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Metabolism. 1979 Sep;28(9):955-77.

Cushing's syndrome: a review of diagnostic tests.


This review presents an analysis and interpretation of the published experimental data that form the basis for laboratory tests commonly used for screening, definitive diagnosis, and differential diagnosis in Cushing's syndrome. The single-dose overnight dexamethasone suppression test is excellent for screening outpatients since this test has a very low incidence of false-negative results (1.9% of 154 patients with Cushing's syndrome). The definitive diagnosis of Cushing's syndrome is best established by combining basal state measurements of the daily urine-free cortisol excretion and late evening plasma cortisol levels with the 2-mg low-dose dexamethasone suppression test. The etiology of Cushing's syndrome is best determined by combining measurements of basal state plasma adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) levels with the 8-mg high-dose dexamethasone suppression test. Under certain conditions, the basal state daily urine excretion of 17-hydroxycorticosteroids and 17-ketogenic steroids, the insulin tolerance test, and the metyrapone test may be useful in the definitive or differential diagnosis of Cushing's syndrome.

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