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Anesthetic implications for patients receiving

exogenous corticosteroids
Judith H. Wakim, RN, EdD
Kathryn C. Sledge, CRNA, MSN
Chattanooga, Tennessee

Opposing views exist about perioperative replacement of The purpose of this article is to review the literature
corticosteroids and appropriate replacement dosages. explaining the rationale and the proper perioperative dos-
Anesthesia providers must be aware of the need for corti- ing with corticosteroids for patients with long-standing
costeroid replacement not only in patients who have pri- asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, or Crohn disease.
mary adrenal insufficiency but also in patients who have The review of literature reflects articles on endogenous
adrenal insufficiency resulting from long-term corticos- hormones, exogenous hormones, diseases that require
teroid therapy. Without adequate knowledge, the anesthe- long-term corticosteroid therapy, the hypothalamus-pitu-
sia provider may fail to prepare the patient to withstand the
itary-adrenal axis, and corticosteroid replacement therapy.
stress of surgery and may open the way for life-threatening
hemodynamic abnormalities that accompany inadequate Key words: Anesthesia, exogenous corticosteroids, periop-
amounts of corticosteroids. erative implications.

or many years, differing opinions have also known as hydrocortisone, is the most potent glu-
existed regarding corticosteroid replacement cocorticoid. Functions of cortisol include mainte-
in patients receiving long-term corticosteroid nance of cardiac function, systemic blood pressure,
therapy. Anesthesia providers are responsible and normal responses to catecholamines. Cortisol also
for recognizing this need in certain patient regulates the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and
populations and choosing the correct dose of corti- proteins and balances sodium and potassium levels.1
costeroid. To recognize this need, providers must When stress occurs and the hypothalamus is stimu-
understand the functions of certain glands in the body lated, CRH is released. Corticotropin, in turn, stimu-
and the hormones produced by these glands. lates ACTH release from the anterior pituitary, causing
The function of the anterior pituitary is to synthesize, the increased synthesis of glucocorticoids in the adrenal
store, and secrete hormones such as adrenocorti- cortex. This negative feedback system is known as the
cotrophic hormone (ACTH), prolactin, human growth hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Exogenous
hormone, thyroid-stimulating hormone, lutenizing hor- steroids inhibit the HPA axis, causing atrophy of the
mone, and follicle-stimulating hormone. Adrenocorti- adrenal glands. The glands are incapable of producing
cotropic hormone is essential for the growth, develop- the basal rate of cortisol needed for the body to main-
ment, and continued function of the adrenal cortex, the tain homeostasis. Patients receiving long-term corticos-
outer portion of the adrenal glands. It also stimulates the teroid therapy, therefore, have suppression of the HPA
formation of cholesterol, the initial building block for axis and develop a relative adrenal insufficiency that
the synthesis of corticosteroids, a group of adrenal cor- partially reduces the capacity of the adrenal cortex to
tical hormones that include glucocorticoids, mineralo- produce cortisol.2 If intravenous corticosteroids are not
corticoids, and androgens. The major stimulus for the administered during times of acute stress such as sur-
secretion of ACTH is stress. The stimulus for the release gery and anesthesia, circulatory collapse may occur.
of the hormone is under the control of a substance The dilemma facing anesthesia providers is recognition
known as corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), of patients who need corticosteroid replacement and
which itself originates in the hypothalamus. Certain administration of appropriate dosages. The patients
stress-inducing factors such as hypoglycemia, sep- include not just those with total adrenal insufficiency,
ticemia, trauma, and stress from anesthesia and surgery but people who have been receiving oral corticosteroid
may increase the release of ACTH. Through an innate therapy for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis,
negative feedback mechanism, adrenal glucocorticoids asthma, and Crohn disease.
regulate the release of CRH and ACTH.1 The treatment of rheumatoid arthritis includes
Glucocorticoids, a general classification of adrenal efforts to relieve pain, preserve joint strength and
cortical hormones, protect against stress and produce function, prevent deformities, and attenuate systemic
an anti-inflammatory response in the body. Cortisol, complications. Treatment includes a combination of AANA Journal/April 2006/Vol. 74, No. 2 133

