Patients can eat and drink normally and take all their usual medications prior to the test. Estrogen containing medications, including the contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy, should be stopped for six weeks prior to measuring serum cortisol. This is because estrogen induces cortisol binding globulin and leads to elevations in measured serum cortisol. Any steroid containing medications should also be documented, and avoided if possible, as they may interfere with the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis, or cross react with the cortisol assay.
Corticosteroids will inhibit phospholipase A2 thereby preventing the generation of substances which mediate inflammation, for example, prostaglandins. Corticosteroids also produce a marked, though transient, lymphocytopenia. This depletion is due to redistribution of the cells, the T lymphocytes being affected to a greater degree than the B lymphocytes. Lymphokine production is reduced, as is the sensitivity of macrophages to activation by lymphokines. Corticosteroids also retard epithelial regeneration, diminish post-inflammatory neo-vascularisation and reduce towards normal levels the excessive permeability of inflamed capillaries.