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Acute Adrenal Insufficiency May Affect Outcome in the Trauma Patient

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Acute adrenal insufficiency in the trauma patient is underrecognized and the impact poorly understood. Our hypothesis was that the identification and treatment of acute adrenal insufficiency reduces mortality in trauma patients. Institutional Review Board approval for the retrospective review of a prospective database from a Level 1 trauma center for 2002 to 2004 was obtained. The study population included patients receiving a cosyntropin stimulation test (250 μg) and/or random cortisol level based on our practice management guideline and an intensive care unit stay longer than 24 hours. Demographic, acuity, and outcome data were collected. The nonresponders had baseline cortisol levels less than 20 μg/dL or poststimulation rise less than 9 μg/dL. Independent t tests and χ2 statistics were used. One hundred thirty-seven patients had cosyntropin stimulation tests performed. Eighty-two (60%) patients were nonresponders of which 66 were treated with hydrocortisone and 16 went untreated as a result of the discretion of the attending physician. The 55 (40%) responders showed no statistical differences in outcome variables whether or not they received hydrocortisone. The untreated adrenal-insufficient patients had significantly higher mortality, longer hospital length of stay, intensive care unit days, and ventilator-free days. Conclusions were: 1) treatment of acute adrenal insufficiency reduces mortality by almost 50 per cent in the trauma patient; and 2) acute adrenal insufficiency recognized by low random cortisol levels or nonresponse to a stimulation tests should be considered for treatment.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 April 2009

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