Secondary adrenal insufficiency and growth hormone deficiency in patients with fibromyalgia

Lucinda M. Gruber, Sanjeev Nanda, Todd Nippoldt, Alice Y. Chang, Irina Bancos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Patients with fibromyalgia (FM) may demonstrate low cortisol concentrations during diagnostic evaluation. However, it remains unclear whether low cortisol reflects underlying pituitary dysfunction. We aimed to determine if a subset of patients with FM have concomitant secondary adrenal insufficiency (SAI) and growth hormone deficiency (GH). Patients and Methods: This is a retrospective study of all patients with FM diagnosed with SAI based on abnormal insulin tolerance test (ITT) between June 2002 and August 2019. Patients were excluded if they had other reasons for SAI. Measurements include cortisol and GH during ITT in all patients, and peak cortisol during cosyntropin stimulation test in a subset of patients. Results: We identified 22 patients (median age of 38 years (range 19–65), 18 (82%) women) diagnosed with secondary AI based on abnormal ITT (peak median cortisol level of 11 mcg/ dL (range 5.4–17)). Concomitant GH deficiency was diagnosed in 19 (86%) patients. Cosyntropin stimulation test was performed in 14 (64%) patients and was normal in 11 (79%) (peak cortisol ≥18 mcg/dL). MRI pituitary imaging was performed in 20 patients and showed no significant pituitary pathology. All patients were started on physiologic gluco-corticoid replacement, and 5 patients were started on GH replacement. Of the 13 patients with follow-up, 8 (62%) reported symptom improvement after starting treatment. Conclusion: Patients with FM can have concurrent SAI and GH deficiency. Cosyntropin stimulation test should not be used to exclude SAI in patients with FM. Appropriate glucocorticoid and/or GH replacement may improve symptoms in some patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1323-1329
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pain Research
StatePublished - 2021


  • Cosyntropin stimulation test
  • Hypothalamus-pituitary dysfunction
  • Insulin tolerance test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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