Comparative assessment of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis suppression secondary to intrabursal injection of different glucocorticoids: a pilot study

F. Guaraldi, D. Gori, P. Calderoni, E. Castiello, L. Pratelli, M. Leporati, E. Arvat, M. Battaglia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPAA) suppression is the most common and dangerous, although often unrecognized and untreated, side effect of glucocorticoid administration. The risk and duration depend both on patient and treatment characteristics. High-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC–MS/MS) currently represents the gold standard method to evaluate the metabolism of endogenous and exogenous steroids. Objective: To assess prevalence, severity, and duration of HPAA suppression subsequent to the injection of two steroids with equivalent potency but different pharmacokinetics. Subjects and methods: Single-blind randomized case–control pilot study. Forty patients (22 F; age 48.7 ± 7.2 years) with shoulder calcific tendinopathy received an intrabursal injection of 40 mg of 6α-methylprednisolone acetate (MA) or triamcinolone acetonide (TA). Just before (T0) and after 1 (T1), 7 (T2), 15 (T3), 30 (T4) and 45 (T5) days, we assessed morning blood cortisol and ACTH by RIA, and 24-h urinary levels of MA, TA and free cortisol by HPLC–MS/MS. Results: HPAA function was normal at baseline. At T1, all patients presented HPAA suppression reaching the lowest cortisol, ACTH and UFC levels, that were similar between groups. At T2, mean cortisol remained lower than at baseline (p < 0.0001) in the TA group. In both groups, mean cortisol and ACTH levels progressively normalized, suggesting HPA recovery, except for three patients in the MA and two in the TA group. UFC levels remained lower than normal (p < 0.0001) up to T5, despite the disappearance of exogenous GCs. No patient developed manifestations of hypocortisolism. Conclusions: A single 40-mg intrabursal injection of MA or TA is sufficient to suppresses HPAA up to 45 days. Although typically asymptomatic, patients should be instructed to recognize and report symptoms suggestive for hypocortisolism, to provide prompt diagnosis, and eventually, treatment, thus avoiding severe complications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1117-1124
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Endocrinological Investigation
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2019


  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry
  • Methylprednisolone acetate
  • Triamcinolone acetonide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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