Hydrocortisone and prednisone have comparable safety and effectiveness when used as glucocorticoid replacement therapy in patients with adrenal adenoma or Cushing’s disease who underwent adrenalectomy, a new study shows.
The study, “Comparison of hydrocortisone and prednisone in the glucocorticoid replacement therapy post-adrenalectomy of Cushing’s Syndrome,” was published in the journal Oncotarget.
The symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome are related to excessive levels of glucocorticoids in our body. Glucocorticoids are a type of steroid hormones produced by the adrenal gland. Consequently, a procedure called adrenalectomy – removal of the adrenal glands – is usually conducted in patients with Cushing’s syndrome.
Unfortunately, adrenalectomy leads to a sharp drop in hormones that are necessary for our bodies. So, post-adrenalectomy glucocorticoid replacement therapy is required for patients.
Hydrocortisone and prednisone are synthetic glucocorticoids that most often are used for glucocorticoid replacement therapy.
Treatment with either hydrocortisone or prednisone has proven effective in patients with Cushing’s syndrome. However, few studies have compared the two treatments directly to determine if there are significant advantages of one therapy over another.
Chinese researchers set out to compare the effectiveness and safety of hydrocortisone and prednisone treatments in patients with Cushing’s syndrome, up to six months after undergoing adrenalectomy.
Patients were treated with either hydrocortisone or prednisone starting at day two post-adrenalectomy. The withdrawal schedule varied by individual patients.
At baseline, both groups had similar responses to the adrenalectomy, including the correction of hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels), and hypokalemia (low potassium levels). Furthermore, most patients in both groups lost weight and showed significant improvement, as judged by a subjective evaluation questionnaire.
Hydrocortisone did show a significant advantage over prednisone in the improvement of liver function, but its use also was associated with significant swelling of the lower extremities, as compared to prednisone.
Patients in both groups went on to develop adrenal insufficiency (AI) during glucocorticoid withdrawal. However, there were no significant differences in the AI incidence rate – 35 percent in the hydrocortisone group versus 45 percent in the prednisone group. The severity of A also was not significantly different between the groups.
Furthermore, most of the AI symptoms were relieved by going back to the initial doses of the glucocorticoid replacement.
As there were no significant differences between the two treatments, the findings support “the use of both hydrocortisone and prednisone in the glucocorticoid replacement therapy post-adrenalectomy for patients of adrenal adenoma or Cushing’s disease,” researchers concluded.