Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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Are guidelines for glucocorticoid coverage in adrenal insufficiency currently followed?

OBJECTIVES: To search for evidence of acute adrenal failure linked to inappropriate use of stress management protocols.

STUDY DESIGN: Patients followed up for primary adrenal insufficiency (n = 102) or secondary adrenal insufficiency (n = 34) between 1973 and 2007 were included. All hospitalizations, both urgent (n = 157) and elective (n = 90), were examined. We recorded clinical evidence of acute adrenal failure, parental management before admission, and details of glucocorticoid prescription and administration in the hospital setting.

RESULTS: For urgent hospitalizations, subgroup and time period did not influence the percentage of patients hospitalized (primary adrenal insufficiency 45%; secondary adrenal insufficiency 38%; P = .55). The use of stress glucocorticoid doses by parents increased significantly after 1997 (P < .05), although still only 47% increased glucocorticoids before hospitalization. Stress doses were more frequently administered on arrival in our emergency department after 1990 (P < .05); patients with signs or symptoms of acute adrenal failure decreased to 27% after 1997 (P < .01). Twenty-four percent of all hospitalizations were marked by suboptimal adherence to glucocorticoid stress protocols, with rare but significant clinical consequences.

CONCLUSIONS: In spite of an increased use of glucocorticoid stress dose protocols by parents and physicians, patients remain at risk of morbidity and death from acute adrenal failure. This risk may be minimized with conscientious application of stress protocols, but other patient-specific risk factors may also be implicated.

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