Time to Recovery of Adrenal Function After Curative Surgery for Cushing’s Syndrome Depends on Etiology

Address all correspondence and requests for reprints to: Martin Reincke, MD, Medizinische Klinik und Poliklinik IV, Klinikum der Universität München, Ziemssenstr. 1, D-80336 Munich, Germany. E-mail: .

Successful tumor resection in endogenous Cushing’s syndrome (CS) results in tertiary adrenal insufficiency requiring hydrocortisone replacement therapy.

The aim was to analyze the postsurgical duration of adrenal insufficiency of patients with Cushing’s disease (CD), adrenal CS, and ectopic CS.

We performed a retrospective analysis based on the case records of 230 patients with CS in our tertiary referral center treated from 1983–2014. The mean follow-up time was 8 years.

We included 91 patients of the three subtypes of CS undergoing curative intended surgery and documented followup after excluding cases with persistent disease, pituitary radiation, concurrent adrenostatic or somatostatin analog treatment, and malignant adrenal disease.

The probability of recovering adrenal function within a 5 years followup differed significantly between subtypes (P = .001). It was 82% in ectopic CS, 58% in CD and 38% in adrenal CS. In the total cohort with restored adrenal function (n = 52) the median time to recovery differed between subtypes: 0.6 years (interquartile range [IQR], 0.03–1.1 y) in ectopic CS, 1.4 years (IQR, 0.9–3.4 y) in CD, and 2.5 years (IQR, 1.6–5.4 y) in adrenal CS (P = .002). In CD the Cox proportional-hazards model showed that the probability of recovery was associated with younger age (hazard ratio, 0.896; 95% confidence interval, 0.822–0.976; P = .012), independently of sex, body mass index, duration of symptoms, and basal ACTH and cortisol levels. There was no correlation with length and extend of hypercortisolism or postoperative glucocorticoid replacement doses.

Time to recovery of adrenal function is dependent on the underlying etiology of CS.

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