The low dose dexamethasone suppression test: Effect of time of administration and dose

C. Barton, S. March, Gary A. Wittert

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5 Citations (Scopus)


The dexamethasone suppression test (DST) is used to determine the sensitivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis) to negative feedback. Dexamethasone is usually administered at 23:00 h or at midnight but this is often not convenient. The aim of this study was to determine whether the administration of dexamethasone at 21:00 h as compared to 23:00 h would alter the degree to which 08:00 h plasma cortisol was suppressed the following morning. Three healthy males (mean±SE: 32±7 yr) and 3 healthy females (mean±SE: 35±7 yr) took part in the study. Each subject was orally administered 1 of 3 doses of dexamethasone (0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, or 1.0 mg) on 3 separate occasions in random order at least a week apart. Each dose of dexamethasone was taken at either 21:00 h or 23:00 h so that each subject underwent 6 tests. The differences in cortisol suppression between times and doses of dexamethasone were assessed using Analysis of Variance. Plasma cortisol was suppressed less in response to 0.25 mg dexamethasone at both 21:00 h and 23:00 h as compared with doses of dexamethasone of 0.5 mg or 1.0 mg (p=0.004). Suppression of plasma cortisol in response to each dose of dexamethasone was similar regardless of the timing of dexamethasone administration (p=0.5). We conclude that in healthy subjects 0.25 mg dexamethasone suppresses plasma cortisol less than either 0.5 mg or 1.0 mg and that 0.5 mg dexamethasone suppresses plasma cortisol to a similar extent as 1.0 mg dexamethasone. Moreover, changing the administration time of dexamethasone from 23:00 h to 21:00 h does not effect the degree to which cortisol is suppressed in healthy subjects.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Endocrinological Investigation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Jan 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Cortisol
  • Dexamethasone suppression test
  • Dose
  • Time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology

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