Cortisol level after dexamethasone suppression test in patients with non-functioning adrenal incidentaloma is positively associated with the duration of reactive hyperemia response on microvascular bed



Data on endothelial derangements in patients with non-functioning adrenal incidentaloma (NFAI) are scarce.


We investigated if NFAI patients present clinical, biochemical and endothelial alterations compared to individuals without an adrenal lesion and also the associations among these variables. Forty-two NFAI and 40 controls were evaluated. NFAI diagnosis and controls were defined according to the current guidelines and based on a normal adrenal imaging exam, respectively. Body composition was evaluated by dual emission X-ray absorptiometry. Endothelial reactivity was assessed by two methods: tonometry (Endo-PAT®) and laser speckle contrast imaging (LSCI).


There were no differences between groups regarding age, gender, ethnicity, smoking status, and statin use. The frequency of metabolic syndrome according to the International Diabetes Federation criteria was 69% and 57.9%, respectively in NFAI and controls (p = 0.36), whereas the atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) risk was 63.4% and 66.7% (p = 0.81). The clinical, laboratory, and anthropometric characteristics, as well as body composition, were similar between the groups. Additionally, any differences between groups were observed on endothelial reactivity tests. Nevertheless, we noted an association between cortisol levels after 1 mg-dexamethosone suppression test (1 mg-DST) and the duration of post-occlusive reactive hyperemia tested on microcirculation (r = 0.30; p = 0.03). NFAI patients require more antihypertensive drugs to achieve blood pressure control (p = 0.04). The number of antihypertensive drugs used to control blood pressure correlated with cortisol levels after 1 mg-DST (r = 0.29; p = 0.03).


Since both groups herein investigated had a high frequency of metabolic syndrome and ASCVD risk, it might explain similarities observed on endothelial reactivity. Nevertheless, prolonged reactive hyperemia response on microcirculation was correlated with cortisol levels under suppression.

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This study was made possible thanks to grants from the Research Support Foundation of the State of Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ) and the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq).

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de Paula, M.P., Moraes, A.B., de Souza, M.G.C. et al. Cortisol level after dexamethasone suppression test in patients with non-functioning adrenal incidentaloma is positively associated with the duration of reactive hyperemia response on microvascular bed. J Endocrinol Invest 44, 609–619 (2021).

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  • Adrenal incidentaloma
  • Nonfunctioning adrenal incidentaloma
  • Endothelial dysfunction
  • Cytokines
  • Cardiovascular risk