Cushing’s syndrome is an endocrine disorder that causes anovulatory infertility secondary to hypercortisolism; therefore, pregnancy rarely occurs during its course. We present the case of a 24-year-old, 16-week pregnant female with a 10-month history of unintentional weight gain, dorsal gibbus, nonpruritic comedones, hirsutism and hair loss. Initial biochemical, hormonal and ultrasound investigations revealed hypokalemia, increased nocturnal cortisolemia and a right adrenal mass. The patient had persistent high blood pressure, hyperglycemia and hypercortisolemia. She was initially treated with antihypertensive medications and insulin therapy. Endogenous Cushing’s syndrome was confirmed by an abdominal MRI that demonstrated a right adrenal adenoma. The patient underwent right laparoscopic adrenalectomy and anatomopathological examination revealed an adrenal adenoma with areas of oncocytic changes. Finally, antihypertensive medication was progressively reduced and glycemic control and hypokalemia reversal were achieved. Long-term therapy consisted of low-dose daily prednisone. During follow-up, despite favorable outcomes regarding the patient’s Cushing’s syndrome, stillbirth was confirmed at 28 weeks of pregnancy. We discuss the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of Cushing’s syndrome to prevent severe maternal and fetal complications.
Pregnancy can occur, though rarely, during the course of Cushing’s syndrome.
Pregnancy is a transient physiological state of hypercortisolism and it must be differentiated from Cushing’s syndrome based on clinical manifestations and laboratory tests.
The diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome during pregnancy may be challenging, particularly in the second and third trimesters because of the changes in the maternal hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
Pregnancy during the course of Cushing’s syndrome is associated with severe maternal and fetal complications; therefore, its early diagnosis and treatment is critical.
ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism is caused by an ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS) in 20% of cases. We report a rare cause of EAS in a 41-year-old woman, presenting with clinical features of Cushing’s syndrome which developed over several months. Biochemical tests revealed hypokalemic metabolic alkalosis and high morning cortisol and ACTH levels. Further testing, including 24-hour urine analysis, late-night saliva and low-dose dexamethasone suppression test, confirmed hypercortisolism. An MRI of the pituitary gland was normal. Inferior petrosal sinus sampling (IPSS) revealed inconsistent results, with a raised basal gradient but no rise after CRH stimulation. Additional PET-CT showed intense metabolic activity in the left nasal vault. Biopsy of this lesion revealed an unsuspected cause of Cushing’s syndrome: an olfactory neuroblastoma (ONB) with positive immunostaining for ACTH. Our patient underwent transnasal resection of the tumour mass, followed by adjuvant radiotherapy. Normalisation of cortisol and ACTH levels was seen immediately after surgery. Hydrocortisone substitution was started to prevent withdrawal symptoms. As the hypothalamic–pituitary–axis slowly recovered, daily hydrocortisone doses were tapered and stopped 4 months after surgery. Clinical Cushing’s stigmata improved gradually.
Ectopic ACTH syndrome can originate from tumours outside the thoracoabdominal region, like the sinonasal cavity.
The diagnostic accuracy of IPSS is not 100%: both false positives and false negatives may occur and might be due to a sinonasal tumour with ectopic ACTH secretion.
Olfactory neuroblastoma (syn. esthesioneuroblastoma), named because of its sensory (olfactory) and neuroectodermal origin in the upper nasal cavity, is a rare malignant neoplasm. It should not be confused with neuroblastoma, a tumour of the sympathetic nervous system typically occurring in children.
If one criticises MRI of the pituitary gland because of ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism, one should take a close look at the sinonasal field as well.
Spontaneous reossification of the sellar floor after transsphenoidal surgery has been rarely reported. Strontium ranelate, a divalent strontium salt, has been shown to increase bone formation, increasing osteoblast activity. We describe an unusual case of a young patient with Cushing’s disease who was treated with strontium ranelate for low bone mass who experienced spontaneous sellar reossification after transsphenoidal surgery. A 21-year-old male presented with Cushing’s features. His past medical history included delayed puberty diagnosed at 16 years, treated with testosterone for 3 years without further work-up. He was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease initially treated with transsphenoidal surgery, which was not curative. The patient did not come to follow-up visits for more than 1 year. He was prescribed strontium ranelate 2 g orally once daily for low bone mass by an outside endocrinologist, which he received for more than 1 year. Two years after first surgery he was reevaluated and persisted with active Cushing’s disease. Magnetic resonance image revealed a left 4 mm hypointense mass, with sphenoid sinus occupation by a hyperintense material. At repeated transsphenoidal surgery, sellar bone had a very hard consistency; surgery was complicated and the patient died. Sellar reossification negatively impacted surgery outcomes in this patient. While this entity is possible after transsphenoidal surgery, it remains unclear whether strontium ranelate could have affected sellar ossification.
