Article abstract

Rheological modifications observed in sickle cell anemia are associated with ischemic complications that can cause target organ functional impairment. The objective was to investigate adrenal function of adult patients with sickle cell disease. In this cross-sectional study conducted in a tertiary referral hospital of the capital city of Cameroon, we enrolled ten crisis-free adult patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) and ten age- and sex-matched healthy individuals. We assessed adrenal function by testing basal cortisol levels and 60 min after tetracosactide (Synacthen®) injection using immuno-chemiluminescence method. Post-stimulatory cortisol was defined as primary endpoint and secondary endpoints include basal cortisol levels, post-stimulatory cortisol increments and the fold increase of cortisol one hour after stimulation. Sickle cell patients had an impairment of adrenal function despite no significant difference between patients’ and controls’ for basal or post-stimulatory cortisol levels. In fact, one patient in two failed to achieve a two-fold increase in cortisol levels after stimulation (5/10) as opposed to 1 in 10 in the control population (1/10), P = 0.070. The percent increment of cortisol after stimulation was lower in patients versus controls (133 vs 207, P = 0.047). Relative adrenal insufficiency is frequent in sub-Saharan adult patients with sickle cell disease despite normal basal cortisol levels. Our results suggest that adrenal function require further investigation during SCD crises as these represent an important stress and may worsen the prognosis.