drugs, physical therapy, and surgery. Corticosteroids they would cause further inflammation.1 Glucosteroids
are the drugs of choice and are used extensively for also reduce the ability of the body to respond to anti-
the management of rheumatoid arthritis itself and to gens by inhibiting the ability of tissue macrophages to
provide symptomatic relief. The treatment for kill microorganisms.4 Exogenous cortisol can depress
bronchial asthma includes anti-inflammatory corti- the immune system by decreasing the production of
costeroids and bronchodilators. Treatment for Crohn antibodies, causing the body to be more susceptible to
disease includes antidiarrheal drugs, antimicrobial bacterial and viral infections.
drugs, and corticosteroids, which produce a quick Circulating cortisol has a direct negative feedback
remission. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis or effect on the hypothalamus, which produces CRH.
Crohn disease often undergo surgical procedures for The hypothalamus alerts the anterior pituitary to stop
palliative measures or as short-term cures. Patients the production of ACTH, which is responsible for
with bronchial asthma may undergo surgical proce- stimulating the adrenal cortex to produce cortisol.
dures related to other disease processes. Increased stress to the body can override the negative
Surgery requires that a patient have nothing to eat feedback loop, and circulating levels of cortisol can be
or drink for approximately 6 hours before anesthesia, increased. This effect is beneficial because it mobilizes
with an exception being medication. Patients taking fats and proteins to be used as energy and also pro-
long-term corticosteroids should take their usual duces glucose. Patients receiving exogenous corticos-
medication up until the time of surgery. The added teroid therapy, however, react differently because of
stress of surgery, anesthesia, and the underlying dis- adrenal suppression.
ease require additional intravenous corticosteroids. A patient who has received prolonged corticos-
When the major stress of the perioperative period is teroid therapy may develop a functional atrophy of
resolved, and the patient is in stable condition and the HPA axis.5 A suppressed HPA axis prevents the
free of complications, cortisol (hydrocortisone) release of cortisol during stressful stimuli.3 This sup-
administration can be gradually reduced over a few pression could cause a variety of hemodynamic
days to the usual maintenance dose.3 abnormalities, such as hypovolemic or circulatory
Anesthesia providers must be aware of the need for shock. The administration of exogenous corticos-
corticosteroid replacement in patients receiving corti- teroid has, therefore, been recommended before, dur-
costeroid therapy. To understand the need for periop- ing, and, sometimes, after the stress of surgery.3,5
erative corticosteroid replacement, knowledge is
required of the functions of corticosteroids in the Exogenous hormones that replace cortisol
human body. Without adequate knowledge, patients Many synthetic corticosteroids (exogenous hormones)
are at risk of receiving a higher- or lower-than- have become important in treating inflammatory and
required dose of corticosteroids, thus compromising allergic disorders. Two frequently prescribed short- to
their anesthesia management. medium-acting glucosteroids are prednisone and
methylprednisone, each prescribed for the treatment
Endogenous hormones of rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn disease, and asthma.
The body produces many endogenous hormones to Prednisone is a synthetic corticosteroid given orally
maintain daily living. Without these hormones, a per- to suppress the immune system and inflammation.
son would be unable to function. Three of the many Prednisone is converted rapidly to prednisolone in the
hormones are glucocorticoids, ACTH, and CRH. body. It mimics the mechanism of action of cortisol
A healthy adult secretes cortisol, the most impor- but is 4 times as potent. The starting dose of pred-
tant glucocorticoid, in the absence of stress, at a rate nisone depends on the extent of the disease and the
of 10 to 20 mg/d. In response to stress, cortisol secre- age of the patient.5 The dose usually is increased and
tion increases to approximately 150 mg/d.1 Cortisol, adjusted until the desired effect is produced, and then
also known as hydrocortisone, regulates metabolism, the dose is decreased in small amounts until the low-
cardiovascular function, growth, and immunity.4 Cor- est dose necessary to maintain functional improve-
tisol increases the rate of production of glucose; stim- ment is reached. The dose should be increased during
ulates protein breakdown, thus decreasing stores of stressful events such as surgery.6 When prednisone is
protein; mobilizes fatty acids from adipose tissue and taken on a long-term basis, the adrenal glands begin
increases oxidation of fatty acids; and regulates car- to atrophy and no longer produce essential corticos-
diovascular function, growth, and immunity. teroids. In some cases, alternate-day therapy is recom-
The anti-inflammatory effect of cortisol stems from mended to minimize this secondary adrenal insuffi-
its ability to stabilize lysosome membranes to prevent ciency. If the exogenous corticosteroid is to be
the migration of leukocytes into inflamed areas where discontinued, a tapering regimen must be prescribed

