View details for PubMedID 2247834