Impaired aldosterone response to ACTH without hypoaldosteronism: An unrecognized secretory pattern in search of clinical implications

Yonit Marcus, Gabi Shefer, Karen Tordjman, Yael Sofer, Yona Greenman, Naftali Stern*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context: Aldosterone has been recently characterized as a 'stress hormone'. Stress per se elicits a sizable rise in aldosterone secretion, which could be replicated by the administration of a low dose (0.03–1 μg, IV) of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). Whether or not the aldosterone response to ACTH could be selectively impaired, that is, in association with intact cortisol response, is presently unknown. Objective: To determine whether or not the aldosterone response to low dose of ACTH is impaired in subjects referred to assess the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA). Design: Retrospective analysis. Setting: Outpatient referral endocrine day care centre. Patients: One hundred and ninety-five consecutive subjects who underwent the low dose (1 μg) ACTH test, in whom decreased cortisol reserve was suspected due to former/present glucocorticoid excess, pituitary disease or/and unexplained weakness. Main Outcome Measures: The outcome was the detection of lack of aldosterone response, defined as a rise <111 pmol/l. Results: In all, 46/195 subjects had subnormal aldosterone response as compared with 52/195 subjects showing diminished cortisol response. Nine subjects had combined deficient aldosterone and cortisol response. In the 37 subjects with isolated subnormal aldosterone response common associations were the use of exogenous glucocorticoids, mostly prednisone (n = 16); former Cushing disease (n = 2); nonfunctioning pituitary adenoma (n = 8); hypothyroidism (n = 11); the use of statins (n = 11), angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (n = 6), sex steroids in transgenders and orthostatic hypotension (n = 3). Twenty-seven percent (25/93) of the subjects with recent exposure to glucocorticoids had impaired aldosterone response to ACTH. Conclusion: Blunted aldosterone response to ACTH in the absence of hypoaldosteronism was seen in ~27% of subjects referred for HPA assessment using the low dose 1 μg ACTH test. Exposure to glucocorticoid excess was often linked to this impairment, independent of the cortisol response to ACTH.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-520
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Endocrinology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • aldosterone
  • cortisol
  • glucocorticoid treatment
  • low dose ACTH test


Dive into the research topics of 'Impaired aldosterone response to ACTH without hypoaldosteronism: An unrecognized secretory pattern in search of clinical implications'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this