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Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 1999 Jul;51(1):67-71.

Salivary cortisol for screening of Cushing's syndrome in children.

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Departments of Paediatrics and Medicine, Faculty of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto-USP, Brazil.



Cushing's syndrome (CS) is characterized by changes in diurnal cortisol variation and total or partial resistance to cortisol suppression by dexamethasone (DEX). Diagnosing CS is a challenge especially in childhood and requires differentiation from primary obesity. The aim was verify the efficacy of salivary cortisol in differentiating primary obesity from CS in children.


We studied 11 patients with CS confirmed by standard laboratory investigation and surgical findings aged 1-16 years, and 21 age-matched primary obese controls. Salivary samples were collected at 0900 h, 2300 h, and after an overnight DEX suppression test (20 microg/kg up to 1 mg). Salivary cortisol was measured by RIA.


Diurnal variation of salivary cortisol levels was observed in all controls, as opposed to only 5 of 11 patients with CS. Suppression of salivary cortisol was detected in all controls but in no CS patient after the overnight DEX test. Mean salivary cortisol levels were higher in the CS than in the control group both at 2300 hours and at 0900 hours after DEX but no difference was observed at 0900 hours of the first day. The sensitivity and specificity of salivary cortisol at 0900 h, 2300 hours and after-DEX in diagnosing CS were 27% and 95.2%, 100% and 95. 2%, and 100% and 95.2%, respectively. Sensitivity and specificity of 100% were obtained by combining the data for 2300 hours and after-DEX.


The combination of salivary cortisol determination at 2300 hours and after-Dexamethasone is an easily performed and noninvasive method with high specificity and sensitivity for diagnosing Cushing's syndrome in children.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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