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A Journal on Endocrine System Diseases

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Minerva Endocrinologica 2002 June;27(2):95-118

language: English, Italian

Biochemical and imaging evaluation of Cushing's syndrome

Newell-Price J., Grossman A.


The diagnosis and differential diagnosis of Cushing's syndrome remains a considerable challenge in clinical endocrinology. Investigation is a two-step process, involving first diagnosis followed by differential diagnosis. Traditionally diagnosis has relied upon urinary free cortisol (UFC) collection, low-dose dexamethasone-testing, and assessment of midnight cortisol. More recently, differentiation between mild disease and pseudo-Cushing's states has been achieved using dexamethasone-suppressed corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) and desmopressin tests. Refinements of tests used for differential diagnosis have been made including optimized response criteria for ovine and human sequence CRH tests, desmopressin tests, GHBP-testing and testing with combinations of peptides. Despite improvements in these non-invasive tests use of inferior petrosal or cavernous sinus sampling is frequently required. Imaging is guided by biochemical assessment. MRI is the investigation of choice for Cushing's disease, but is often negative. Scintigraphic investigation using radionucleotide-labeled agonists for receptors commonly expressed by neuroendocrine tumors the investigation of occult ACTH-dependent disease remains disappointing. In this review we critically analyze the tests used for this most challenging of clinical conditions.

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