Background. Patients treated long-term with supraphysiologic doses of glucocorticoids experience secondary adrenal insufficiency and are routinely given large doses of steroids in the perioperative period to prevent hypotension. Because the dose of steroids required to prevent hypotension is not known, we conducted a randomized, double-blind study to determine whether patients treated long-term with glucocorticoids actually require increased steroids in the perioperative period. Methods. Patients who had been taking at least 7.5 mg prednisone daily for several months and had secondary adrenal insufficiency as defined by adrenocorticotropic hormone testing formed the study population. Patients were randomized to two groups. One group received perioperative injections of saline solution alone; the other received perioperative saline solution and cortisol. All patients received their usual daily prednisone dose throughout the study. Results. Six patients were in the steroid-treated group and 12 were in the saline-treated group. Most subjects underwent major operations such as joint replacements, abdominal operations, and miscellaneous other procedures. Two patients had hypotension, one in each group. Hypotension resolved with volume replacement in both patients. The average pulse rates and blood pressures were similar in both groups during the perioperative period. Conclusions. Patients with secondary adrenal insufficiency do not experience hypotension or tachycardia caused by inadequate glucocorticoid levels when given only their daily dose of steroids for surgical procedures.
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