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Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 1991 Dec;35(6):509-17.

Insulin secretion, insulin sensitivity and glucose-mediated glucose disposal in Cushing's disease: a minimal model analysis.

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  • 1Endocrine Unit, St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria.



We wished to assess the contributions of insulin secretion, insulin sensitivity and glucose-mediated glucose disposal to glucose tolerance in subjects exposed to chronic glucocorticoid excess.


Patients with Cushing's disease were subjected to a frequently sampled intravenous glucose tolerance test before and at least 3 months after curative surgery and compared to a control group.


Seven patients with clinical and biochemically proven pituitary dependent Cushing's disease and 10 healthy control subjects were studied.


Paired glucose and insulin plasma profiles were analysed by the Minimal Model method of Bergman, which provided simultaneous estimates of the glucose decay rate, insulin secretion, insulin sensitivity and glucose-mediated and non-insulin-mediated glucose disposal. Data were evaluated by non-parametric statistical analysis and reported as median and interquartile ranges.


Basal glucose, insulin, C-peptide and glucagon levels were significantly raised preoperatively and fell towards normal post-operatively. Glucose tolerance assessed as glucose decay rate was reduced significantly preoperatively (pre: 1.3 (0.8-2.0) vs post: 1.6 (1.5-2.6) per min x 10(2), P less than 0.05). First phase insulin release was similar in the Cushing's disease and control subjects. In contrast, second phase insulin release was significantly greater preoperatively and remained high post-operatively compared to control subjects (pre: 18.8 (16.7-23.6) vs post: 16.7 (8.5-18.8) vs control 11.1 (4.5-15.4) mU/g/min2 x 10(-2), P less than 0.002). Median insulin sensitivity was reduced by 60% preoperatively in the Cushing's disease subjects compared to the post-operative Cushing's disease and control subjects (pre: 2.1 (1.3-4.2) vs post: 5.0 (3.2-7.3) vs control 5.1 (2.2-7.2) per min/mU/l x 10(4)). Median glucose-mediated glucose disposal was reduced by 40% in the pre and post-operative Cushing's disease subjects compared to the control group (pre: 1.1 (0.6-2.1) vs post: 1.1 (0.6-2.1) vs control 1.9 (1.4-2.6) per min x 10(2)), but this was not statistically significant. However, non-insulin-mediated glucose disposal was significantly reduced in the preoperative Cushing's disease subjects (pre: 0.55 (0.08-1.59) vs control 1.43 (0.94-2.27) per min x 10(2), P less than 0.05). In the Cushing's disease subjects, glucose tolerance correlated with both insulin sensitivity (rs = 0.84, P less than 0.01) and non-insulin-mediated glucose disposal (rs = 0.56, P less than 0.05). The fractional clearance rate of insulin was unaltered by Cushing's disease.


Cushing's disease subjects are characterized by impaired glucose tolerance due to both reduced insulin sensitivity and non-insulin-mediated glucose disposal, in the presence of enhanced insulin secretion.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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