Simultaneous plasma dexamethasone and cortisol levels were followed at intervals over 8 hour periods on 40 occasions in 19 subjects who received regular high dosage dexamethasone therapy (rarely less than 12 mg a day) for various neurological and neurosurgical conditions. Lower dexamethasone doses (for example 2 mg daily for 2 days) normally suppress adrenal cortical production of cortisol to below 50 micrograms/l for at least 8 hours. However, in 12 of the 35 studies that did not take place at the first steroid dose or in subjects taking second daily bolus steroid dosage such suppression was not present 8 to 12 hours after dexamethasone intake, though it was shown that dexamethasone could suppress cortisol production in all these cases. Failure of maintained suppression despite the high steroid dose appeared to be related to rapid elimination of dexamethasone. These findings may help explain the relative rarity of adrenal failure in clinical neurological practice after high dosage steroid therapy is ceased.
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