Abstract

The recent demonstration of the significant reduction in mortality in patients with septic shock treated with adjunctive glucocorticoids combined with fludrocortisone and the effectiveness of angiotensin II in treating vasodilatory shock have renewed interest in the role of the mineralocorticoid axis in critical illness. Glucocorticoids have variable interactions at the mineralocorticoid receptor. Similarly, mineralocorticoid receptor–aldosterone interactions differ from mineralocorticoid receptor–glucocorticoid interactions and predicate receptor–ligand interactions that differ with respect to cellular effects. Hyperreninemic hypoaldosteronism or selective hypoaldosteronism, an impaired adrenal response to increasing renin levels, occurs in a subgroup of hemodynamically unstable critically ill patients. The suggestion is that there is a defect at the level of the adrenal zona glomerulosa associated with a high mortality rate that may represent an adaptive response aimed at increasing cortisol levels. Furthermore, cross-talk exists between angiotensin II and aldosterone, which needs to be considered when employing therapeutic strategies.

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