134 AANA Journal/April 2006/Vol. 74, No. 2

to facilitate recovery of the adrenal glands and ade- inflammation-free, the disease is in remission. Symp-
quate cortisol production. toms in the active state are fatigue, lack of appetite,
Methylprednisolone (Medrol), is another exoge- low-grade temperature, muscle and joint aches, and
nous corticosteroid developed for its anti-inflamma- stiffness. Stiffness is usually exacerbated in the early
tory and immunosuppressive effects. Methylpred- morning hours or after periods of inactivity. During
nisolone can be administered orally, topically, or by the active phase of the disease, joints become red, hot,
injection.4 Dosage requirements depend on the dis- swollen, painful, and not easily moved. With rheuma-
ease being treated. Side effects of methylprednisolone toid arthritis, joints usually are affected symmetrically,
are similar to those of prednisone. Methylpred- progressing from small joints of the wrist, hands, and
nisolone, along with other corticosteroids, can mask feet to the knees, shoulders, hips, elbows, ankles, and
the signs of infection and impair the body’s natural cervical spine. The chronic inflammation often causes
immune response, so people taking corticosteroids joint deformity, destruction, and loss of function.8-10
can acquire serious, life-threatening infections. The The goals for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis are
suppression that methylprednisolone confers on the to reduce joint inflammation and pain, to maximize
immune system also makes vaccinations ineffective joint function, and to prevent joint destruction and
and reduces the effect of antibiotics. deformity. The optimal treatment for these patients
Side effects of methylprednisolone and other corti- consists of medication, rest, joint exercises, joint pro-
costeroid therapy vary from mild to severe, with higher tection, and education. There are 2 lines of medication
dosage and longer duration showing an increase in for this disease: fast-acting, first-line drugs and slow-
adverse effects. The most common side effects are fluid acting, second-line drugs. First-line drugs, such as
retention, weight gain, high blood pressure, potassium aspirin and corticosteroids, are used to treat the
loss, headache, and muscle weakness. Other side inflammation and pain. They neither cure the arthri-
effects are puffiness of the face (moon face), growth of tis nor prevent joint damage. Slow-acting drugs, such
facial hair, thinning and easily bruised skin, impaired as gold, methotrexate, and hydroxychloroquine, pro-
wound healing, ulcers, exacerbation of diabetes, mote remission and help prevent joint destruction.
rounding of the upper back, obesity, growth retarda- Patients with less destructive forms of rheumatoid
tion in children, menstrual changes, visual distur- arthritis may be treated with rest and anti-inflamma-
bances (cataracts), mood swings, personality changes, tory drugs. People with severe disease usually are
and psychosis.7 Major adverse effects can be avoided if treated with a combination of first- and second-line
patients are monitored closely. Also, if patients are pre- drugs. For the lowest effective dose of corticosteroids,
scribed corticosteroids topically (by inhalation, alternate-day or single-day doses and the shortest pos-
intranasally, transdermally, or rectally) or if they sible duration should be used.6,8 Surgery is an option
received them intra-articularly or intrasynovially, they for patients with severe joint deformities.
rarely experience major systemic effects.2,7 Rheumatologists recommend corticosteroid
replacement therapy for patients with rheumatic dis-
Disease states requiring long-term ease receiving long-term corticosteroid treatment who
corticosteroid therapy are undergoing surgery. Minor surgical procedures
There are many conditions that require exogenous require the normal corticosteroid dose plus 25 mg of
steroid replacement. Rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn dis- hydrocortisone on the day of the procedure. Moderate
ease, and bronchial asthma are 3 of the most common surgical procedures require the normal corticosteroid
diseases for which exogenous corticosteroid adminis- dose plus 50 to 75 mg of hydrocortisone on the day of
tration is the treatment of choice and a possible cause the procedure with a rapid taper during 1 to 2 days.
of HPA suppression. Major surgical procedures require the normal corticos-
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease pri- teroid dose plus 100 to 150 mg of hydrocortisone on
marily occurring in the synovial tissues. Rheumatoid the day of surgery with a taper during 1 to 2 days.
arthritis can occur at any age but is diagnosed most Patients receiving a daily dose of 5 mg or less of pred-
frequently in the fourth to sixth decade of life. This nisone do not require supplemental therapy regardless
disease causes chronic inflammation of the joints, tis- of the surgical procedure.11
sues around the joints, and other organs of the body.8,9 Crohn disease is an idiopathic chronic inflammatory
The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown. There disease of the gastrointestinal tract. Typical pathophys-
is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis despite iology includes ulcerations all the way through the
worldwide research. walls of the small or large intestines, but the disease
When the disease is in the active state, inflamma- may cause problems anywhere in the digestive track.
tion is present. When the joints and other organs are Between 500,000 and 2 million people in the United AANA Journal/April 2006/Vol. 74, No. 2 135

