Published online: 28 August 2009
Abstract Classical tests for diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome (CS) like urine free cortisol and dexamethasone suppression tests have limitations in various clinical settings. This study evaluated the usefulness of sleeping midnight serum cortisol (SMNC) as a diagnostic test for hypercortisolemia. A simultaneously done midnight plasma ACTH level was used to classify the disease as ACTH dependent or independent. Standard biochemical tests, SMNC, midnight plasma ACTH and appropriate imaging evaluated patients with a clinical suspicion of Cushing’s syndrome. We evaluated 43 patients with CS comprising of 34 patients with Cushing’s disease (CD), 2 patients with thymic carcinoid producing ectopic CS, 5 patients with adrenal carcinoma and 2 with adrenal adenoma. Thirteen patients with clinical suspicion were also evaluated with the above tests and CS was ruled out. SMNC, midnight plasma ACTH and dexamethasone suppressed cortisol was collected from patients with a suspicion of CS. SMNC was evaluated against histopathology as the gold standard. SMNC achieved 100% sensitivity in the diagnosis of endogenous CS at cut offs of 138 nmol/l and below. Raising the cut off to 207 nmol/l resulted in a test sensitivity of 90.5%. At a cut off of 1.65 pmol/l, midnight plasma ACTH could distinguish ACTH independent causes of CS with 100% sensitivity. We concluded that a single midnight collection could identify all patients with CS and classify the ACTH status at the proposed cut offs.
Keywords Cushing’s disease - Cushing’s syndrome - Midnight cortisol - Midnight ACTH