Adrenal Vein Cortisol to Metanephrine Ratio for Localizing ACTH-Independent Cortisol-Producing Adenoma: A Case Report

J Endocr Soc. 2021 Jan 25;5(4):bvab009. doi: 10.1210/jendso/bvab009. eCollection 2021 Apr 1.


Context: Finding the source of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-independent cortisol-producing adenoma in the patients with subclinical Cushing syndrome (SCS) and bilateral adrenal nodules is sometimes challenging. Computed tomography (CT) and positron emission tomography are helpful, but adrenal venous sampling (AVS) is the gold standard approach. However, interpretation of AVS is important to improve the accuracy of decision-making for surgery. We report a case and review of the literature to assess the benefit of using adrenal vein cortisol to metanephrine ratio to determine the source of cortisol production in SCS and bilateral nodules.

Evidence acquisition: Three authors searched PubMed for data on patients with SCS who had AVS procedure and measurements of cortisol and catecholamines.

Case description: A 51-year-old woman with SCS and hypertension crisis presented to our clinic. Paraclinical investigations revealed that she had an ACTH-independent cortisol-producing adenoma and her CT scan showed bilateral adrenal nodules. After AVS, cortisol (high to low) lateralization ratio could not determine the source of cortisol production but the cortisol to metanephrine ratio localized the source to the left side, which included the larger nodule according to CT measurements. Left adrenalectomy led to clinical and paraclinical improvement.

Conclusion: There is a possibility of co-secretion of other steroids accompanied with cortisol in the setting of ACTH-independent SCS. Moreover, cortisol measurement alone and interpretation of AVS results based on cortisol values may not help lateralizing the source of cortisol production with bilateral adrenal nodules. Therefore, we suggest applying cortisol to metanephrine ratio with the same gradient (gradient > 2.3, highest to lowest concentration) when the source of cortisol production cannot be determined by cortisol lateralization ratio.

Keywords: adrenal venous sampling; cortisol to metanephrine ratio; subclinical Cushing.

Publication types

  • Case Reports