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Endocr Connect. 2012 Aug 30;1(2):62-7. doi: 10.1530/EC-12-0047. Print 2012 Nov 1.

Association between posttest dexamethasone and cortisol concentrations in the 1 mg overnight dexamethasone suppression test.

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  • 1Department of Endocrinology St Olavs Hospital, Trondheim University Hospital P O Box 3250 Sluppen, N-7006, Trondheim Norway ; Department of Public Health Norwegian University of Science and Technology N-7491, Trondheim Norway.


It has been suggested that comparison of posttest dexamethasone and cortisol concentrations may improve the evaluation of the dexamethasone suppression test (DST) for Cushing's syndrome. In particular, this would be reasonable if posttest cortisol differs by dexamethasone levels within the range that is usually attained in the DST. Using fractional polynomial regression, we therefore studied the association between posttest 0800 h dexamethasone and cortisol levels in 53 subjects without Cushing's syndrome who were tested with the 1 mg overnight DST. Plasma dexamethasone was associated with plasma cortisol (P<0.001), and the regression line suggested a strong negative association related to dexamethasone levels <5 nmol/l. However, among the 94% of subjects with plasma dexamethasone >5.0 nmol/l, there was no association between dexamethasone and cortisol levels (P=0.55). In conclusion, subjects tested with the 1 mg overnight DST usually attain an 0800 h plasma dexamethasone >5 nmol/l, and plasma cortisol does not differ by plasma dexamethasone in these subjects. This suggests that routine comparison of dexamethasone and cortisol levels may not be a useful approach to improve the performance of the 1 mg DST. However, dexamethasone measurements may identify subjects with inadequately low plasma dexamethasone and may therefore be of value when retesting subjects with possibly false-positive DST results.


Cushing's syndrome; cortisol; dexamethasone; dexamethasone suppression test

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