Untreated, adrenal insufficiency is fatal, and indeed this was invariably the case until the advent of synthetic cortisone in 1949. Treatment of Addison's disease is lifelong. The prognosis for any patient with adrenal insufficiency will depend on the underlying cause. In those patients in whom the prognosis is not affected by the underlying pathology, replacement therapy should result in a return to health. However, a Norwegian study found an excess of mortality in patients diagnosed with Addison's disease at a young age, associated with acute adrenal failure, infection and sudden death. [ 16 ]
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.
There is no evidence that corticosteroids result in an increased incidence of congenital abnormalities, such as cleft palate / lip in man. However, when administered for prolonged periods or repeatedly during pregnancy, corticosteroids may increase the risk of intra-uterine growth retardation. Hypoadrenalism may, in theory, occur in the neonate following prenatal exposure to corticosteroids but it is usually resolved spontaneously following birth and is rarely clinically important. As with all drugs, corticosteroids should only be prescribed when the benefits to the mother and child outweigh the risks. When corticosteroids are essential however, patients with normal pregnancies may be treated as though they were in the non-gravid states.