Adrenal hypercortisolism: A closer look at screening, diagnosis, and important considerations of different testing modalities

Iacopo Chiodini, Arelys Ramos-Rivera, Alan O. Marcus, Hanford Yau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although prolonged hypercortisolism is associated with increased mortality and substantial morbidity, the clinical signs and symptoms are wide ranging and often nonspecific, contributing to challenges in diagnosis, as well as treatment delays. Greater awareness is needed among clinicians to help identify which patients should undergo biochemical screening for excess cortisol. Several biochemical tests are available, each with important caveats that should be considered in the context of the individual patient. Cortisol secretion varies widely, further complicating the biochemical diagnosis of hypercortisolism, which relies on the use of definitive cutoff values. Patients with hypercortisolism resulting from adrenal adenomas, including those discovered incidentally, often do not present with overt Cushingoid features (plethora, striae, muscle weakness, moon facies, etc.). However, the consequences of prolonged exposure to even slight elevations in cortisol levels are profound, including increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, fractures, cardiovascular events, and mortality. Because most cases of hypercortisolism resulting from an adrenal adenoma can be managed, it is imperative to identify patients at risk and initiate testing early for the best outcomes. The aim of this report is to increase awareness of the indications for screening for hypercortisolism and to review the biochemical screening tests and diagnosis for hypercortisolism associated with adrenal adenomas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1097-1109
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Endocrine Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2019


  • Adrenal adenoma
  • Cortisol
  • Cushing syndrome
  • Cushingoid
  • Hypercortisolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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