Adrenal insufficiency due to bilateral adrenal metastases – A systematic review and meta-analysis

Philippa H. Tallis, R. Louise Rushworth, David J. Torpy, Henrik Falhammar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Objective: Bilateral adrenal metastases may cause adrenal insufficiency (AI) but it is unclear if screening for AI in patients with bilateral adrenal metastases is justified, despite the potential for adrenal crises.

Method: A search using PubMed/Medline, ScienceDirect and Cochrane Reviews was performed to collect all original research articles and all case reports from the past 50 years that describe AI in bilateral adrenal metastases.

Results: Twenty studies were included with 6 original research articles, 13 case reports and one case series. The quality was generally poor. The prevalence of AI was 3–8%. Of all cases of AI (n = 25) the mean pooled baseline cortisol was 318 ± 237 nmol/L and stimulated 423 ± 238 nmol/L. Hypotension was present in 69%, hyponatremia in 9% and hyperkalemia in 100%. Lung cancer was the cause in 35%, colorectal 20%, breast cancer 15% and lymphoma 10%. The size of the adrenal metastases was 5.5 ± 2.8 cm (left) and 5.5 ± 3.1 cm (right), respectively. There was no correlation between basal cortisol, stimulated cortisol concentration or ACTH with the size of adrenal metastases. The median time to death was 5.0 months (IQR 0.6–6.5). However, two cases were alive after 12–24 months.

Conclusion: The prevalence of AI in patients with bilateral adrenal metastases was low. Prognosis was very poor. Due to the low prevalence of AI, screening is likely only indicated in patients with symptoms and signs suggestive of hypocortisolism.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01783
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


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