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J Int Med Res. 2019 Mar;47(3):1185-1194. doi: 10.1177/0300060518819603. Epub 2019 Jan 7.

Initial free cortisol dynamics following blunt multiple trauma and traumatic brain injury: A clinical study.

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1 Department of Trauma Surgery, Ludwig Maximilians University Munich, Munich, Germany.
2 Department of Internal Medicine IV: Endocrinology, Ludwig Maximilians University Munich, Munich, Germany.
3 Department of Radiology, Ludwig Maximilians University Munich, Munich, Germany.



To determine free and total cortisol serum concentrations in the first 24 h after trauma and to evaluate the influence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) on their dynamics.


This prospective cohort study enrolled patients who had experienced multiple trauma and were admitted to a level 1 trauma centre. The patients were divided in two groups based on the presence of TBI according to clinical and radiological findings. Blood was collected initially as well as at 12 h and 24 h after the traumatic injury. Total cortisol, corticosteroid binding globulin (CBG) and free cortisol levels were determined.


The study analysed data from 49 patients (36 males and 13 females) with a mean ± SD age of 45.0 ± 16.0 years. Of these, 36 presented with TBI and 13 had multiple injuries without TBI. Patients with TBI showed significantly lower concentrations of total cortisol and free cortisol compared with patients without TBI. Repeated measures analysis revealed different concentration dynamics in patients with TBI, with no increase in cortisol after trauma.


Multiple trauma patients with TBI are at risk of acute impaired cortisol secretion and show an attenuated stress response as early as 12 h after injury.


Cortisol; adrenal insufficiency; multiple trauma; traumatic brain injury


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