Beneficial metabolic effects of prompt surgical treatment in patients with an adrenal incidentaloma causing biochemical hypercortisolism

Iacopo Chiodini, Valentina Morelli, Antonio Stefano Salcuni, Cristina Eller-Vainicher, Massimo Torlontano, Francesca Coletti, Laura Iorio, Antonello Cuttitta, Angelo Ambrosio, Leonardo Vicentini, Fabio Pellegrini, Massimiliano Copetti, Paolo Beck-Peccoz, Maura Arosio, Bruno Ambrosi, Vincenzo Trischitta, Alfredo Scillitani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context: In patients with adrenal incidentalomas, subclinical hypercortisolism (SH) is associated with an increased prevalence of the metabolic syndrome. The effect of surgical/conservative approach is debated. Objective: The objective of the study was to determine the effect of the surgical and conservative approaches on the metabolic syndrome in patients with adrenal incidentalomas. Design: This was a retrospective longitudinal study (18-48 months follow-up). Setting: The study was conducted on an in- and outpatient basis. Patients: One hundred eight patients with adrenal incidentalomas were studied for the presence of SH, which was diagnosed in the presence of more than two of the following: urinary free cortisol greater than 70 μg per 24 h (193 nmol per 24 h), cortisol after 1 mg dexamethasone suppression test greater than 3.0 μg/dl (83 nmol/liter), ACTH less than 10 pg/ml (2.2 pmol/liter). Interventions: Surgery was performed in 25 patients with SH (group TrSH+) and 30 without SH (group TrSH-), whereas the conservative approach was chosen by 16 patients with SH (group UntrSH+) and 37 without SH (group UntrSH-). Main Outcome Measures: During the follow-up, the improvement/worsening of body weight, blood pressure, or glucose and cholesterol levels was defined in the presence of a greater than 5% weight decrease/increase and following the European Society of Cardiology or the Adult Treatment Panel III criteria, respectively. Results: In group TrSH+, weight, blood pressure, and glucose levels improved (32, 56, and 48%, respectively) more frequently than in group UntrSH+ (12.5%, P = 0.05; 0.0%, P <0.0001; 0.0%, P = 0.001; and 0.0%, P = 0.0014, respectively). In group UntrSH+, blood pressure, glucose, and low-density lipoprotein levels worsened more frequently (50.0, 37.5, and 50.0%, respectively) than in group TrSH+ (0.0%, P <0.0001; 0.0%, P = 0.001; and 20.0%, P = 0.05, respectively). Conclusions: Regarding the various components of the metabolic syndrome, in patients with adrenal incidentalomas and SH, surgery is beneficial.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2736-2745
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Biochemistry, medical
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Medicine(all)


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