Adrenal Insufficiency due to Fluticasone in Eosinophilic Esophagitis

A recent study (MC Golekoh et al. J Pediatr 2016; 170: 240-5) shows that adrenal insufficiency developed in 10% of patients on chronic (>6 months) swallowed corticosteroid therapy for Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE).

Background: 58 patients with 67% receiving fluticasone and 33% receiving budesonide.  Median age: 13.7, median fluticasone dose 1320 mcg/day, median treatment duration: 4 yrs.  For budesonide, median dose was 1000 mcg/day and median age 10.7 yrs.

Key findings with low-dose ACTH stimulation:

  • Abnormal peak cortisol (≤ 20 mcg/dL) present in 15% and adrenal insufficiency (< 18 mcg/dL)  (n=6) noted in 10%
  • Only patients receiving >440 mcg/day of fluticasone had adrenal insufficiency
  • No patients taking budesonide had an abnormal cortisol level


  • Higher doses of fluticasone, particularly early in treatment, has been shown to have an improved inflammatory response.  However, as with asthma therapy, higher doses increase the risk of adrenal insufficiency.
  • Adrenal insufficiency can be asymptomatic but pose a risk for life-threatening adrenal crisis.
  • Strengths of study: Fairly large cohort, endoscopic/pathologic reports available, and ACTH stimulation testing which has better sensitivity than random cortisol.
  • Limitations: Lower number of patients receiving budesonide, particularly at a higher dose.  No indication of adherence.

My take: If higher doses of fluticasone are needed for prolonged period, consider screening (endocrinology consultation) for adrenal insufficiency.

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