Corticosteroids can produce reversible hypothalamic- pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis suppression with the potential for corticosteroid insufficiency after withdrawal of treatment. Adrenocortical insufficiency may result from too rapid withdrawal of corticosteroids and may be minimized by gradual reduction of dosage. This type of relative insufficiency may persist for up to 12 months after discontinuation of therapy; therefore, in any situation of stress occurring during that period, hormone therapy should be reinstituted. If the patient is receiving steroids already, dosage may have to be increased.
During minor illness (., flu or fever >38° C [° F]) the hydrocortisone dose should be doubled for 2 or 3 days. The inability to ingest hydrocortisone tablets warrants parenteral administration. Most patients can be educated to self administer hydrocortisone, 100 mg IM, and reduce the risk of an emergency room visit. Hydrocortisone, 75 mg/day, provides adequate glucocorticoid coverage for outpatient surgery. Parenteral hydrocortisone, 150 to 200 mg/day (in three or four divided doses), is needed for major surgery, with a rapid taper to normal replacement during the recovery. Patients taking more than 100 mg hydrocortisone/day do not need any additional mineralocorticoid replacement. All patients should wear some form of identification indicating their adrenal insufficiency status.