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BACKGROUND: Hydrocortisone therapy is based on a dosing regimen derived from estimates of cortisol secretion, but little is known of how the dose should be distributed throughout the 24 h. We have used deconvolution analysis of 24-h serum cortisol profiles to determine 24-h cortisol secretion and distribution to inform hydrocortisone dosing schedules in young children and older adults. METHODS: Twenty four hour serum cortisol profiles from 80 adults (41 men, aged 60-74 years) and 29 children (24 boys, aged 5-9 years) were subject to deconvolution analysis using an 80-min half-life to ascertain total cortisol secretion and distribution throughout the 24-h period. RESULTS: Mean daily cortisol secretion was similar between adults (6.3 mg/m(2) body surface area/day, range 5.1-9.3) and children (8.0 mg/m(2) body surface area/day, range 5.3-12.0). Peak serum cortisol concentration was higher in children compared with adults, whereas nadir serum cortisol concentrations were similar. Timing of the peak serum cortisol concentration was similar (07.05-07.25), whereas that of the nadir concentration occurred later in adults (midnight) compared with children (22.48) (P = 0.003). Children had the highest percentage of cortisol secretion between 06.00 and 12.00 (38.4%), whereas in adults this took place between midnight and 06.00 (45.2%). CONCLUSIONS: These observations suggest that the daily hydrocortisone replacement dose should be equivalent on average to 6.3 mg/m(2) body surface area/day in adults and 8.0 mg/m(2) body surface area/day in children. Differences in distribution of the total daily dose between older adults and young children need to be taken into account when using a three or four times per day dosing regimen.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin Endocrinol (Oxf)

Publication Date





347 - 351


Aged, Child, Child, Preschool, Drug Administration Schedule, Female, Humans, Hydrocortisone, In Vitro Techniques, Male, Middle Aged