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Critical Care

, 12:R65

First Online: 08 May 2008Received: 18 March 2008Revised: 30 April 2008Accepted: 08 May 2008


IntroductionAdrenal insufficiency is common in critically ill patients and affects their prognosis, but little is known about how adrenal function changes during prolonged critical illness. This study was conducted to investigate dynamic changes in cortisol levels in patients with critical illness who do not improve after treatment.

MethodsThis observational cohort study was performed in the intensive care units of a university hospital. We studied acutely ill patients with initial cortisol level above 34 μg-dl, but who did not improve after treatment and in whom follow-up cortisol levels were determined during critical illness. All clinical information and outcomes were recorded.

ResultsFifty-seven patients were included. Ten patients had follow-up cortisol levels above 34 μg-dl, 32 patients had levels between 34 and 15 μg-dl, and 15 patients had levels under 15 μg-dl. Outcomes did not differ significantly among the three groups with different follow-up cortisol levels. In Cox regression analysis, those patients who survived to hospital discharge with second cortisol levels under 15 μg-dl had a longer hospital length of stay odds ratio = 14.8, 95% confidence interval = 2.4 to 90.0; P = 0.004.

ConclusionThe majority of acutely ill patients who remained in a critical condition had decreased serum cortisol levels. Depressed cortisol levels at follow up may lead to worse clinical outcomes. We propose that repeated adrenal function testing be conducted in patients with prolonged critical illness.

AbbreviationsAPACHEAcute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation


ICUintensive care unit

IQRinterquartile range

SOFSequential Organ Failure Assessment.

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-cc6895 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Autor: Jenn-Yu Wu - Szu-Chun Hsu - Shih-Chi Ku - Chao-Chi Ho - Chong-Jen Yu - Pan-Chyr Yang


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