Delayed puberty can be a manifestation of Cushing’s syndrome. A complete history, physical examination and appropriate work-up should be performed before initiating any treatment.
Sellar reossification should always be taken into account when considering repeated transsphenoidal surgery. Detailed preoperative evaluation of bony structures by computed tomography ought to be performed in all cases of reoperation.
We speculate if strontium ranelate may have affected bone mineralization at the sellar floor. We strongly recommend that indications for prescribing this drug should be carefully followed.
PBMAH is a rare etiology of Cushing syndrome (CS). Familial clustering suggested a genetic cause that was recently confirmed, after identification of inactivating germline mutations in armadillo repeat-containing 5 (ARMC5) gene. A 70-year-old female patient was admitted due to left femoral neck fracture in May 2014, in Orthopedics Department. During hospitalization, hypertension (HTA) and hypokalemia were diagnosed. She presented with clinical signs of hypercortisolism and was transferred to the Endocrinology ward for suspected CS. Laboratory workup revealed: ACTH <5 pg/mL; urinary free cortisol (UFC), 532 µg/24 h (normal range: 20–90); failure to suppress the low-dose dexamethasone test (0.5 mg every 6 h for 48 h): cortisol 21 µg/dL. Abdominal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed enlarged nodular adrenals (right, 55 × 54 × 30 mm; left, 85 × 53 × 35 mm), and she was submitted to bilateral adrenalectomy. In 2006, this patient’s 39-year-old daughter had been treated by one of the authors. She presented with severe clinical and biological hypercortisolism. Computed tomography (CT) scan showed massively enlarged nodular adrenals with maximal axis of 15 cm for both. Bilateral adrenalectomy was performed. In this familial context of PBMAH, genetic study was performed. Leucocyte DNA genotyping identified in both patients the same germline heterozygous ARMC5 mutation in exon 1 c.172_173insA p.I58Nfs*45. The clinical cases herein described have an identical phenotype with severe hypercortisolism and huge adrenal glands, but different ages at the time of diagnosis. Current knowledge of inheritance of this disease, its insidious nature and the well-known deleterious effect of hypercortisolism favor genetic study to timely identify and treat these patients.
PBMAH is a rare etiology of CS, characterized by functioning adrenal macronodules and variable cortisol secretion.
The asymmetric/asynchronous involvement of only one adrenal gland can also occur, making disease diagnosis a challenge.
Familial clustering suggests a genetic cause that was recently confirmed, after identification of inactivating germline mutations in armadillo repeat-containing 5 (ARMC5) gene.
The insidious nature of this disease and the well-known deleterious effect of hypercortisolism favor genetic study of other family members, to diagnose and treat these patients timely.
As ARMC5 is expressed in many organs and recent findings suggest an association of PBMAH and meningioma, a watchful follow-up is required.
ACTH-secreting phaeochromocytoma (ASP) is a rare cause of ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome (CS). We report the case of a 63-year-old female presenting with CS secondary to an ASP complicated by bowel perforation. This case report highlights ASP as an uncommon but important cause of ectopic ACTH secretion (EAS). There have been 29 cases of ASP, all of which were unilateral and benign, but associated with significant complications. Patients presenting with ASP have the potential for cure with unilateral adrenalectomy. Given this promising prognosis if recognised, ASP should be considered in the diagnostic workup of ACTH-dependent CS. As this case demonstrates, gastrointestinal complications can arise from severe hypercortisolaemia associated with CS. Early medical and surgical intervention is imperative as mortality approaches 50% once bowel perforation occurs.
Consider phaeochromocytoma in the diagnostic workup of ACTH-dependent CS; screen with plasma metanephrines or urinary catecholamines.
Serial screening may be required if ACTH-secreting phaeochromocytoma is suspected, as absolute levels can be misleading.
