Cardiovascular abnormalities and impaired exercise performance in adolescents with congenital adrenal hyperplasia

Alberto M. Marra, Nicola Improda, Donatella Capalbo, Andrea Salzano, Michele Arcopinto, Amato De Paulis, Maria Alessio, Andrea Lenzi, Andrea M. Isidori, Antonio Cittadini, Mariacarolina Salerno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context: Patients with classic congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) are treated with lifelong glucocorticoids (GCs). Cardiovascular and metabolic effects of such therapy in adolescents have never been quantified. Objective: Our objective was to investigate left ventricular (LV) morphology, function, and exercise performance in adolescents with CAH. Design and Setting: We conducted a cross-sectional and controlled study conducted at a tertiary referral center. Patients: Twenty patients with classic CAH (10 females) aged 13.6 ± 2.5 years and 20 healthy controls comparable for sex and pubertal status were enrolled in the study and compared with a group of 18 patients without CAH receiving a similar dose of GCs for juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Main Outcomes Measures: Echocardiographic assessment and symptom-limited exercise testing were performed. Anthropometric, hormonal and biochemical parameters were also measured. Results: Compared with healthy controls, patients with CAH exhibited an increased body mass index (P <.001), waist-to-height ratio (P <.001), and percent body fat (P <.001) as well as higher insulin concentrations and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance index even after adjustment for body mass index (P = .03 and P = .05, respectively). Moreover, CAH patients exhibited an impaired exercise capacity as shown by reduced peak workload (99 ± 27 vs 126 ± 27 W, P <.01) and higher systolic blood pressure response at peak (156 ± 18 vs 132 ± 11 mm Hg, P <.01; Δ = 45 ± 24 vs 22 ± 10 mm Hg, P = .05) with respect to healthy controls. CAH males displayed mild LV diastolic dysfunction as documented by significant prolongation of both isovolumic relaxation time (118 ± 18 vs 98 ± 11 milliseconds, P <.05) and mitral deceleration time (138 ± 25 vs 111 ± 15 milliseconds, P <.01). No significant differences in cardiovascular function were found between CAH and juvenile idiopathic arthritis patients. Conclusion: Adolescents with CAH exhibit impaired exercise performance and enhanced systolic blood pressure response during exercise. In our population, such abnormalities appear related to GC therapy rather than CAH per se. CAH males, but not females, present mild LV diastolic dysfunction that correlates with testosterone concentrations suggesting a sex hormone-related difference.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)644-652
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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