, Volume 59, Issue 3, pp 510–519 | Cite as

Daily salivary cortisol and cortisone rhythm in patients with adrenal incidentaloma

  • Filippo CeccatoEmail author
  • Mattia Barbot
  • Nora Albiger
  • Giorgia Antonelli
  • Marialuisa Zilio
  • Marco Todeschini
  • Daniela Regazzo
  • Mario Plebani
  • Carmelo Lacognata
  • Maurizio Iacobone
  • Franco Mantero
  • Marco Boscaro
  • Carla Scaroni
Original Article


Background and aim

Impaired cortisol rhythm is a characteristic feature of Cushing’s Syndrome, nevertheless late night salivary cortisol (LNSC) is not suitable to detect subclinical hypercortisolism in patients with adrenal incidentaloma (AI). We studied daily salivary cortisol (F) and cortisone (E) rhythm in patients with AI.

Materials and methods

Six saliva samples were collected from awakening to night in 106 patients with AI and 40 controls. F and E were measured with LC-MS/MS and daily F exposure was calculated with the area under the curve (AUC).


Patients with serum cortisol after dexamethasone suppression test (DST) > 50 nmol/L showed higher morning F (15.5 ± 14.5 vs. 8.6 ± 5.5 nmol/L, p = 0.001), suppressed corticotropin levels (76 vs. 35%, p < 0.001) and increased daily F exposure (3795 ± 1716 vs. 2898 ± 1478, p = 0.012), especially in the morning (2035 ± 1267 vs. 1365 ± 777, p = 0.003), otherwise LNSC levels were similar. Salivary E and AUC levels were higher in patients with DST > 50 nmol/L. AUC was not correlated with urinary cortisol levels or adenoma size. F and E levels were similar among patients with unilateral or bilateral adenoma, or considering the presence of hypertension, dyslipidemia, diabetes, or cardiovascular events.


Daily cortisol exposure, evaluated with AUC from multiple saliva collections, is increased in AI patients with serum cortisol > 50 nmol/L after DST, especially in the morning, leading to reduced corticotropin levels. Cortisol rhythm is preserved in patients with AI, remarking that LNSC is not a screening test for subclinical hypercortisolism.


Salivary cortisol rhythm Salivary cortisone Adrenal incidentaloma Subclinical hypercortisolism Cardiovascular events 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Filippo Ceccato
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mattia Barbot
    • 1
  • Nora Albiger
    • 1
  • Giorgia Antonelli
    • 2
  • Marialuisa Zilio
    • 1
  • Marco Todeschini
    • 1
  • Daniela Regazzo
    • 1
  • Mario Plebani
    • 2
  • Carmelo Lacognata
    • 3
  • Maurizio Iacobone
    • 4
  • Franco Mantero
    • 1
  • Marco Boscaro
    • 1
  • Carla Scaroni
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Medicine DIMED, Endocrinology Unit University-Hospital of PadovaPadovaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Medicine DIMED, Laboratory Medicine Unit University-Hospital of PadovaPadovaItaly
  3. 3.Department of Medicine DIMED, Radiology Section University-Hospital of PadovaPadovaItaly
  4. 4.Department of Surgery, Minimally-Invasive Endocrine Surgery UnitOncology and Gastroenterology, University-Hospital of PadovaPadovaItaly

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