Background: Adrenal hormones are synthesized from cholesterol, produced and stored in the liver. Liver failure has been reported to be associated with adrenal insufficiency. A possible mechanism could be a limited supply of substrate for cortisol synthesis. The aims of this study was to evaluate the occurrence of total serum cortisol <200 nmol/L after major liver resection (≥ 30%) and other major surgery (hemicolectomy) and to assess associations between cholesterol and cortisol levels after liver resection.
Methods: Prospective, observational study. 40 patients were included (major liver resection n=15, hemicolectomy n=25). Serum and salivary cortisol were followed from morning before surgery up to five days postoperatively. Sulphated dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEAS) and lipids (cholesterol, low density lipoproteins, high density lipoproteins and triglycerides) were obtained in liver resection patients.
Results: 8/25 (32%, hemicolectomy patients), and 3/15 (20%, liver resection patients) had serum cortisol <200 nmol/L. Neither hemicolectomy nor liver resection was significantly associated with serum cortisol <200 nmol/L, p=0.49. Serum cortisol <200 nmol/L was not significantly associated with lipids below normal limits, (cholesterol; p=1.0 day 1, p=0.46 day 4, LDL; p=0.56 day 1, p=1.0 day 4, and HDL; p=0.27 day 1, p=1.0 day 4). Serum and salivary cortisol correlated significantly (rs=0.83, p<0.0001, hemicolectomy, rs=0.80, p<0.0001, liver resection).
Conclusion: Serum cortisol levels <200 nmol/L was found in 32% (hemicolectomy) and 20% (liver resection) postoperatively. Compared to after hemicolectomy, serum cortisol <200 nmol/L was not significantly more common after liver resection. Lipids below normal limits were not associated with serum cortisol <200 nmol/L after liver resection.
Key words: gastrointestinal surgical procedures, adrenal insufficiency, hydrocortisone