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Crit Care Med. 2003 May;31(5):1382-8.

Adrenocortical hormones in survivors and nonsurvivors of severe sepsis: diverse time course of dehydroepiandrosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate, and cortisol.

Author information

1
Department of Internal Medicine I, University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus, Technical University Dresden, Germany. marx@mk1.med.tu-dresden.de

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Activation and suppression of immune responses are crucial events during sepsis. Based on substantial new data, a complex picture of differential immune-enhancing and immunosuppressive actions of adrenocortical steroids is emerging. The adrenal androgen dehydroepiandrosterone and its precursor, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate, show a considerable decrease with increasing age and serve as functional antagonists to endogenous glucocorticoids. Therefore, we examined time-dependent changes in dehydroepiandrosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate, cortisol, adrenocorticotropin, and inflammatory variables in surviving and nonsurviving patients with severe sepsis.

DESIGN:

Prospective observational study in consecutive patients.

SETTING:

Medical and interdisciplinary intensive care units in two university hospitals and one city hospital.

PATIENTS:

Thirty nonsurgical patients (25 men and 5 women) with severe sepsis (American College of Chest Physicians/Society of Critical Care Medicine criteria); 15 survivors (mean age, 54 +/- 14 yrs; Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation III score, 59 +/- 35) and 15 nonsurvivors (mean age, 63 +/- 15 yrs; Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation III score, 67 +/- 24) were included. Hormones were compared individually and between survivors/nonsurvivors by sequential blood drawings from early sepsis till time of recovery/death.

INTERVENTIONS:

None.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS:

During early sepsis, cortisol (nmol/L) was not significantly higher in survivors than nonsurvivors (750 +/- 121 vs. 454 +/- 92, p <.08) and decreased in survivors (p <.01) during late sepsis. During early sepsis, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (percentage of age-matched normal levels) was higher in survivors than nonsurvivors (85 +/- 19 vs. 22 +/- 7, p <.01). Dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate decreased in survivors (p =.0001) but remained low in nonsurvivors during late sepsis. Dehydroepiandrosterone (percentage of age-matched normal levels) was not significantly elevated in survivors compared to nonsurvivors during early sepsis (282 +/- 42 vs. 214 +/- 63, p <.08). Dehydroepiandrosterone decreased in survivors (p <.01) but not in nonsurvivors during late sepsis. Linear regression for dehydroepiandrosterone levels showed a reconstitution of age dependence only in survivors during recovery. Adrenocorticotropin levels did not change. The dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate/cortisol ratio decreased significantly in both survivors and nonsurvivors, whereas dehydroepiandrosterone/cortisol ratio only decreased in survivors during course of sepsis.

CONCLUSIONS:

During sepsis, adrenal androgens and glucocorticoids show a diverse time-dependent course in survivors and nonsurvivors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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