Serum cortisol response to transsphenoidal surgery for Cushing disease

N. E. Simmons*, T. D. Alden, M. O. Thorner, Jr Laws E.R.

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Object. Transsphenoidal surgery remains the optimal treatment for Cushing disease, but the definitions of surgical cure and failure remain debatable. In this study the authors evaluated serum cortisol levels in patients before and after they underwent transsphenoidal surgery to elucidate the patterns of cortisol decrease and the optimal time and criteria for determining surgically induced remission. Methods. Twenty-seven patients were evaluated throughout an 8-month period. Serum cortisol levels were obtained before surgery and at 6-hour intervals postoperatively. No exogenous steroid medications were administered until after cortisol sampling was discontinued, following diagnosis of remission. Twenty-one (78%) of 27 cases were labeled initial surgically induced remissions. Twenty-two (81%) of 27 cases were deemed surgically induced remissions at follow-up examination. Following surgery, initial remissions and failures demonstrated divergent patterns of cortisol levels. No patient whose condition was deemed an initial surgically induced remission has experienced definitive relapse of disease since discharge. One patient whose condition was initially deemed a surgical failure, eventually was found to exhibit surgically induced remission without further intervention. Conclusions. Given such findings, exogenous steroid medications do not appear to be required for patients until after the determination of remission. During the 1st postoperative day, there is a time period during which serum cortisol values significantly differ between the categories of surgically induced remissions and surgical failures. Surgically induced remissions were identified when postoperative values of cortisol were lower than preoperative midnight levels and when absolute values of cortisol were less than 10 μg/dl. In a small proportion of patients remission on a delayed basis may also be demonstrated. These data allow for a simple and rapid determination of postoperative remission in patients undergoing transsphenoidal surgery for Cushing disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001


  • Cushing disease
  • Hypercortisolism
  • Pituitary adenoma
  • Transsphenoidal approach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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