Epidemiology and Comorbidity of Adrenal Cushing Syndrome: A Nationwide Cohort Study

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2021 Mar 8;106(3):e1362-e1372. doi: 10.1210/clinem/dgaa752.


Context: Adrenal Cushing syndrome (CS) is a major subtype of CS and has a high surgical cure rate. However, only a few studies have investigated the epidemiology and long-term outcomes of adrenal CS.

Objective: We aimed to investigate the nationwide epidemiology, long-term prognosis, and postoperative glucocorticoid replacement therapies of adrenal CS in Korea.

Design: Retrospective cohort study.

Setting: A nationwide claim database.

Patients: Adrenal CS patients who were defined as having undergone adrenalectomy, a diagnosis code of CS, and not having pituitary gland surgery.

Main outcome measures: Crude incidence and age-standardized incidence rates, long-term mortality, comorbidities diagnosed preoperatively or developed postoperatively, and the pattern of postoperative glucocorticoid replacement therapy.

Results: From 2002 to 2017, there were a total of 1199 new adrenal CS patients, including 72 patients with adrenocortical carcinoma (malignant adrenal CS), in Korea. The crude and age-standardized incidence rates were 1.51 and 1.27 per million person-years, respectively. The overall standardized mortality ratio was 3.0 (95% confidence interval [CI], 2.4-3.7) for benign adrenal CS and 13.1 (95% CI, 7.6-18.6) for malignant adrenal CS. Adrenal CS patients had a high risk of having coronary artery disease, stroke, metabolic diseases, and depression. A similar proportion of patients were diagnosed with these comorbidities both preoperatively and postoperatively, suggesting a significant residual risk even after adrenalectomy. The median time of postoperative glucocorticoid replacement therapy was 10.1 months, and the major types of glucocorticoids used were prednisolone (66.6%) and hydrocortisone (22.4%).

Conclusions: Adrenal CS is associated with multiple comorbidities even after treatment, which necessitates meticulous postoperative care.

Keywords: adrenal Cushing syndrome; comorbidity; epidemiology; postoperative glucocorticoid replacement.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / complications
  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / therapy
  • Adrenalectomy
  • Adrenocortical Adenoma / complications
  • Adrenocortical Adenoma / diagnosis
  • Adrenocortical Adenoma / epidemiology*
  • Adrenocortical Adenoma / therapy
  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Cushing Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Cushing Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Cushing Syndrome / etiology
  • Cushing Syndrome / therapy
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality
  • Prognosis
  • Republic of Korea / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult


  • Glucocorticoids