Background: In suspected hypercortisolism, the 1 mg dexamethasone suppression test is the usual initial test. In fertile women, false-positive test results are often due to the use of oral contraceptives. By elevating cortisol-binding globulin these contraceptives increase the total serum cortisol concentration. The aim of this study was to assess the duration and degree of influence of oral contraceptives on the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test. Methods: Thirteen healthy female volunteers without symptoms or signs of overt hypercortisolism, aged 18-55 years, who were using oral contraceptives, underwent a 1 mg dexamethasone suppression test. Tests were repeated one and six weeks after withdrawal of the contraceptive. In addition, 24-hour urinary cortisol excretion and late-night salivary cortisol were measured. Results: Of the 13 volunteers (62%) eight had inadequate suppression of cortisol by 1 mg dexamethasone while using oral contraceptives. One week after the contraceptive was withdrawn, the number of false-positive results significantly decreased to 1 (8%, p < 0.02). Six weeks after discontinuation, all tests were normal. None of the 24-hour urinary cortisol samples and just one late-night salivary cortisol level was elevated. Conclusion: The results of the 1 mg dexamethasone suppression test performed one week after cessation of oral contraceptives are accurate in almost all subjects. In case of inadequate suppression, a second test may be performed after six weeks. In this manner the 1 mg dexamethasone suppression test can reliably be done at the end of a seven-day break from contraceptive use in nearly all cases.

, ,
The Netherlands Journal of Medicine
Department of Medical Oncology

Vastbinder, M., Kuindersma, M., Mulder, A. H., Schuijt, M. P., & Mudde, A. H. (2016). The influence of oral contraceptives on overnight 1 mg dexamethasone suppression test. The Netherlands Journal of Medicine, 74(4), 158–161. Retrieved from