Increased activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is common early after stroke. Hypercortisolism is a prominent manifestation. Normally the secretion of cortisol is regulated by adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), but recently an ACTH/cortisol dissociation after stroke was reported. Cytokines may influence the HPA axis, and plasma IL-6 levels are elevated following stroke. We investigated correlations between cortisol, ACTH, and cytokines, and between blood pressure and blood hormone levels early after stroke in seven stroke patients. All had neurological symptoms secondary to brain infarctions. Blood samples for analysis of cortisol, ACTH, IL-6, TNF alpha, norepinephrine, and epinephrine were collected four times daily, and 24-h blood pressure was measured. Plasma IL-6, but not ACTH, correlated significantly to serum cortisol. Catecholamine levels correlated with cytokine and cortisol levels. This study suggests that several routes for HPA-axis dysregulation is present early after stroke. Cytokine release may play an important role in this situation.
1997. Vol. 147, no 1, 43-7 p.