States are affected. Crohn disease follows a familial pat- anesthetist to the potential exacerbation of the disease
tern and tends to be more prevalent in whites and or to the risk of circulatory collapse during the stress
African Americans than in Latinos and Asians.6,8 of surgery. Patients who have received oral corticos-
The immune system in patients with Crohn disease teroids for longer than 2 weeks during the 6 months
is activated without any known antigen. Continued before surgery should receive 100 mg of hydrocorti-
activation causes inflammation and ulceration of the sone every 8 hours intravenously during the surgical
intestine with symptoms of diarrhea, abdominal pain, period. The dose of corticosteroids should be reduced
and weight loss. Once Crohn disease is diagnosed, a rapidly within 24 hours following surgery,15 so as to
treatment regimen is instituted, typically including pre- reduce the medication’s interference with healing and
scribed corticosteroids. These drugs act systemically to resistance to infection.
decrease the inflammation throughout the body. The Inflammation is a common denominator in
corticosteroids of choice are prednisone and hydrocor- rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn disease, and bronchial
tisone. The goal is to taper to a single morning alter- asthma. The common treatment for the inflammation
nate-day dose as soon as symptoms are reduced.6 in all of these disease states is a corticosteroid such as
Surgery is sometimes indicated but is reserved for inci- prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone, Prednicen-M) or
dences of obstruction, perirectal abscess, severe anal methylprednisolone. Each of the corticosteroids sup-
fistulae, and resection of internal fistulae because recur- presses the body’s formation of cortisol. It is impera-
rence after bowel resection is high.6,8 When surgery is tive that practicing anesthesia providers understand
indicated, disease experts recommend that 100 mg of this phenomenon because cortisol has a synergistic
hydrocortisone be administered intravenously every 8 action with epinephrine and norepinephrine in main-
hours for 48 hours. They also advocate that intra- taining homeostasis and in preventing shock. A care-
venous corticosteroids be replaced by oral prednisolone ful plan must be developed to replace corticosteroids
and that patients be weaned off the corticosteroid as during the course of anesthesia. It should be noted,
soon as symptoms allow.12 however, that, for patients who receive coticosteroids
“Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the only topically, HPA suppression is rare,2,3 and replace-
airways that causes airway hyperresponsiveness, ment probably is unnecessary.
mucosal edema, and mucus production.”…“In 1998,
asthma accounted for over 13.9 million outpatient vis- The HPA axis and patients receiving long-
its to physician offices or hospital clinics and over 2.0 term corticosteroid therapy
million emergency room visits.”9 It is the most fre- The HPA axis is a physiologic mechanism. In
quent admitting diagnosis in children’s hospitals.6 healthy people, severe illness, trauma, and stress are
Asthma most commonly occurs as a result of exposure accompanied by activation of the HPA axis.4 When
to an allergen or irritant, which initiates actions of the body undergoes stress, the hypothalamus is stim-
chemical mediators. When the tissues become ulated to produce CRH. Corticotropin-releasing hor-
inflamed, they produce a larger than normal amount of mone stimulates the anterior pituitary to produce
hyperviscous mucus, which forms plugs that clog ACTH, which, in turn, stimulates the adrenal cortex
smaller, more peripheral airways and progress to the to synthesize glucocorticoids. These hormones are
larger mainstream airways.8 In patients with asthma, required to sustain life. Patients who have HPA axis
inflammation does not completely subside, making it suppression require intraoperative replacement of cor-
more likely that an asthma attack will recur. On a long- ticosteroids.
term basis, this may lead to thickening of the bronchial Many studies16-18 have been carried out to deter-
walls, referred to as airway remodeling.13 When this mine the extent of suppression of the HPA axis because
occurs, bronchial tubes become permanently narrower of long-term use of corticosteroids. For example, in
and poorly responsive to medications. Chronic inflam- 1992, a study was designed to determine the degree of
mation causes the patient to be in a hyperreactive state suppression of pituitary-adrenal function in patients
and easily susceptible to an allergen.13 treated for different periods with different doses of syn-
The treatment for asthma includes the use of med- thetic glucocorticoid.16 To accomplish this, researchers
ications that relax bronchospasm and reduce inflam- measured the pituitary-adrenal response to the admin-
mation. Bronchodilators, such as albuterol, and oral istration of exogenous human CRH. In the study, 279
corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are used in the subjects received 5 to 30 mg of prednisone per day for
treatment of this disease.9,14 Anti-inflammatory periods varying from 1 week to 15 years. Injections of
inhaled corticosteroids also may be used. A history of CRH were administered 24 hours after the latest dose
asthma and corticosteroid therapy should alert the of corticosteroids. After administration of CRH, 43

