Adrenal Insufficiency in Pediatric Eosinophilic Esophagitis Patients Treated with Swallowed Topical Steroids

Pediatr Allergy Immunol Pulmonol. 2017 Sep 1;30(3):135-140. doi: 10.1089/ped.2017.0779.


Swallowed topical steroids (STS) are the only effective pharmacological therapy for eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE). Thus far, studies of small populations of EoE patients have reported conflicting results in relation to adrenal insufficiency (AI). We sought to measure AI in a clinical setting in children taking STS for EoE. We performed a quality improvement study of pediatric EoE patients seen in a multidisciplinary clinic, who were treated with STS for at least 3 months. Two hundred twenty-five patients completed questionnaires to assess for signs of AI. All patients were requested to have fasting morning cortisol levels completed and if abnormal (<5 μg/dL or 139 nmol/L) twice, endocrinology consultation, and low-dose adrenocorticotropic hormone stimulation test were performed. A peak stimulated cortisol level of <18 μg/dL or 500 nmol/L was diagnostic of AI. Five of 106 STS-treated EoE patients who had morning cortisol levels drawn had AI. All 5 of these patients had asthma and were on additional topical steroid treatments. The number of steroid modalities and dose of steroid were not significant risk factors. Despite this low percentage, the life-threatening potential of AI warrants patient screening, as patients with iatrogenic AI are typically asymptomatic until an emergency triggers adrenal crisis. Further multicenter studies are needed to better define the risk attributable to STS alone, particularly in patients receiving combined steroid modalities.

Keywords: asthma; cortisol; eosinophilic esophagitis; esophagitis; safety.