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Endocr J. 2009;56(3):469-76. Epub 2009 Feb 18.

Evaluation of diagnostic tests for ACTH-dependent Cushing's syndrome.

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  • 1Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Hirosaki University Graduate School of Medicine, Aomori, Japan.


We evaluated the usefulness and accuracy of diagnostic tests for adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)- dependent Cushing's syndrome, based on our experience of 88 cases, including 73 cases with Cushing's disease, and 15 cases with ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS). In our study, 0.5 mg of dexamethasone failed to suppress the morning cortisol secretion in 100% of cases with Cushing's disease and EAS. Plasma ACTH levels were significantly increased by desmopressin (DDAVP) in 86% of cases with Cushing's disease, especially in microadenomas (90%), while these levels were not affected in normal subjects. In EAS, 44% responded to DDAVP. Plasma ACTH levels were increased in response to the human corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) test in 100% of microadenomas and 73% of macroadenomas with Cushing's disease, but only in 27% of cases with EAS. A high dose (8 mg) of dexamethasone suppressed the morning cortisol secretion in 89% of microadenomas with Cushing's disease, and in 82% of all cases with Cushing's disease, while it did in only 20% of cases with EAS. Taken together, the 0.5 mg dexamethasone suppression test (DST) and DDAVP test are considerably useful for the screening of ACTH-dependent Cushing's syndrome. The CRH test and 8 mg DST would be effective for the diagnosis of Cushing's diseases, because our study shows a sensitivity of 81% in cases with Cushing's disease when these tests are considered together. These data were submitted to prepare the diagnostic criteria for Cushing's disease, suggested by the working group of the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare of Japan.

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