Adrenal crises (AC) are life-threatening complications of adrenal insufficiency (AI). These events have an estimated incidence of between 5 and 10 ACs/100 patient years (PY) and are responsible for some of the increased morbidity and excess mortality experienced by patients with AI. Treatment involves urgent administration of IV/IM hydrocortisone and IV fluids. Patient education regarding preventive measures, such as increasing the dose of replacement therapy (“stress dosing”) when sick, using parenteral hydrocortisone as necessary and accessing medical assistance promptly, is still considered the best approach to averting the onset of an AC at times of physiological stress, most commonly an infection. However, recent evidence has demonstrated that patient education does not prevent many AC events and the reasons for this are not fully understood. Furthermore, there is no widely accepted definition of AC. Without a validated AC definition it is difficult to interpret variations in the incidence of AC and determine the effectiveness of preventive measures. This article aims to review the clinical aspects of AC events; to explore the epidemiology; and to offer a definition for an AC and to offer a perspective on future directions for research into AC prevention.


adrenal insufficiency, incidence, risk factors, morbidity, mortality

Link to Publisher Version (URL)

http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1007/s12020-016-1204-2

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