Addisonian Crisis (Adrenal crisis)

Addisonian crisis is a rare occurrence, characterized by a sudden onset insufficiency in the production of cortisol and aldosterone by the adrenal glands. It may be induced by an acute relapse episode of chronic adrenal insufficiency, usually preceded by infections, surgical procedures or traumatization of the adrenal glands and constitutes a medical emergency, since failure to treat the episode can endanger the life of a patient. Symptoms include fatigue, loss of consciousness, tachycardia, dizziness, tachypnea and a variety of other clinical manifestations.

Addisonian Crisis originates from this process: endocrine.

Presentation

An Addisonian crisis is induced by an acute failure of the adrenal glands to produce aldosterone and cortisol; if left untreated, it can put the patient's life at a great risk [1] [2] [3]. An Addisonian crisis tends to produce a multitude of symptoms, which are non-specific, but do indicate a severe underlying pathology [4] [5] [6]. Patients may be febrile, in a disoriented or comatose state, dizzy and display a tendency towards slow, uncoordinated movement. Nausea, vomiting, headache, and fatigue are also common symptoms alongside profound sweating that is localized on the palmar surface of the hands and face. Symptoms related to the cardiovascular system are also elicited, such as tachycardia and hypotension, while the respiratory rate may also be elevated. Lastly, pain may be experienced in the region of the abdomen or flanks.

With regard to the signs exhibited by a patient affected by Addisonian crisis, localized hyperpigmentation may be evident in areas of the skin that are subjected to prolonged exposure to sunlight.

Workup

In order to evaluate a patient with a suspected Addisonian crisis, various laboratory tests should be performed. A complete blood count, serum electrolyte levels, BUN and creatinine levels, cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) levels and calcium levels in the blood should be measured and the thyroid function should also be assessed [7].

As far as imaging modalities are concerned, computerized tomography (CT) can be employed to identify pathology of the adrenal glands, such as trauma, calcification caused by tuberculosis or malignancy. A CT scan of the head can also detect pituitary abnormalities that may secondarily cause the insufficient production of adrenal hormones and lead to an Addisonian crisis.

Lastly, the ACTH stimulation test is another useful tool that can help to evaluate the functionality of the adrenal glands by measuring their response to the administration of ACTH. After serum cortisol and ACTH levels have been obtained, 0.25 mg of tetracosactide (cosyntropin) is administered. It is a synthetic ACTH product [8] [9]. The substance is administered intravenously or intramuscularly and serum cortisol levels are tested half an hour and six hours after the administration. Should serum cortisol concentration fail to rise after the administration of synthetic ACTH, adrenal insufficiency is established as the diagnosis, always after the careful evaluation of the other parameters. Treatment should not be at any cost delayed in order for the ACTH stimulation test to be performed, as the reliability of the results is unaffected by the administration of dexamethasone. Cortisol levels can also be measured in the urine over a 24-hour period, but this test is only employed in cases where there is no immediate threat to the patient's life.

Treatment

Prognosis

Etiology

Epidemiology

Sex distribution
Age distribution

Pathophysiology

Prevention

Summary

Patient Information

Self-assessment

References

  1. Sunil P, A Shrestha, D Maksey, et al. Addisonian Crisis Precipitated By Thyroxine Therapy In A Patient With Type 2 Autoimmune Polyglandular Syndrome.Journal of Chitwan Medical College 2013; 3(4); 54-56.
  2. Husebye ES, Allolio B, Arlt W, et al; Consensus statement on the diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of patients with primary adrenal insufficiency. J Intern Med. 2014 Feb;275(2):104-15.
  3. Hahner S, Loeffler M, Bleicken B, et al. Epidemiology of adrenal crisis in chronic adrenal insufficiency - the need for new prevention strategies. Eur J Endocrinol. 2010 Mar;162(3):597-602.
  4. Husebye ES, Allolio B, Arlt W, et al; Consensus statement on the diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of patients with primary adrenal insufficiency. J Intern Med. 2014 Feb;275(2):104-15.
  5. Hahner S, Loeffler M, Bleicken B, et al. Epidemiology of adrenal crisis in chronic adrenal insufficiency: the need for new prevention strategies. Eur J Endocrinol. 2010 Mar; 162(3):597-602.
  6. Ahi S, Esmaeilzadeh M, Kayvanpour E, Sedaghat-Hamedani F, Samadanifard SH. A bulking agent may lead to adrenal insufficiency crisis: a case report. Acta Med Iran. 2011; 49(10):688-9.
  7. Marik PE, Pastores SM, Annane D, et al. Recommendations for the diagnosis and management of corticosteroid insufficiency in critically ill adult patients: consensus statements from an international task force by the American College of Critical Care Medicine. Crit Care Med. 2008 Jun; 36(6):1937-49.
  8. Dorin RI, Qualls CR, Crapo LM. Diagnosis of adrenal insufficiency. Ann. Intern. Med. 2003;139 (3): 194–204.
  9. Oelkers W, Diederich S, Bahr V. Diagnosis and therapy surveillance in Addison's disease: rapid adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) test and measurement of plasma ACTH, renin activity, and aldosterone. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1992 Jul; 75(1):259-64.

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