Effect of desmopressin on ACTH and cortisol secretion in states of ACTH excess

P. Colombo, E. Passini, T. Re, G. Faglia, B. Ambrosi

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OBJECTIVE To assess the ability of desmopressin administration to stimulate ACTH/cortisol secretion in patients with Cushing's disease, either before or after surgery, and in patients with other states characterized by ACTH hypersecretion, and to compare the results with those obtained after CRH testing. DESIGN AND SUBJECTS Plasma ACTH and serum cortisol levels were evaluated after the administration of desmopressin (10 μg i.v.), CRH (1 μg/kg i.v.) and saline on different days in 17 patients with Cushing's disease, 1 with occult ectopic ACTH syndrome, 5 with Addison's disease, 3 who had been bilaterally adrenalectomized for Cushing's syndrome and 4 normal subjects. After pituitary adenomectomy desmopressin and CRH were administered again to 13 of the patients who had undergone pituitary surgery for their Cushing's disease. RESULTS in 16 patients with Cushing's disease with microadenoma a positive ACTH/cortisol rise occurred in 11 patients after both desmopressin and CRH, 2 other patients were responsive only to desmopressin and 2 only to CRH, while in 1 patient equivocal responses to both tests were found. The persistence of a hormonal response to desmopressin after pituitary adenomectomy for Cushing's disease correlated with unsuccessful surgery, while, contrary to CRH, absent ACTH/cortisol rises were found in cured patients 1 and 12 months after operation. In 1 patient suspected for ectopic ACTH hypersecretion, desmopressin and CRH administration did not cause any ACTH/cortisol rise. Significant ACTH rises occurred after both desmopressin and CRH testing in patients with Addison's disease. All the 3 patients adrenalectomized for Cushing's syndrome showed a rise of ACTH levels after CRH, while a similar response after desmopressin occurred in only one of them. CONCLUSIONS Desmopressin is able to stimulate ACTH and hence cortisol release in Cushing's disease. It may be a useful test in patients with doubtful responses to CRH test, in those exhibiting responses to CRH indistinguishable from those of normal subjects and in the postoperative follow-up of Cushing's disease. In some patients with abolished or reduced cortisol feed-back at hypothalamic-pituitary level the sensitivity of normal corticotrophs to desmopressin is enhanced.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)661-668
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Endocrinology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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