Overnight dexamethasone suppression test: A reliable screen for cushing's syndrome in the obese

Rosane Ness-Abramof*, Dan Nabriski, Caroline M. Apovian, Mark Niven, Eliahu Weiss, Menachem S. Shapiro, Louis Shenkman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Reevaluation of the validity of the 1-mg overnight dexamethasone suppression test (ODST) as a screening test for Cushing's syndrome in obese patients. Research Methods and Procedures: Eighty-six obese patients (body mass index, 30 to 53 kg/m2) that were referred to a general endocrine outpatient clinic for evaluation of simple obesity, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, polycystic ovary disease, or pituitary tumor. One milligram dexamethasone was administered orally at 11:00 PM, and serum cortisol levels were measured the following morning between 8:00 AM and 9:00 AM. Suppression of serum cortisol to <80 nM (3 μg/dL) was chosen as the cut-off point for normal suppression. Patients with serum cortisol levels ≥80 nM were evaluated for Cushing's syndrome. Results: Suppression of morning cortisol levels to <80 nM occurred in 79 of the 86 obese patients. Seven patients had serum cortisol levels higher than 80 nM; five were eventually diagnosed with Cushing's syndrome and two were considered false positive results in view of normal 24-hour free urinary cortisol and normal suppression on a low dose dexamethasone suppression test (0.5 mg of dexamethasone every 6 hours for 2 days). We found a false positive rate of 2.3% for the ODST using a cut-off serum cortisol of 80 nM. Discussion: The ODST is a valid screening test for Cushing's syndrome in the obese population. The false positive rate was 2.3%, even when using a strict cut-off serum cortisol of 80 nM. Abnormal cortisol suppression in obese patients should be investigated and not be considered false positive results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1217-1221
Number of pages5
JournalObesity Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2002


  • Cushing's syndrome
  • Dexamethasone
  • Dexamethasone suppression test


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