136 AANA Journal/April 2006/Vol. 74, No. 2

patients had no increase in plasma concentrations of the HPA organs belong in this category. Publication of
corticotropin and cortisol. The response was blunted the effects of cortisone for patients with rheumatoid
in 133 patients and normal in 103 patients. The results arthritis began the era of glucocorticoid therapy for dis-
showed poor correlation between the plasma cortisol eases other than primary adrenal insufficiency.19 Reports
response after the administration of CRH. Neither the supporting the state of adrenal insufficiency in patients
dosage nor the duration of therapy influenced the who have been receiving corticosteroid therapy have
response. The conclusion drawn was that pituitary- been documented over the years. The patients are cate-
adrenal function in patients treated with synthetic glu- gorized as having secondary adrenal insufficiency.
cocorticoids could not be estimated reliably from the The concept of secondary adrenal insufficiency was
dose of glucocorticoid, the duration of therapy, or the developed in 1952 when a case of surgery-related
basal plasma cortisol concentration.16 adrenal insufficiency as a consequence of preoperative
withdrawal from glucocorticoid therapy was reported.
Replacement of corticosteroids The next year, another case was documented in which
In 1855, Sir Thomas Addison reported the destruction the patient died several hours after surgery.18 The
of the adrenal gland by tuberculosis. This caused a pri- patient had rheumatoid arthritis and had been receiv-
mary adrenal insufficiency.18 Patients who have adrenal ing cortisone daily for 5 months before the surgical
hypofunction due to conditions specifically involving procedure. The cortisone was discontinued the day

