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.
Silent corticotroph adenoma (SCA) is an unusual type of nonfunctioning pituitary adenoma (NFA) that is silent both clinically and biochemically and can only be recognized by positive immunostaining for ACTH. Under rare circumstances, it can transform into hormonally active disease presenting with severe Cushing syndrome. It might often produce diagnostic dilemma with difficult management issue if not thoroughly investigated and subtyped accordingly following surgery. Here, we present a 21-year-old male who initially underwent pituitary adenomectomy for presumed NFA with compressive symptoms. However, he developed recurrent and invasive macroadenoma with severe clinical as well as biochemical hypercortisolism during post-surgical follow-up. Repeat pituitary surgery was carried out urgently as there was significant optic chiasmal compression. Immunohistochemical analysis of the tumor tissue obtained on repeat surgery proved it to be an aggressive corticotroph adenoma. Though not cured, he showed marked clinical and biochemical improvement in the immediate postoperative period. Anticipating recurrence from the residual tumor, we referred him for cyber knife radio surgery.
Pituitary NFA commonly present with compressive symptoms such as headache and blurred vision.
Post-surgical development of Cushing syndrome in such a case could be either drug induced or endogenous.
In the presence of recurrent pituitary tumor, ACTH-dependent Cushing syndrome indicates CD.
Rarely a SCA presenting initially as NFA can transform into an active corticotroph adenoma.
Immunohistochemical marker for ACTH in the resected tumor confirms the diagnosis.
Severe Cushing syndrome (SCS) is considered an emergency that requires immediate treatment to lower serum cortisol levels. Fluconazole may be considered an alternative treatment in Cushing syndrome when ketoconazole is not tolerated or unavailable. We report a 39-year-old woman with a history of partial pancreaticoduodenectomy due to a periampullary neuroendocrine tumor with locoregional extension. Three years after surgery, she developed liver metastases and was started on 120 mg of lanreotide/month, despite which, liver metastases progressed in the following 6 months. The patient showed extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, delirium, moon face, hirsutism and severe proximal weakness. Laboratory tests showed anemia, hyperglycemia and severe hypokalemia. 24-h urinary free cortisol: 2152 nmol/day (reference range (RR): <276), morning serum cortisol 4883.4 nmol/L (RR: 138–690), ACTH 127.3 pmol/L (RR: 2.2–10). She was diagnosed with ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS). On admission, she presented with acute upper gastrointestinal tract bleeding and hemodynamic instability. Intravenous fluconazole 400 mg/day was started. After 48 h, her mental state improved and morning cortisol decreased by 25%. The dose was titrated to 600 mg/day which resulted in a 55% decrease in cortisol levels in 1 week, but then had to be decreased to 400 mg/day because transaminase levels increased over 3 times the upper normal level. After 18 days of treatment, hemodynamic stability, lower cortisol levels and better overall clinical status enabled successful bilateral adrenalectomy. This case report shows that intravenous fluconazole effectively decreased cortisol levels in SCS due to EAS.
Severe Cushing syndrome can be effectively treated with fluconazole to achieve a significant improvement of hypercortisolism prior to bilateral adrenalectomy.
Intravenous fluconazole is an alternative treatment when ketoconazole is not tolerated and etomidate is not available.
Fluconazole is well tolerated with mild side effects. Hepatotoxicity is usually mild and resolves after drug discontinuation.
Carney complex (CNC) is a rare multiple neoplasia syndrome characterized by spotty pigmentation of the skin and mucosa in association with various non-endocrine and endocrine tumors, including primary pigmented nodular adrenocortical disease (PPNAD). A 20-year-old woman was referred for suspected Cushing syndrome. She had signs of cortisol excess as well as skin lentigines on physical examination. Biochemical investigation was suggestive of corticotropin (ACTH)-independent Cushing syndrome. Unenhanced computed tomography scan of the abdomen did not reveal an obvious adrenal mass. She subsequently underwent bilateral laparoscopic adrenalectomy, and histopathology was consistent with PPNAD. Genetic testing revealed a novel frameshift pathogenic variant c.488delC/p.Thr163MetfsX2 (ClinVar Variation ID: 424516) in the PRKAR1A gene, consistent with clinical suspicion for CNC. Evaluation for other clinical features of the complex was unrevealing. We present a case of PPNAD-associated Cushing syndrome leading to the diagnosis of CNC due to a novel PRKAR1A pathogenic variant.
