Adrenal insufficiency occurs in approximately two thirds of patients with adrenomyeloneuropathy. Its development may precede or follow the onset of neurological disease. To define the sensitivity of various tests of adrenal cortical function, we reviewed adrenocortical function tests in 28 patients with adrenomyeloneuropathy who had normal ACTH stimulation tests at the time of enrollment into an ongoing dietary study. Endocrine studies performed at 6-month intervals included a conventional ACTH stimulation test, plasma ACTH and cortisol concentrations, and 24-h urinary cortisol and aldosterone excretion rates. Eleven patients (39%) developed an elevated plasma ACTH concentration after a median follow-up of 3 yr. Their 24-h urinary cortisol and plasma basal and ACTH-stimulated cortisol concentrations were all normal. The mean basal cortisol level tended to be lower in patients who had increased plasma ACTH levels than in patients who maintained a normal plasma ACTH concentration during the study period (408 ± 22 vs. 491 ± 33 nmol/L; P = 0.05). Patients who had an increased plasma ACTH concentration and symptoms consistent with adrenal insufficiency had a lower mean 24-h urinary free cortisol level than those with normal plasma ACTH (196 ± 22 vs. 281 ± 30 nmol/day; P < 0.05). Plasma ACTH concentrations were persistently elevated in six patients in whom subsequent values were available. One individual later developed a subnormal ACTH-stimulated cortisol concentration consistent with overt adrenal insufficiency. Our results suggest that conventional provocative and integrative tests of adrenocortical function may not be sufficient to identify patients with adrenomyeloneuropathy who have compensated adrenal hypofunction. An elevated plasma ACTH concentration may represent an early marker for adrenocortical dysfunction and incipient adrenal insufficiency in AMN patients.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Clinical Biochemistry
- Biochemistry, medical