Table 1. Corticosteroid replacement doses recommended by Salem et al18

Degree of surgical stress Recommended replacement dose

Minor (eg, inguinal hernia repair) Usual corticosteroid dose + 25 mg of hydrocortisone at
Moderate (eg, nonlaparoscopic cholecystectomy, total joint Usual corticosteroid dose + 50-75 mg of hydrocortisone
replacement, abdominal hysterectomy) for 24-48 h
Major (eg, cardiac surgery, cardiopulmonary bypass, total Usual corticosteroid dose + 100-150 mg of hydrocorti-
proctocolectomy) sone intravenously every 8 h for 48-72 h

Table 2. Corticosteroid replacement doses recommended by Nicholson et al5

Medication Status dosage, mg/d HPA response* Recommended replacement
Patients currently taking <10 Assume normal HPA No coverage
steroids response

Patients currently taking >10 Minor surgery 25 mg at induction of anesthesia

steroids HPA response may be

Patients currently taking >10 Moderate surgery HPA Usual preoperative corticoste-
steroids response may be com- roids + 25 mg of hydrocortisone
promised at induction of anesthesia + 100
mg/d for 24 h
Patients currently taking >10 Major surgery Usual preoperative corticosteroids
steroids HPA response may be + 25 mg of hydrocortisone at in-
compromised duction of anesthesia + 100 mg/d
for 48-72 h

Patients who stopped tak- >10 HPA response may be Treat as if taking corticosteroids
ing steroids < 3 months compromised

Patients who stopped tak- >10 Assume normal HPA No coverage necessary
ing steroids > 3 months response

* HPA indicates hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (axis). AANA Journal/April 2006/Vol. 74, No. 2 137

Table 3. Corticosteroid replacement doses recom- Table 4. Postoperative tapered doses of hydrocorti-
mended by Jabbour3 sone recommended by Jabbour

