Assessment of adrenal function at birth using adrenal glucocorticoid precursor to product ratios to predict short-term neonatal outcomes


Karsli T, Jain VG, Mhanna M, Wu Q, Pepkowitz SH, Chandler DW, Shekhawat PS




Pediatr Res . 2020 Mar;87(4):767-772.

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Most neonatal outcomes in neonates are related to normal adrenal gland function. Assessment of adrenal function in a sick preterm neonate remains a challenge, thus we hypothesized that adrenal steroid precursors to their product ratios have a direct relationship with neonatal outcomes.


We studied demographics of pregnancy and neonatal outcomes in 99 mother-infant pairs (24-41 weeks) and assayed 7 glucocorticoid precursors in the cortisol biosynthesis/degradation pathway. We correlated antenatal factors and short-term neonatal outcomes with these precursors and their ratios to assess maturity of individual enzymes.


We found no correlation between cortisol levels with antenatal factors and outcomes. Antenatal steroid use impacted several cortisol precursors. 17-OH pregnenolone-to-cortisol ratio at birth was the best predictor of short-term neonatal outcomes, such as hypotension, RDS, IVH and PDA. A cord blood 17-OH pregnenolone:cortisol ratio of <0.21 predicts which neonate will have a normal outcome with a high sensitivity and specificity.


Maternal factors and antenatal steroids impact neonatal adrenal function and leads to maturation of adrenal function. 17-OH pregnenolone:cortisol ratio and not cortisol is the best predictor of adrenal function. Adrenal function can be assessed by evaluating the profile of adrenal steroids.

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