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Rectal hydrocortisone during stress in patients with adrenal insufficiency
  1. M De Vroede,
  2. R Beukering,
  3. M Spit,
  4. M Jansen
  1. Department of Pediatrics, Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital, Utrecht University, PO Box 18009, 3501 CA Utrecht, Netherlands
  1. Dr De Vroede. email:M.DeVroede{at}WKZ.AZU.NL


OBJECTIVE Patients with glucocorticoid deficiency need lifelong glucocorticoid replacement treatment. During acute stressful events, steroid dosage must be increased several times, which is often problematical in children. This study investigated the reliability of rectal hydrocortisone administration as an alternative to the intramuscular route.

STUDY DESIGN Serum cortisol was assessed during stress in normal children to determine the concentration that should be achieved after rectal hydrocortisone. Subsequently, serum cortisol concentrations were measured three hours after administering a suppository containing hydrocortisone 100 mg/m2 to 57 patients with adrenocortical insufficiency. In eight patients, the time dependency of the cortisol rise after rectal administration was established.

RESULTS In 51 previously healthy children admitted to hospital with an acute stressful condition, the mean serum cortisol concentration was 1092 nmol/l. Rectal hydrocortisone in patients with adrenocortical insufficiency resulted in a mean serum cortisol concentration of 1212 nmol/l three hours after insertion of the suppository containing hydrocortisone. In 14 of 57 children, serum cortisol was < 1000 nmol/l and in eight children it was below 600 nmol/l. One hour after administration, the mean cortisol concentration had reached 1000 nmol/l. This was sustained for more than four hours.

CONCLUSION Rectal hydrocortisone is a safe alternative to parenteral administration in the self management of Addisonian prone conditions. However, because eight of 57 children did not achieve concentrations > 600 nmol/l, its use is recommended only after previously documenting an adequate serum cortisol concentration three hours after receiving a test dose.

  • adrenal insufficiency
  • hydrocortisone; suppository

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