PPNAD should be considered in the differential for ACTH-independent Cushing syndrome, especially when adrenal imaging appears normal.
The diagnosis of PPNAD should prompt screening for CNC.
CNC is a rare multiple neoplasia syndrome caused by inactivating pathogenic variants in the PRKAR1A gene.
Timely diagnosis of CNC and careful surveillance can help prevent potentially fatal complications of the disease.
Pseudohypoparathyroidism (PHP) is a heterogeneous group of rare endocrine disorders characterised by normal renal function and renal resistance to the action of the parathyroid hormone. Type 1A (PHP1A), which is the most common variant, also include developmental and skeletal defects named as Albright hereditary osteodystrophy (AHO). We present two cases, a 54- and a 33-year-old male diagnosed with PHP who were referred to us for persistently high levels of serum calcitonin. AHO and multinodular goitre were present in the 54-year-old male, while the second patient was free of skeletal deformities and his thyroid gland was of normal size and without nodular appearance. We performed GNAS molecular analysis (methylation status and copy number analysis by MS-MLPA) in genomic DNA samples for both patients. The analysis revealed a novel missense variant c.131T>G p.(Leu44Pro) affecting GNAS exon 1, in the patient with the clinical diagnosis of PHP1A. This amino acid change appears to be in accordance with the clinical diagnosis of the patient. The genomic DNA analysis of the second patient revealed the presence of the recurrent 3-kb deletion affecting the imprinting control region localised in the STX16 region associated with the loss of methylation (LOM) at the GNAS A/B differentially methylated region and consistent with the diagnosis of an autosomal dominant form of PHP type 1B (PHP1B). In conclusion, hypercalcitoninaemia may be encountered in PHP1A and PHP1B even in the absence of thyroid pathology.
We describe a novel missense variant c.131T>G p.(Leu44Pro) affecting GNAS exon 1 as the cause of PHP1A.
Hypercalcitoninaemia in PHP1A is considered an associated resistance to calcitonin, as suggested by the generalised impairment of Gsα-mediated hormone signalling.
GNAS methylation defects, as in type PHP1B, without thyroid pathology can also present with hypercalcitoninaemia.
Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is an autosomal dominant multisystem hereditary cutaneous condition, characterized by multiple hamartomas. In rare cases, pituitary neuroendocrine tumors (PitNETs) have been described in patients with TSC, but the causal relationship between these two diseases is still under debate. TSC is mostly caused by mutations of two tumor suppressor genes, encoding for hamartin (TSC1) and tuberin (TSC2), controlling cell growth and proliferation. Here, we present the case of a 62-year-old Caucasian woman with TSC and a silent gonadotroph PitNET with suprasellar extension, treated with transsphenoidal endoscopic neurosurgery with complete resection. Therapeutic approaches based on mTOR signaling (i.e. everolimus) have been successfully used in patients with TSC and tested in non-functioning PitNET cellular models with promising results. Here, we observed a reduction of cell viability after an in vitro treatment of PitNET’s derived primary cells with everolimus. TSC analysis retrieved no disease-associated variants with the exception of the heterozygous intronic variant c.4006-71C>T found in TSC2: the computational tools predicted a gain of a new splice site with consequent intron retention, not confirmed by an in vitro analysis of patient’s lymphocyte-derived RNA. Further analyses are therefore needed to provide insights on the possible mechanisms involving the hamartin-tuberin complex in the pathogenesis of pituitary adenomas. However, our data further support previous observations of an antiproliferative effect of everolimus on PitNET.
Pituitary neuroendocrine tumors (PitNET) in patients with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) are rare: only few cases have been reported in literature.
Therapeutic approach related to mTOR signaling, such as everolimus, may be used in some patients with PitNETs as well as those with TSC.
