Adrenal crisis in treated Addison's disease: a predictable but under-managed event
- Addison's Disease Self-Help Group,PO Box 1083, Guildford GU1 9HX
1School of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Centre for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, University of Birmingham College of Medical and Dental Sciences, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK
- (Correspondence should be addressed to K White; Email:firstname.lastname@example.org)
Context Adrenal crisis is a life-threatening event that occurs regularly in Addison's patients receiving standard replacement therapy. Patient reports suggest that it is an underestimated and under-managed event.
Objective To assess the frequency of adrenal crisis in diagnosed patients and to understand the factors contributing to the risks of adrenal crisis.
Design We conducted a postal survey of Addison's patients in four countries, UK (n=485), Canada (n=148), Australia (n=123) and New Zealand (n=85) in 2003, asking about patients' experiences of adrenal crisis and their demographic characteristics. In 2006, a shorter follow-up survey was conducted in the UK (n=261).
Method The frequency and causes of adrenal crisis were compared across both surveys. Demographic data from the 2003 survey were analysed to establish the main variables associated with an elevated risk of crisis.
Results Around 8% of diagnosed cases can be expected to need hospital treatment for adrenal crisis annually. Exposure to gastric infection is the single most important factor predicting the likelihood of adrenal crisis. Concomitant diabetes and/or asthma increase the frequency of adrenal crises reported by patients.
Conclusion The endocrinologist has a responsibility to ensure that Addison's patients have adequate access to life-saving emergency injection materials and repeated, practical training sessions in how to use them, while the general practitioner plays a vital role as in arranging prompt emergency admissions.