Salivary steroid assays - research or routine?

Ann Clin Biochem. 2009 May;46(Pt 3):183-96. doi: 10.1258/acb.2008.008208. Epub 2009 Jan 28.


Salivary concentrations of unconjugated steroids reflect those for free steroids in serum although concentrations may differ because of salivary gland metabolism. Samples for salivary steroid analysis are stable for up to 7 days at room temperature, one month or more at 4 degrees C and three months or more at -20 degrees C. When assessed against strict criteria, the evidence shows that salivary cortisol in evening samples or following dexamethasone suppression provides a reliable and effective screen for Cushing's syndrome. Sequential salivary cortisol measurements are also extremely helpful for the investigation of suspected cyclical Cushing's syndrome. There is potential for the identification of adrenal insufficiency when used with Synacthen stimulation. Salivary 17-hydroxyprogesterone and androstenedione assays are valued as non-invasive tests for the home-monitoring of hydrocortisone replacement therapy in patients with congenital adrenal hyperplasia due to 21-hydroxylase deficiency. The diagnostic value of salivary oestradiol, progesterone, testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone and aldosterone testing is compromised by rapid fluctuations in salivary concentrations of these steroids. Multiple samples are required to obtain reliable information, and at present the introduction of these assays into routine laboratory testing is not justified.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Hyperplasia, Congenital / diagnosis
  • Adrenal Hyperplasia, Congenital / metabolism
  • Adrenal Insufficiency / diagnosis
  • Adrenal Insufficiency / metabolism
  • Biological Assay
  • Cushing Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Cushing Syndrome / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Saliva / chemistry*
  • Steroids / analysis*
  • Steroids / blood


  • Steroids