Dynamics of postoperative serum cortisol after transsphenoidal surgery for Cushing’s disease: implications for immediate reoperation and remission
Journal of Neurosurgery, Ahead of Print.
OBJECTIVESuccessful transsphenoidal surgery for adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH)–producing pituitary tumors is associated with subnormal postoperative serum cortisol levels, which may guide decisions regarding immediate reoperation. However, little is known about the detailed temporal course of changes in serum cortisol in the immediate postoperative period, and the relationship of postoperative cortisol dynamics to remission and late recurrence.METHODSA single-center retrospective cohort analysis was performed for all patients undergoing pituitary surgery from 2007 through 2015. Standardized diagnostic and treatment algorithms were applied to all patients with potential Cushing’s disease (CD), including microsurgical transsphenoidal adenomectomy (TSA) by a single surgeon. All patients had serum cortisol levels drawn at 6-hour intervals for 72 hours after surgery, and were offered reoperation within 3 days for normal or supranormal postoperative cortisol levels. Primary outcomes were 6-month remission and late recurrence; secondary outcomes were persistent postoperative hypocortisolism and surgical morbidity. Discriminatory levels of postoperative serum cortisol for predicting remission were calculated at various intervals after surgery using receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves.RESULTSAmong 89 patients diagnosed with CD, 81 underwent initial TSA for a potentially curable lesion; 23 patients (25.8%) underwent an immediate second TSA. For the entire cohort, 6-month remission was achieved in 77.8% and late recurrences occurred in 9.5%, at a mean of 43.5 months. Compared with patients with a single surgery, those with an immediate second TSA had similar rates of remission (78.3% vs 77.6%) and late recurrence (5.6% vs 11.1%). The rate of hypocortisolism for patients with 2 surgeries (12/23, 52.2%) was significantly greater than that for patients with single surgeries (13/58, 22.4%; p < 0.001). There was no difference in the incidence of CSF leaks between the first and second operations. Remission was achieved in 58 (92.1%) of 64 patients who completed the 2-surgery protocol. The temporal course of postoperative serum cortisol levels among patients varied considerably, with subnormal nadir levels < 2 μg/dl occurring between 12 hours and 66 hours. Patients achieving remission had significantly lower mean serum cortisol levels at every time point after surgery (p < 0.01). By ROC curve analysis, nadir cortisol levels < 2.1 μg/dl were predictive of 6-month remission for the entire cohort over 3 days (positive predictive value [PPV] = 94%); discriminating cortisol levels for predicting remission on postoperative day (POD) 2 were < 5.4 μg/dl (PPV = 97%), although patients with remission after postoperative cortisol levels of 2–5 μg/dl had a significantly higher rate of late recurrence.CONCLUSIONSThere is substantial variation in the temporal course of serum cortisol levels over the first 72 hours after TSA for CD, with nadir levels predictive for remission occurring as late as POD 3. Although a cortisol level of 2.1 μg/dl at any point was an accurate predictor of 6-month remission, levels less than 5.4 μg/dl on POD 2 were reasonably accurate. These data may enable decisions regarding the efficacy of an immediate second surgical procedure performed during the same hospitalization; immediate reoperation is associated with excellent remission rates and low recurrence rates in patients otherwise unlikely to achieve remission, but carries a higher risk of permanent hypocortisolism.