Degree of Postoperative
surgical stress Recommended dose day Recommended dose
Minor Hydrocortisone, 100 mg, intrave- Day 1 Hydrocortisone, 100 mg, every 8 h start-
(eg, inguinal nously at induction of anesthesia + ing with induction of anesthesia
hernia repair) maintenance dose (approximately 20
mg/d) Day 2 Hydrocortisone, lower dose to 50 mg
every 8 h if patient is in stable condi-
Major Hydrocortisone, 100 mg, at induction tion and major postoperative stress is
(eg, chest or of anesthesia + 100 mg of hydrocorti- resolved
abdominal sone every 8 h for 24 h
surgery) Day 3 Hydrocortisone, 25 mg every 8 h
Day 4 Hydrocortisone, 25 mg twice per day
Day 5 Hydrocortisone maintenance dose: 15-20
before surgery. A postmortem examination revealed mg in the morning and 5-10 mg in the
atrophic adrenal glands and hemorrhage into the
glands. With this report came a recommendation for
perioperative glucocorticoid treatment. The recom- ment doses recommended by Nicholson et al5 in 1998.
mendation was that a 4-fold increase in the dose of Aker and Biddle20 followed in 1999 with recommen-
corticosteroid be administered before surgery. Even dations similar to those published by Salem et al.18 The
though this far exceeded the natural amount of corti- most recent recommendations were put forth by Jab-
sol, the recommendation became the standard of ther- bour3 in 2001 and are shown in Table 3 and Table 4.
apy. There were detrimental side effects from this high
replacement dose, such as reduced tissue repair rates, Summary
decreased glucose tolerance, and increased suscepti- Disease states that normally require long-term corti-
bility to infection, but the possibility of death existed costeroid use include rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn dis-
if replacement therapy was ignored.18 ease, and bronchial asthma. Rheumatoid arthritis and
An example of a life-threatening event occurred Crohn disease often require surgical procedures to
when a 42-year old woman was admitted to a hospital treat the disease itself. Asthma does not require sur-
for resection of a potentially malignant right ovarian gery for relief, but patients with this disease often
cyst. The patient had no other medical problems but undergo surgical procedures. Patients receiving long-
had been in a car accident 3 months before the term corticosteroid treatment have suppression of the
planned admission. As part of her treatment, she had HPA axis, with the adrenal gland shown to become
received the corticosteroid dexamethasone (Deca- atrophic. When this is the case, the adrenal glands
dron), 16 mg/d, for 4 weeks. When she was evaluated cannot function properly under the stress of surgery
for her resection, her vital signs were normal, as were in which there is a need for more cortisol, especially if
the results of her chest radiograph, electrocardiogram, there is a sudden withdrawal from the medication.
and other laboratory studies. The patient was cleared Patients receiving long-term corticosteroid therapy
for surgery. After the surgery, the patient was taken to require perioperative supplemental corticosteroids.
the recovery room, where her blood pressure fell to Dosing regimens for corticosteroid replacement have
80/42 mm Hg. Two liters of normal saline were infused remained controversial. To provide safe anesthesia,
with little result. Finally, intravenous hydrocortisone, anesthesia providers must be aware of the functions of
100 mg, was ordered by her surgeon, who had been cortisol and choose the best perioperative replace-
aware of her previous corticosteroid treatment. Her ment regimen available. This seems to be a protocol
blood pressure stabilized to her baseline pressure, and that includes not only replacement of corticosteroids
there were no other adverse occurrences.2 This case at surgery but also tapering the corticosteroids after
shows that the anesthesia provider must be alert to surgery. Only the latest article by Jabbour3 concluded
health history, including medications prescribed with a recommended method for tapering corticos-
within the past 3 months,5 so as to avoid the effects of teroid therapy after the surgical procedure. Even
unknown corticosteroid therapy. though some patients may respond normally after
Opposing views remain regarding perioperative receiving corticosteroid therapy, because their pitu-
replacement and appropriate replacement dosages. In itary-adrenal function cannot be estimated reliably
1994, Salem et al18 made the recommendations shown from the dose or the duration of therapy, it seems wise
in Table 1. Table 2 shows the corticosteroid replace- to follow Jabbour’s3 recommendations. It is doubtful

138 AANA Journal/April 2006/Vol. 74, No. 2

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10. LaRochelle GE Jr, LaRochelle A, Ratner R, Borenstein DG. Recov-
ery of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in patients AUTHORS
with rheumatic diseases receiving low-dose prednisone. Am J Med. Judith H., Wakim, RN, EdD, is professor, School of Nursing, University
2003;95:258-263. of Tennessee at Chattanooga School of Nursing, Chattanooga, Tenn.
11. Kelley J, Conn D. Perioperative management of the rheumatic dis- Email:
ease patient. Bull Rheum Dis. 2003:51. Available at: http://www. Kathryn C. Sledge, CRNA, MSN, is a staff nurse anesthetist, Anes-
Accessed August 27, 2004. thesiology Consultant Exchange, Chattanooga, Tenn.
12. McMorran J, Crowther D, McMorran S, Prince C, YoungMin S,
Pleat J. Steroids and steroid sparing agents in Crohn’s disease. ACKNOWLEDGMENT
2003. Available at: We thank Richard Zachary, CRNA, MSN, and Susan Davidson, RN,
Accessed August 27, 2004. EdD, for their help in writing this article.