Cortisol levels in different tissue samples in posttraumatic stress disorder patients versus controls : a systematic review and meta-analysis protocol

Van den Heuvel, Leigh Luella ; Wright, Simonne ; Suliman, Sharain ; Stalder, Tobias ; Kirschbaum, Clemens ; Seedat, Soraya (2019-01-07)

CITATION: Van Den Heuvel, L. L., et al. 2019. Cortisol levels in different tissue samples in posttraumatic stress disorder patients versus controls : a systematic review and meta-analysis protocol. Systematic Reviews, 8:7, doi:10.1186/s13643-018-0936-x.

The original publication is available at https://systematicreviewsjournal.biomedcentral.com

Article

Background: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops following exposure to severely stressful events. Altered cortisol secretion has been reported in PTSD; however, results have been inconsistent. Previous meta-analyses of cortisol levels in PTSD have combined results of studies that have used different tissue samples (blood, saliva, urine) for cortisol measurement and have not included newer methods of determining cortisol levels (e.g. hair samples). In this systematic review, we will synthesise evidence from studies evaluating basal cortisol levels in PTSD patients versus controls and stratify studies according to tissue type used for cortisol measurement. We will also determine whether results from different tissue types can be pooled and if any specific tissue samples have better utility in research studies on PTSD. Methods: We will perform a systematic review of the scientific literature including all studies that have evaluated basal or baseline cortisol levels in adults with current PTSD versus controls, with and without trauma exposure. Independent reviewers will conduct searches in electronic databases (Medline, CINAHL, PTSDpubs, Web of Science, Scopus, ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I, ClinicalTrials.gov, and ICTRP), and additional studies will be obtained by searching the reference lists of articles. Two reviewers (LLvdH and SW) will independently conduct standardised screening, eligibility assessments, data extraction, and quality assessments before qualitative and, if appropriate, quantitative (meta-analysis and meta-regression) synthesis. Disagreements that arise at any stage will be resolved by a third reviewer (ShS). Discussion: In line with previous reviews, we expect that cortisol levels will be lower in PTSD patients than in controls, but that patterns may vary somewhat according to the tissue sample in which cortisol is measured. This systematic review will assist in developing a better understanding of the acute and chronic patterns of basal cortisol secretion in PTSD and will inform future research.

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