Background: Dental patients with primary or secondary adrenal insufficiency, or AI, may be at risk of experiencing adrenal crisis during or after invasive procedures. Since the mid-1950s, supplemental steroids in rather large doses have been recommended for patients with AI to prevent adrenal crisis.
Methods: To evaluate the need for supplemental steroids in these patients, the authors searched the literature from 1966 to 2000 using MEDLINE and textbooks for information that addressed AI and adrenal crisis in dentistry. Reference lists of relevant publications and review articles also were examined for information about the topic.
Results: The review identified only four reports of purported adrenal crisis in dentistry. Factors associated with the risk of adrenal crisis included the magnitude of surgery, the use of general anesthetics, the health status and stability of the patient, and the degree of pain control.
Conclusions: The limited number of reported cases strongly suggests that adrenal crisis is a rare event in dentistry, especially for patients with secondary AI, and most routine dental procedures can be performed without glucocorticoid supplementation.
Clinical implications: The authors identify risk conditions for adrenal crisis and suggest new guidelines to prevent this problem in dental patients with AI.