UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Critical Care

Title: CIRCI

Posted: 3/24/2009 by Mike Winters, MBA, MD (Updated: 7/14/2024)
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Critical Illness-Related Corticosteroid Insufficiency (CIRCI)

  • CIRCI is defined as inadequate corticosteroid activity for the severity of illness of a patient
  • CIRCI arises due to steroid tissue resistance and inadequate circulating levels of free cortisol
  • Hypotension refractory to fluids and requirement of vasopressors is the primary manifestation of CIRCI
  • In contrast to chronic adrenal insufficiency, hyponatremia and hyperkalemia are uncommon
  • Consider CIRCI in all critically ill patients requiring vasopressor support

So, which critically ill patients do you treat with steroids?  Current literature suggests the indications for steroid treatment include vasopressor dependent septic shock and persistent ARDS despite supportive therapy and lung protective ventilation.  A patient who requires only an hour or two of a vasopressor while being fluid resuscitated is unlikely to benefit.  An accepted dosing schedule is hydrocortisone 50 mg IV every 6 hours.


Marik PE. Critical illness-related corticosteroid insufficiency. Chest 2009;135:181-93.