Background: Observational studies show that glucocorticoid therapy and the endogenous hypercortisolism of Cushing's syndrome (CS) are associated with increased rates of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. However, the causes of these findings remain largely unknown. Objective: To determine whether CS patients have increased coronary atherosclerosis. Design: A prospective case-control study was performed. Setting: Subjects were evaulated in a clinical research center. Subjects: Fifteen consecutive patients with ACTH-dependent CS, 14 due to an ectopic source and 1 due to pituitary Cushing's disease were recruited. Eleven patients were studied when hypercortisolemic; 4 patients were eucortisolemic due to medication (3) or cyclic hypercortisolism (1). Fifteen control subjects with at least one risk factor for cardiac disease were matched 1:1 for age, sex, and body mass index. Primary outcome variables: Agatston score a measure of calcified plaque and non-calcified coronary plaque volume were quantified using a multidetector CT (MDCT) coronary angiogram scan. Additional variables included fasting lipids, blood pressure, history of hypertension or diabetes, and 24-hour urine free cortisol excretion. Results: CS patients had significantly greater noncalcified plaque volume and Agatston score (noncalcified plaque volume [mm3] median [interquartile ranges]: CS 49.5 [31.4, 102.5], controls 17.9 [2.6, 25.3], P < .001; Agatston score: CS 70.6 [0, 253.1], controls 0 [0, 7.6]; P < .05). CS patients had higher systolic and diastolic blood pressures than controls (systolic: CS 143 mm Hg [135, 173]; controls, 134 [123, 136], P < .02; diastolic CS: 86 [80, 99], controls, 76 [72, 84], P < .05). Conclusions: Increased coronary calcifications and noncalcified coronary plaque volumes are present in patients with active or previous hypercortisolism. Increased atherosclerosis may contribute to the increased rates of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in patients with glucocorticoid excess.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Clinical Biochemistry
- Biochemistry, medical