Central Adrenal Insufficiency Is Rare in Adults With Prader-Willi Syndrome


Prader–Willi syndrome (PWS) is associated with several hypothalamic-pituitary hormone deficiencies. There is no agreement on the prevalence of central adrenal insufficiency (CAI) in adults with PWS. In some countries, it is general practice to prescribe stress-dose hydrocortisone during physical or psychological stress in patients with PWS. Side effects of frequent hydrocortisone use are weight gain, osteoporosis, diabetes mellitus, and hypertension—already major problems in adults with PWS. However, undertreatment of CAI can cause significant morbidity—or even mortality.


To prevent both over- and undertreatment with hydrocortisone, we assessed the prevalence of CAI in a large international cohort of adults with PWS. As the synacthen test shows variable results in PWS, we only use the metyrapone test (MTP) and insulin tolerance test (ITT).


Metyrapone test or ITT in adults with PWS (N = 82) and review of medical files for symptoms of hypocortisolism related to surgery (N = 645).


Outpatient clinic.

Patients or Other Participants

Eighty-two adults with genetically confirmed PWS.

Main Outcome Measure

For MTP, 11-deoxycortisol > 230 nmol/L was considered sufficient. For ITT, cortisol > 500 nmol/L (Dutch, French, and Swedish patients) or > 450 nmol/L (British patients) was considered sufficient.


Central adrenal insufficiency was excluded in 81 of 82 patients. Among the 645 patients whose medical files were reviewed, 200 had undergone surgery without perioperative hydrocortisone treatment. None of them had displayed any features of hypocortisolism.


Central adrenal insufficiency is rare (1.2%) in adults with PWS. Based on these results, we recommend against routinely prescribing hydrocortisone stress-doses in adults with PWS

Overview publication

TitleCentral Adrenal Insufficiency Is Rare in Adults With Prader-Willi Syndrome
DateMarch 31st, 2020
Issue nameThe Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism
Issue number2020 Jul 1;105(7):e2563-e2571. doi: 10.1210/clinem/dgaa168
AuthorsAnna G W Rosenberg, Karlijn Pellikaan, Christine Poitou, Anthony P Goldstone, Charlotte Høybye, Tania Markovic, Graziano Grugni, Antonino Crinò, Assumpta Caixàs, Muriel Coupaye, Sjoerd A A Van Den Berg, Aart Jan Van Der Lely & Laura C G De Graaff
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