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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 269-272

Urinary free cortisol in the diagnosis of Cushing's syndrome: How useful?

Department of Medicine, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Nigeria

Correspondence Address:
A O Ifedayo
Department of Medicine, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Lagos
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1119-3077.113445

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Cushing's Syndrome results from chronic exposure to excessive circulating levels of glucocorticoids. To confirm the clinical suspicion, biochemical tests are needed. These biochemical tests include the measurement of excess total endogenous cortisol secretion assessed by 24-hour urinary free cortisol (UFC), loss of the normal feedback of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis assessed by suppressibility after dexamethasone testing, and disturbance of the normal circadian rhythm of cortisol secretion assessed by midnight serum or salivary cortisol. We searched the Medline, Pubmed, journal articles, WHO publications and reputable textbooks relating to Cushing's syndrome using publications from 1995 to 2011. UFC has been the classic screening test used to confirm hypercortisolemia as the first step in diagnostic work-up of Cushing's syndrome. Its long-term use in clinical practice has led to emergence of significant evidence regarding the utility of UFC in the diagnosis of Cushing's syndrome. UFC would have been a simple diagnostic tool to use but for the drawbacks in the sample collection, different laboratory methods of assay, not easily determined normal range. UFC use as a screening test is not strongly favoured because cortisol is not uniformly secreted during the day, and the increased prevalence of mild, preclinical or cyclic Cushing's syndrome. A very high level of UFC negates the need for other test procedures in patients with obvious symptoms and signs of Cushing's syndrome. We therefore suggest that UFC should be used with other screening tests for Cushing's syndrome to increase diagnostic yield.

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