, Volume 33, Issue 10, pp 1761-1766

Adrenal response in patients with septic shock of abdominal origin: relationship to survival

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To evaluate the prognostic value of adrenocortical response to corticotropin in septic shock patients operated on exclusively for an intra-abdominal source of infection.

Design and setting

Prospective, observational, single-center study in a surgical intensive care unit of a university hospital


118 consecutive septic shock patients undergoing laparotomy or drainage for intra-abdominal infection.

Measurements and results

Baseline cortisol (t 0) and cortisol response to corticotropin test (Δ) were measured during the first 24 h following onset of shock. The relationship between adrenal function test results and survival was analyzed as well as the effect of etomidate anesthesia. Cortisol plasma level at t 0 was higher in nonsurvivors than in survivors (33 ± 23 vs. 25 ± 14 μg/dl), but the response to corticotropin test did not differ between these two subgroups. ROC analysis showed threshold values for t 0 (32 μg/dl) and Δ (8 μg/dl) that best discriminated survivorsfrom nonsurvivors in our population. We observed no difference in survival at the end of hospital stay using log rank test when patients were separated according to t 0, Δ, or both. In addition, adrenal function testsand survival did not differ in patients who received etomidate anesthesia (n = 69) during the surgical treatment of their abdominal sepsis.


In this cohort of patients with abdominal septic shock baseline cortisol level and the response to corticotropin test did not discriminate survivors from nonsurvivors. No deleterious impact of etomidate anesthesia on adrenal function tests and survival was observed in these patients.