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Hypoglycemia attenuates cardiovascular homeostatic autonomic control. This attenuation, known as the cardiovascular component of hypoglycemia-associated autonomic failure (HAAF), is characterized most notably by decreased baroreflex sensitivity (BRS) that begins during hypoglycemia and persists until at least the next day, despite return to euglycemia. Understanding the mechanisms underlying this reduction in BRS is important because BRS attenuation is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. The objective of this work is to investigate the role of the adrenocorticotropin (ACTH)-adrenal axis in decreasing BRS. We tested the hypothesis that infusion of ACTH 1-24 (cosyntropin), as compared to placebo, would acutely suppress BRS, and that this decrease in BRS would be present the next day. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, random-order, cross-over study was conducted. This study took place in a clinical research center. Participants included healthy men and women. Interventions included an intravenous infusion of cosyntropin (70 μg/hour for 2.5 hours in the morning and again in the early afternoon) vs normal saline placebo. Outcome measures included BRS during and 16 hours after cosyntropin vs placebo infusions. Cosyntropin infusion attenuated BRS (mm Hg/ms) as compared to placebo (baseline 17.8 ± 1.38 vs 17.0 ± 2.07; during 14.4 ± 1.43 vs 17.3 ± 1.65; and next day 14.8 ± 1.42 vs 18.9 ± 2.04; P < .05, time by treatment, analysis of variance). BRS was decreased during the final 30 minutes of the morning cosyntropin infusion as compared to baseline (P < .01) and remained suppressed the next day (16 hours after afternoon infusion) (P < .025). Placebo infusion did not significantly change BRS. Corrected QT interval was not affected. ACTH attenuates BRS, raising the possibility that hypoglycemia-induced increases in ACTH may contribute to the cardiovascular component of HAAF. © Endocrine Society 2020. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:


Janet H Leung, Omar F Bayomy, Istvan Bonyhay, Johanna Celli, Jeffrey White, Roy Freeman, Gail K Adler. ACTH Infusion Impairs Baroreflex Sensitivity-Implications for Cardiovascular Hypoglycemia-Associated Autonomic Failure. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism. 2020 Jul 01;105(7)

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PMID: 32353115

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