Early catecholamine receptor blockade and adrenal synthesis blockade may avoid the need for rescue bilateral adrenalectomy in ACTH-secreting phaeochromocytoma.
Consider early medical or surgical management when gastrointestinal features are present in patients with CS, as bowel perforation due to severe hypercortisolaemia can occur and is associated with significant mortality.
We present a case of a young female patient with a rare cause of relapsing and remitting Cushing’s syndrome due to ectopic ACTH secretion from a thymic neuroendocrine tumour. A 34-year-old female presented with a constellation of symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome, including facial swelling, muscle weakness and cognitive impairment. We use the terms ‘relapsing and remitting’ in this case report, given the unpredictable time course of symptoms, which led to a delay of 2 years before the correct diagnosis of hypercortisolaemia. Diagnostic workup confirmed ectopic ACTH secretion, and a thymic mass was seen on mediastinal imaging. The patient subsequently underwent thymectomy with complete resolution of her symptoms. Several case series have documented the association of Cushing’s syndrome with thymic neuroendocrine tumours (NETs), although to our knowledge there are a few published cases of patients with relapsing and remitting symptoms. This case is also notable for the absence of features of the MEN-1 syndrome, along with the female gender of our patient and her history of non-smoking.
Ectopic corticotrophin (ACTH) secretion should always be considered in the diagnostic workup of young patients with Cushing’s syndrome
There is a small but growing body of literature describing the correlation between ectopic ACTH secretion and thymic neuroendocrine tumours (NETs)
The possibility of a MEN-1 syndrome should be considered in all patients with thymic NETs, and we note the observational association with male gender and cigarette smoking in this cohort
An exception to these associations is the finding of relatively high incidence of thymic NETs among female non-smoking MEN-1 patients in the Japanese compared with Western populations
The relapsing and remitting course of our patient’s symptoms is noteworthy, given the paucity of this finding among other published cases
Ya-Wun GuoDepartment of Medicine, Taipei City Hospital, Zhongxing Branch, Taipei, Taiwan Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
Chii-Min HwuDepartment of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan Faculty of Medicine, National Yang-Ming University School of Medicine, Taipei, Taiwan
Justin Ging-Shing WonDepartment of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan Faculty of Medicine, National Yang-Ming University School of Medicine, Taipei, Taiwan
Chia-Huei ChuFaculty of Medicine, National Yang-Ming University School of Medicine, Taipei, Taiwan Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Division of Otology, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
Liang-Yu LinDepartment of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan Faculty of Medicine, National Yang-Ming University School of Medicine, Taipei, Taiwan
A functional lesion in corticotrophin (ACTH)-independent Cushing’s syndrome is difficult to distinguish from lesions of bilateral adrenal masses. Methods for distinguishing these lesions include adrenal venous sampling and 131I-6β-iodomethyl-19-norcholesterol (131I-NP-59) scintigraphy. We present a case of a 29-year-old Han Chinese female patient with a history of hypercholesterolaemia and polycystic ovary syndrome. She presented with a 6month history of an 8kg body weight gain and gradual rounding of the face. Serial examinations revealed loss of circadian rhythm of cortisol, elevated urinary free-cortisol level and undetectable ACTH level (<5pg/mL). No suppression was observed in both the low- and high-dose dexamethasone suppression tests. Adrenal computed tomography revealed bilateral adrenal masses. Adrenal venous sampling was performed, and the right-to-left lateralisation ratio was 14.29. The finding from adrenal scintigraphy with NP-59 was consistent with right adrenal adenoma. The patient underwent laparoscopic right adrenalectomy, and the pathology report showed adrenocortical adenoma. Her postoperative cortisol level was 3.2μg/dL, and her Cushingoid appearance improved. In sum, both adrenal venous sampling and 131I-NP-59 scintigraphy are good diagnostic methods for Cushing’s syndrome presenting with bilateral adrenal masses.
The clinical presentation of Cushing’ syndrome includes symptoms and signs of fat redistribution and protein-wasting features.
The diagnosis of patients with ACTH-independent Cushing’s syndrome with bilateral adrenal masses is challenging for localisation of the lesion.
Both adrenal venous sampling and 131I-NP-59 scintigraphy are good methods to use in these patients with Cushing’s syndrome presenting with bilateral adrenal masses.
