Usefulness of the corticotropin-releasing hormone test during bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling for the diagnosis of Cushing's disease

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1991 Jul;73(1):53-9. doi: 10.1210/jcem-73-1-53.


Inferior petrosal sinus blood sampling for ACTH measurement (IPSS) is used for the differential diagnosis of ACTH-dependent Cushing's syndrome and for the preoperative location of pituitary microadenomas. Intermittent ACTH secretion from pituitary adenomas may result in insignificant differences between petrosal and peripheral ACTH levels at the time of sampling. Thus, pituitary stimulation during IPSS may improve the procedure. The aim of the study was to evaluate the usefulness of CRH injection in combination with IPSS. Twenty-two patients with Cushing's disease (CD; 5 macroadenomas, 16 microadenomas, and 1 corticotroph hyperplasia) and 5 patients with ectopic ACTH syndrome were studied. Bilateral IPSS was successfully carried out on 25 patients. Patients with ectopic ACTH syndrome had, before and after CRH injection, central to peripheral ACTH gradients below 1.7. Four patients with CD had basal gradients below 1.4. After CRH administration all patients with CD had gradients above 3.2. Despite correct location of central catheters, the predicted location of pituitary microadenomas was erroneous in 41% of the cases. It was not improved after CRH injection. In conclusion, the combination of CRH injection with IPSS was useful for the differential diagnosis of ACTH-dependent Cushing's syndrome, as it increased the discrimination of the procedure. On the contrary, it was useless for the preoperative location of pituitary microadenomas, which was poorly predicted by IPSS.

MeSH terms

  • ACTH Syndrome, Ectopic / diagnosis
  • Adenoma / pathology
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / blood
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone*
  • Cushing Syndrome / blood
  • Cushing Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / pathology
  • Veins


  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone