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Lia Ferreira, João Silva, Susana Garrido, Carlos Bello, Diana Oliveira, Hélder Simões, Isabel Paiva, Joana Guimarães, Marta Ferreira, Teresa Pereira, Rita Bettencourt-Silva, Ana Filipa Martins, Tiago Silva, Vera Fernandes, Maria Lopes Pereira and Adrenal Tumors Study Group of the Portuguese Society of Endocrinology

Introduction

Primary adrenal insufficiency (PAI) is a rare but severe and potentially life-threatening condition. No previous studies have characterized Portuguese patients with PAI.

Aims

To characterize the clinical presentation, diagnostic workup, treatment and follow‐up of Portuguese patients with confirmed PAI.

Methods

This multicentre retrospective study examined PAI patients in 12 Portuguese hospitals.

Results

We investigated 278 patients with PAI (55.8% were females), with a mean age of 33.6 ± 19.3 years at diagnosis. The most frequent presenting clinical features were asthenia (60.1%), mucocutaneous hyperpigmentation (55.0%) and weight loss (43.2%); 29.1% of the patients presented with adrenal crisis. Diagnosis was established by high plasma ACTH and low serum cortisol in most patients (43.9%). The most common aetiology of PAI was autoimmune adrenalitis (61.0%). There were 38 idiopathic cases. Autoimmune comorbidities were found in 70% of the patients, the most frequent being autoimmune thyroiditis (60.7%) and type 1 diabetes mellitus (17.3%). Seventy-nine percent were treated with hydrocortisone (mean dose 26.3 ± 8.3 mg/day) mostly in three (57.5%) or two (37.4%) daily doses. The remaining patients were treated with prednisolone (10.1%), dexamethasone (6.2%) and methylprednisolone (0.7%); 66.2% were also on fludrocortisone (median dose of 100 µg/day). Since diagnosis, 33.5% of patients were hospitalized for disease decompensation. In the last appointment, 17.2% of patients had complaints (7.6% asthenia and 6.5% depression) and 9.7% had electrolyte disturbances.

Conclusion

This is the first multicentre Portuguese study regarding PAI. The results emphasize the need for standardization in diagnostic tests and etiological investigation and provide a framework for improving treatment.