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The Ovine Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone Stimulation Test and the Dexamethasone Suppression Test in the Differential Diagnosis of Cushing's Syndrome

LYNNETTE K. NIEMAN, M.D.; GEORGE P. CHROUSOS, M.D.; EDWARD H. OLDFIELD, M.D.; PETER C. AVGERINOS, M.D.; GORDON B. CUTLER Jr., M.D.; and D. LYNN LORIAUX, M.D., Ph.D.
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▸Requests for reprints should be addressed to Lynnette K. Nieman, M.D.; Building 10, Room 10N262, National Institutes of Health, 9000 Rockville Pike; Bethesda, MD 20892.


Bethesda, Maryland


Ann Intern Med. 1986;105(6):862-867. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-105-6-862
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We gave a standard dexamethasone suppression test and an ovine corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) stimulation test to 41 patients with adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH)-dependent hypercortisolism to determine the efficacy of each test in the differential diagnosis of Cushing's syndrome. Twenty-nine of thirty-three patients with Cushing's disease and 0 of 8 patients with ectopic secretion of ACTH responded to the ovine CRH test with increased levels of cortisol. When a cortisol response was judged as positive for Cushing's disease, the CRH test had a diagnostic sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of 88%, 100%, and 90%, respectively. Twenty-nine patients with Cushing's disease and 1 patient with ectopic secretion of ACTH responded to the dexamethasone suppression test. A combined-test strategy requiring negative results from both tests to exclude a diagnosis of Cushing's disease yielded superior sensitivity (100%) and diagnostic accuracy (98%). Thus, the ovine CRH test works as well as the standard dexamethasone suppression test in discriminating between Cushing's disease and ectopic ACTH secretion. The diagnostic power of each test is enhanced when the two tests are combined.

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