Endocrine Abstracts (2017) 51 OC2.2 | DOI: 10.1530/endoabs.51.OC2.2

Evolving primary adrenal insufficiency masked by adrenal suppression from long-term steroid treatment

Pooja Vasista & Savitha Shenoy


Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester, UK.


Introduction: Adrenal suppression secondary to long-term steroid therapy is a known risk and this can mask the evolution of primary adrenal insufficiency.

Case report: A 6 years old girl with background of recurrent oral ulcers (probable mucocutaneous Behcet’s), Alpha-1-Antitrypsin deficiency, Bronchiectasis, on long-term oral Prednisolone treatment, was noted to have hyponatraemia (Na=122 mmol/l) and hyperkalaemia (K=6.6 mmol/l) during an inter-current illness and referred to the local Endocrine team. Clinically, she was noted to have Cushingoid features with significant growth concerns. Investigations confirmed Adrenal Insufficiency likely secondary to adrenal suppression due to long-term Prednisolone (Hydrocortisone (HC) equivalent dose of 30 mg/m2 per day). Following MDT discussion, it was agreed to change Prednisolone to HC with intention of slowly weaning off steroid whilst managing oral ulcers with non-steroidal preparation. Electrolytes normalised on HC. 4 months later, while on weaning dose of HC (=15 mg/m2 per d), she was noted to have hyponatraemia (Na=129 mmol/l) and hyperkalaemia (K=6.1 mmol/l) during a diarrhoea episode which failed to correct despite stress doses of HC. She was commenced on Fludrocortisone (FC) and electrolytes normalised within 24 hours. 2 months later, whilst on weaning regime HC (8 mg/m2 per d) and FC, repeat investigations were in keeping with Primary Adrenal Insufficiency (see table). She continues HC and FC replacement doses and remains well.

Table summarising the results:

Nov-16Mar-17Jun-17
HC Dose (mg/m2 per d)30158
Sodium (mmol/l)129129140
Potassium (mmol/l)6.66.14.7
Renin (mIU/l)538sample insufficient305.9
Aldosterone (pmol/l)95<55
ACTH (ng/l)8498
Low dose synacthen test
0 min (nmol/l)250<25
20 min (nmol/l)205<25
30 min (nmol/l)219<25
Adrenal antibodyNegative
USS abdomenNormal
ManagementWeaning HCFC commencedContinue FC and HC

Discussion: This case highlights that evolving primary adrenal insufficiency can be masked by adrenal suppression from long-term steroid treatment. Need for mineralocorticoid supplement whilst on HC in a case treated for adrenal suppression was the first clue which alerted of the possibility of primary adrenal insufficiency as the underlying diagnosis.

Article tools

My recent searches

No recent searches.