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Open access

Filippo Ceccato, Elisa Selmin, Giorgia Antonelli, Mattia Barbot, Andrea Daniele, Marco Boscaro, Mario Plebani, and Carla Scaroni


The low-dose short synacthen test (LDSST) is recommended for patients with suspected central adrenal insufficiency (AI) if their basal serum cortisol (F) levels are not indicative of an intact hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis.


To evaluate diagnostic threshold for salivary F before and 30 min after administering 1 μg of synacthen, performed before 09:30 h.


A cross-sectional study from 2014 to 2020.


A tertiary referral university hospital.


In this study, 174 patients with suspected AI, 37 with central AI and 137 adrenal sufficient (AS), were included.

Main outcome measure

The diagnostic accuracy (sensitivity (SE), specificity (SP)) of serum and salivary F levels measured, respectively, by chemiluminescence immunoassay and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry.


Low basal serum or salivary F levels could predict AI. For the LDSST, the best ROC-calculated threshold for serum F to differentiate AI from AS was 427 nmol/L (SE 79%, SP 89%), serum F > 500 nmol/L reached SP 100%. A salivary F peak > 12.1 nmol/L after administering synacthen reached SE 95% and SP 84% for diagnosing central AI, indicating a conclusive reduction in the likelihood of AI. This ROC-calculated threshold for salivary F was similar to the 2.5th percentile of patients with a normal HPA axis, so it was considered sufficient to exclude AI. Considering AS those patients with salivary F > 12.1 nmol/L after LDSST, we could avoid unnecessary glucocorticoid treatment: 99/150 subjects (66%) had an inadequate serum F peak after synacthen, but salivary F was >12.1 nmol/L in 79 cases, who could, therefore, be considered AS.


Salivary F levels > 12.1 nmol/L after synacthen administration can indicate an intact HPA axis in patients with an incomplete serum F response, avoiding the need to start glucocorticoid replacement treatment.

Open access

Filippo Ceccato, Elisa Selmin, Chiara Sabbadin, Miriam Dalla Costa, Giorgia Antonelli, Mario Plebani, Mattia Barbot, Corrado Betterle, Marco Boscaro, and Carla Scaroni

Introduction and Aim

The purpose of replacement therapy in adrenal insufficiency (AI) is mimicking endogenous cortisol levels as closely as possible: dual release hydrocortisone (DR-HC) has been introduced to replicate the circadian cortisol rhythm. Multiple daily saliva collections could be used to assess the cortisol rhythm during real life: our aim was to study the salivary cortisol profile in AI.

Materials and Methods

We prospectively evaluated, in an observational study, 18 adult outpatients with AI (11 primary and 7 secondary AI), switched from conventional treatment (conv-HC, 25 mg/day) to the same dose of DR-HC. We collected six samples of saliva in a day, measuring cortisol (F) and cortisone (E) with LC-MS/MS. Forty-three matched healthy subjects served as controls.


F levels were similar in the morning (and higher than controls) in patients treated with conv-HC or DR-HC; otherwise F levels and exposure were lower in the afternoon and evening in patients with DR-HC, achieving a cortisol profile closer to healthy controls. Daily cortisol exposure, measured with area under the curve, was lower with DR-HC. Morning F and E presented sensitivity and specificity >90% to diagnose AI (respectively threshold of 3 and 9.45 nmol/L). Total cholesterol and HbA1c levels reduced with DR-HC.


Salivary cortisol daily curve could be used as a new tool to assess the cortisol profiles in patients treated with conv-HC and DR-HC. A lower daily cortisol exposure was achieved with DR-HC (despite the same HC dose), especially in the afternoon-evening.