Variability of cortisol assays can confound the diagnosis of adrenal insufficiency in the critically ill population

Jeremy Cohen*, Gregory Ward, Johannes Prins, Mark Jones, Bala Venkatesh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To compare the total plasma cortisol values obtained from three widely used immunoassays and a high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) technique on samples obtained from patients with sepsis. Design and setting: Observational interventional in the general intensive care unit of a metropolitan hospital Patients and participants: Patients admitted to the intensive care unit with a diagnosis of sepsis and fulfilling criteria of systemic inflammatory response syndrome. Interventions: Standard short synacthen test performed with 250 μg cosyntropin. Measurements and results: Two of the three immunoassays returned results significantly higher than those obtained by HPLC: Immulite by 95% (95%CI 31-188%) and TDx by 79% (21-165%). The limits of agreement for all three immunoassays with HPLC ranged from -62% to 770%. In addition, by classifying the patients into responders and non-responders to ACTH by standard criteria there was concordance in all assays in only 44% of patients. Conclusions: Immunoassay estimation of total plasma cortisol in septic patients shows wide assay related variation that may have significant impact in the diagnosis of relative adrenal insufficiency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1901-1905
Number of pages5
JournalIntensive Care Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2006
Externally publishedYes


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