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Adrenal insufficiency in patients on long-term opioid analgesia

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Brian WalkerORCiD


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© 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Objective: Opioid analgesia has been implicated as a cause of secondary adrenal insufficiency, but little is known of the prevalence of this potentially serious adverse effect in patients with chronic pain. Design: Cross-sectional study of chronic pain patients on long-term opioid analgesia. Patients: Patients attending tertiary chronic pain clinics at the Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, treated with long-term opioid analgesia (n = 48) with no recent exposure to exogenous glucocorticoids. Results: Four patients (8·3%) had basal morning plasma cortisol concentrations below 100 nmol/l, of whom three failed to achieve a satisfactory cortisol response to exogenous ACTH1-24 stimulation (peak cortisol >430 nmol/l). Basal cortisol was positively associated with age (R = 0·398, P = 0·005) and negatively associated with BMI (R = −0·435, P = 0·002). Conclusions: Suppression of the hypothalamic−pituitary−adrenal axis is present in a clinically significant proportion of chronic pain patients treated with opioid analgesia. Studies of larger populations should be conducted to better define the prevalence and potential clinical consequences of adrenal insufficiency in this context.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Gibb FW, Stewart A, Walker BR, Strachan MWJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Clinical Endocrinology

Year: 2016

Volume: 85

Issue: 6

Pages: 831-835

Print publication date: 01/12/2016

Online publication date: 04/06/2016

Acceptance date: 01/06/2016

ISSN (print): 0300-0664

ISSN (electronic): 1365-2265

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell


DOI: 10.1111/cen.13125

PubMed id: 27260138


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