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Critical Care and Emergency Medicine - Diabetes and Endocrinology - Pediatrics and Child Health

Clinical, Biological and Genetic Analysis of 8 Cases of Congenital Isolated Adrenocorticotrophic Hormone (ACTH) Deficiency
Published: Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Author: Luu-Ly Pham et al.

by Luu-Ly Pham, Christelle Garot, Thierry Brue, Raja Brauner


Congenital isolated adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) deficiency may be rare, but it could be an underestimated cause of neonatal death. Our objective was to shorten the time between first symptoms and diagnosis.


This single-centre retrospective case-cohort study was carried out on eight consecutive patients.


Two had the neonatal form and 6 the late onset form. Six were admitted to an intensive care unit at least once for seizures with hypoglycemia, major hypothermia, fever, and/or collapsus. The 2 neonatal cases presented with hypoglycemia and in a state of “apparent death” at birth or hypothermia (29°C) at 6 days. All 6 late onset cases had also been admitted to an emergency department 1–3 times, but had left hospital incorrectly diagnosed. Their first symptoms were noted at 3–12.3 years, and they were diagnosed at 3.3–14.4 years. All had hypoglycemia, and 4 had had seizures. The presenting symptoms were vomiting and/or abdominal pain, asthenia, irritability, difficulty with physical activities, and anorexia. The school performance of 4 deteriorated. Two underwent psychotherapy and treatment for depression, which was stopped when Hydrocortisone® replacement therapy began.The plasma concentrations in spontaneous hypoglycemia were: ACTH<5 to 17.1 pg/mL, with concomitant cortisol <3.5 to 37 ng/mL. The plasma dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHAS) concentrations were low in the 7 evaluated. The coding sequence of TPIT was normal in all.


Several unexplained symptoms in a child, mainly gastro-intestinal symptoms and seizures due to hypoglycemia, may indicate ACTH deficiency. A low or normal basal plasma ACTH despite concomitant low cortisol at 8 a.m. and/or in spontaneous hypoglycemia, associated with low DHAS, in a patient not given corticosteroids is highly suggestive of ACTH deficiency. The isolated character of ACTH deficiency must be confirmed by determining the other hypothalamic-pituitary functions, and Hydrocortisone® replacement therapy initiated in emergency.