New cutoffs for the biochemical diagnosis of adrenal insufficiency after ACTH stimulation using specific cortisol assays
Javorsky BR, Raff H, Carroll TB, et al. New cutoffs for the biochemical diagnosis of adrenal insufficiency after acth stimulation using specific cortisol assays. J Endocr Soc. 2021;5(4):bvab022. doi: 10.1210/jendso/bvab022
Context: The normal cortisol response 30 or 60 minutes after cosyntropin (ACTH[1-24]) is considered to be ≥18 μg/dL (500 nmol/L). This threshold is based on older serum cortisol assays. Specific monoclonal antibody immunoassays or LC-MS/MS may have lower thresholds for a normal response.
Objective: To calculate serum cortisol cutoff values for adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation testing with newer specific cortisol assays.
Methods: Retrospective analysis of ACTH stimulation tests performed in ambulatory and hospitalized patients suspected of adrenal insufficiency (AI). Serum samples were assayed for cortisol in parallel using Elecsys I and Elecsys II immunoassays, and when volume was available, by Access immunoassay and LC-MS/MS.
Results: A total of 110 patients were evaluated. Using 18 μg/dL as the cortisol cutoff after ACTH stimulation, 14.5%, 29%, 22.4%, and 32% of patients had a biochemical diagnosis of AI using the Elecsys I, Elecsys II, Access, and LC-MS/MS assays, respectively. Deming regressions of serum cortisol were used to calculate new cortisol cutoffs based on the Elecsys I cutoff of 18 μg/dL. For 30-minute values, new cutoffs were 14.6 μg/dL for Elecsys II, 14.8 μg/dL for Access, and 14.5 μg/dL for LC-MS/MS. Baseline cortisol <2 μg/dL was predictive of subnormal stimulated cortisol values.
Conclusion: To reduce false positive ACTH stimulation testing, we recommend a new serum cortisol cutoff of 14 to 15 μg/dL depending on the assay used (instead of the historical value of 18 μg/dL with older polyclonal antibody assays). Clinicians should be aware of the new cutoffs for the assays available to them when evaluating patients for AI.