Adrenal venous sampling in patients with ACTH-independent hypercortisolism

Endocrine. 2019 Nov;66(2):338-348. doi: 10.1007/s12020-019-02038-0. Epub 2019 Aug 22.


Purpose: To study the usefulness of adrenal venous sampling (AVS) in distinguishing unilateral from bilateral cortisol production in patients with ACTH-independent hypercortisolism and bilateral adrenal lesions, or morphologically normal adrenal glands.

Methods: A retrospective analysis of ten consecutive patients with ACTH-independent hypercortisolism who underwent AVS at our institution between 2009 and 2017. Unilateral dominant cortisol production was defined as a side-to-side cortisol/aldosterone lateralization ratio >2.

Results: Four of ten patients had overt Cushing's syndrome. Of these, two had bilateral adrenal lesions on computed tomography and two had normal adrenal glands. One of the two patients with bilateral adrenal lesions had, based on the AVS, a unilateral dominant cortisol production. Following unilateral adrenalectomy the patient developed adrenal insufficiency. The other three patients were considered to have bilateral cortisol production and underwent bilateral adrenalectomy. Six patients had a mild autonomous cortisol secretion and bilateral adrenal lesions. Based on AVS, one patient was considered to have unilateral dominant cortisol production, underwent unilateral adrenalectomy and developed transient adrenal insufficiency postoperatively.

Conclusions: AVS may contribute to appropriate treatment in patients with ACTH-independent hypercortisolism and bilateral adrenal lesions. In our series, AVS was helpful in the decision-making of two out of ten patients, avoiding chronic treatment with steroidogenesis inhibitors, or inappropriate bilateral adrenalectomy.

Keywords: ACTH-independent; Adrenal venous sampling; Autonomous cortisol secretion; Cushing’s syndrome; Hypercortisolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Glands / blood supply*
  • Adrenal Glands / surgery
  • Adrenalectomy
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / blood*
  • Adult
  • Blood Specimen Collection / methods*
  • Child
  • Cushing Syndrome / blood*
  • Cushing Syndrome / surgery
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate / blood
  • Epinephrine / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norepinephrine / blood
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Norepinephrine
  • Epinephrine