K C ConlonDepartments of Professional Surgical Unit, Adelaide and Meath Hospitals, incorporating the National Children’s Hospital, Tallaght, Dublin 24, Ireland Departments of Surgery, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
M SherlockDepartments of Endocrinology, Adelaide and Meath Hospitals, incorporating the National Children’s Hospital, Tallaght, Dublin 24, Ireland Departments of Endocrinology, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
J GibneyDepartments of Endocrinology, Adelaide and Meath Hospitals, incorporating the National Children’s Hospital, Tallaght, Dublin 24, Ireland Departments of Endocrinology, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
Avascular necrosis (AVN) is a rare presenting feature of endogenous hypercortisolism. If left untreated, complete collapse of the femoral head may ensue, necessitating hip replacement in up to 70% of patients. The majority of the described patients with AVN due to endogenous hypercortisolaemia required surgical intervention. A 36-year-old female, investigated for right leg pain, reported rapid weight gain, bruising and secondary amenorrhoea. She had abdominal adiposity with violaceous striae, facial plethora and hirsutism, atrophic skin, ecchymosis and proximal myopathy. Investigations confirmed cortisol excess (cortisol following low-dose 48h dexamethasone suppression test 807nmol/L; 24h urinary free cortisol 1443nmol (normal<290nmol)). Adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) was <5.0pg/mL. CT demonstrated subtle left adrenal gland hypertrophy. Hypercortisolaemia persisted after left adrenalectomy. Histology revealed primary pigmented micronodular adrenal disease. Post-operatively, right leg pain worsened and left leg pain developed, affecting mobility. MRI showed bilateral femoral head AVN. She underwent right adrenalectomy and steroid replacement was commenced. Four months after surgery, leg pain had resolved and mobility was normal. Repeat MRI showed marked improvement of radiological abnormalities in both femoral heads, consistent with spontaneous healing of AVN. We report a case of Cushing’s syndrome due to primary pigmented nodular adrenocortical disease, presenting with symptomatic AVN of both hips. This was managed conservatively from an orthopaedic perspective. Following cure of hypercortisolaemia, the patient experienced excellent recovery and remains symptom free 4 years after adrenalectomy. This is the first report of a favourable outcome over long-term follow-up of a patient with bilateral AVN of the hip, which reversed with treatment of endogenous hypercortisolaemia.
AVN of femoral head can be a presenting feature of hypercortisolism, both endogenous and exogenous.
Rarely, treatment of hypercortisolaemia can reverse AVN without the need for orthopaedic intervention.
Primary pigmented nodular adrenal disease is a rare cause of ACTH-independent Cushing’s syndrome.
Haemorrhage of a parathyroid adenoma is a rare clinical presentation. This report describes a previously fit and well 54-year-old woman who presented with acute neck swelling and pain with an overlying ecchymosis. Admission laboratory tests revealed a raised parathyroid hormone and hypercalcaemia. A computed tomography (CT) scan showed widespread anterior cervical haemorrhage and a lesion at the inferior pole of the left thyroid gland. A working diagnosis of spontaneous haemorrhage from a parathyroid adenoma was made. As she was haemodynamically stable, she was treated conservatively with a period of observation in hospital to monitor for signs of neck organ compression. Follow-up imaging with CT, ultrasound and sestamibi confirmed the likely source of haemorrhage as a parathyroid nodule with significant vascularity. The diagnosis was confirmed on histopathological analysis after elective surgical exploration of the neck 6 months after her presentation. This revealed a benign parathyroid adenoma with evidence of acute and chronic bleeding. The patient made a full recovery with immediate normalisation of her biochemistry post-operatively. Despite developing a hoarse voice in the immediate post-operative period, this resolved completely within 1 month. This case report provides further evidence to support a minimal delay for elective surgery after conservative management to reduce the risks associated with recurrent bleeding.
Haemorrhage of a parathyroid adenoma should be a differential for all cases of acute cervical swelling or ecchymosis with no precipitating factor.
The clerking should identify any risk factors for endocrine disease.
Blood tests to screen for abnormal parathyroid biochemistry should be performed on admission.
Detailed imaging of the neck is essential to identify the source of haemorrhage and risk of compression to vital neck organs.
Conservative management is a suitable option for patients who remain haemodynamically stable but all should undergo a period of observation in hospital.
Conservatively managed patients should be considered for definitive surgical exploration within a month of presentation to avoid the risks of recurrent bleeding.