Abnormalities at different levels of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis early after stroke.
Hypercortisolism is common in stroke patients. The aim of this study was to investigate possible disturbances at different sites within the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. We also studied possible associations between hypercortisolism and clinical manifestations of brain dysfunction.
Patients with an acute ischemic stroke (n = 16; mean +/- SD age, 71 +/- 11 years) were compared with healthy elderly subjects (n = 9). We performed a short adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) test with 0.25 mg 1-24 ACTH injected intravenously and an overnight dexamethasone suppression test with 1 mg dexamethasone given orally at 11 PM.
Serum cortisol levels after dexamethasone at 8 AM were significantly higher in stroke patients (p = 0.003). The area under the curve for the cortisol response to ACTH was elevated in seven (47%) of stroke patients, and the centered cumulative cortisol response was elevated in three (20%) patients. The area under the curve response correlated significantly to the presence of an acute confusional state and male sex in stroke patients (rs = 0.63 and rs = 0.62, respectively; p < 0.05), whereas the centered cumulative cortisol response diminished with increasing age (rs = -0.62; p < 0.05). Postdexamethasone cortisol levels were significantly correlated to the presence of an acute confusional state and to extensive limb paresis (rs = 0.66 and rs = 0.62, respectively; p < 0.05).
There are abnormalities in the cortisol axis both at the central level and at the adrenal level early after stroke. Hypercortisolism is closely associated with cognitive disturbances and extensive motor impairment.
- Copyright © 1992 by American Heart Association