Adrenal axis function does not appear to be associated with hemodynamic improvement in septic shock patients systematically receiving glucocorticoid therapy

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Abstract

Objective:

There is mounting evidence showing the value of low-dose corticosteroids in patients with septic shock requiring vasopressor therapy. It remains unclear whether adrenal function tests should be carried out systematically to guide the decision on glucocorticoid therapy.

Methods:

The retrospective study was conducted in 52 patients in three university hospital ICUs. We included consecutive patients with catecholamine-dependent septic shock who had not received ketoconazole, glucocorticoids, or etomidate in the 24 h before the ACTH test, and who had survived to day 3 after the shock onset. All patients had a 250-μg ACTH test before systematic glucocorticoid therapy was started. Various definitions of relative adrenal insufficiency were used (based on cortisol basal level and/or change in cortisol level after ACTH stimulation). We defined hemodynamic improvement as a 50% reduction in the vasoactive agent dose in the 3 days following the initiation of glucocorticoid treatment. The relationship between the hemodynamic improvement and the results of the adrenal function tests was analyzed.

Results:

Hemodynamic improvement occurred in 29 patients (55.8%). Baseline characteristics, sites of infection, types of micro-organisms and antibiotic management did not differ between patients with and those without hemodynamic improvement. Relative adrenal insufficiency whatever the definition was not associated with hemodynamic improvement.

Conclusion:

In catecholamine-dependent septic shock patients managed with systematic glucocorticoid therapy the results of ACTH stimulation do not predict hemodynamic improvement.

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