Steroid profiling by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and high performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry for adrenal diseases

Jeffrey G. McDonald, Susan Matthew, Richard J. Auchus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

37 Scopus citations


The ability to measure steroid hormone concentrations in blood and urine specimens is central to the diagnosis and proper treatment of adrenal diseases. The traditional approach has been to assay each steroid hormone, precursor, or metabolite using individual aliquots of serum, each with a separate immunoassay. For complex diseases, such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia and adrenocortical cancer, in which the assay of several steroids is essential for management, this approach is time consuming and costly, in addition to using large amounts of serum. Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry profiling of steroid metabolites in urine has been employed for many years but only in a small number of specialized laboratories and suffers from slow throughput. The advent of commercial high-performance liquid chromatography instruments coupled to tandem mass spectrometers offers the potential for medium- to high-throughput profiling of serum steroids using small quantities of sample. Here, we review the physical principles of mass spectrometry, the instrumentation used for these techniques, the terminology used in this field and applications to steroid analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)324-332
Number of pages9
JournalHormones and Cancer
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011



  • Adrenocortical Cancer
  • Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Multiplex Assay
  • Steroid Assay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Oncology
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Cancer Research

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