We reported a woman with both non-secreting PitNET and TSC; PitNET was surgically removed and classified as a silent gonadotroph tumor.
Everolimus treatment in PitNET’s-derived primary cells revealed a significant decrease in cell viability.
Considering our case and available evidence, it is still unclear whether a PitNET is a part of TSC or just a coincidental tumor.
Cushing’s syndrome is a rare disease that results from prolonged exposure to supraphysiological levels of glucocorticoids. Severe and rapidly progressive cases are often, but not exclusively, attributable to ectopic ACTH secretion. Extreme hypercortisolism usually has florid metabolic consequences and is associated with an increased infectious and thrombotic risk. The authors report on a case of a 51-year-old male that presented with severe Cushing’s syndrome secondary to an ACTH-secreting pituitary macroadenoma, whose diagnostic workup was affected by concurrent subclinical multifocal pulmonary infectious nodules. The case is noteworthy for the atypically severe presentation of Cushing’s disease, and it should remind the clinician of the possible infectious and thrombotic complications associated with Cushing’s syndrome.
Severe Cushing’s syndrome is not always caused by ectopic ACTH secretion.
Hypercortisolism is a state of immunosuppression, being associated with an increased risk for opportunistic infections.
Infectious pulmonary infiltrates may lead to imaging diagnostic dilemmas when investigating a suspected ectopic ACTH secretion.
Cushing’s syndrome carries an increased thromboembolic risk that may even persist after successful surgical management.
Antibiotic and venous thromboembolism prophylaxis should be considered in every patient with severe Cushing’s syndrome.
An 11-year-old male with perinatally acquired human immune deficiency virus (HIV) infection on antiretroviral regimen, which included abacavir plus lamivudine (Epzicom), didanosine, ritonavir and atazanavir presented with bilateral axillary striae, increased appetite, fatigue, facial swelling and acute weight gain. Two months prior to presentation, the patient had received a diagnostic and therapeutic intra-articular triamcinolone injection in the knee for pain relief and subsequently became progressively swollen in the face, developed striae bilaterally at the axillae, experienced increased appetite, fatigue and an 8 pound weight gain. During the endocrine workup, suspicion for adrenal insufficiency prompted 24-h urine collection for free cortisol, which was found to be undetectable (below LLQ of 1.0 µg/L). This prompted further evaluation of the hypothalamic–pituitary axis (HPA) by standard dose adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation test. A 250 µg cosyntropin stimulation test was performed and confirmed HPA axis suppression. Baseline cortisol level was <1 µg/dL and stimulated cortisol level at 30 min was 3.8 µg/dL. The patient was diagnosed with iatrogenic Cushing syndrome and suppression of HPA axis secondary to the drug interaction between ritonavir (RTV) and intra-articular triamcinolone injection. Following endocrine evaluation and workup, the patient was admitted for planned orthopaedic procedure including elective left hamstring lengthening, distal femoral osteotomy and patellar tendon advancement. Taking into consideration the diagnosis of iatrogenic Cushing syndrome, at the start of the surgical procedure, 100 mg IV stress dose of hydrocortisone followed by 50 mg hydrocortisone every 8 h for 24 h was administered. Stress dosing was discontinued 24 h after the procedure. Throughout the hospitalization and upon discharge, the patient continued his ART. From initial presentation, patient has remained clinically stable throughout surgery and postoperative period.
Drug–drug interaction between ritonavir and triamcinolone can cause Cushing syndrome.
Although triamcinolone has a half-life of 3 h, an intra-articular injection may be systematically absorbed for 3 weeks after injection, and adrenal suppression may last as long as 30 days.
Co-administration of ritonavir and corticosteroids may result in an increase of plasma levels of corticosteroids levels, as they are both eliminated by CYP3A metabolism, and this interaction has the potential to prolong the half-life of triamcinolone several fold.
No specific guidelines are available for the management of iatrogenic Cushing syndrome secondary to ritonavir and corticosteroids.
One treatment option includes replacing ritonavir with a non-protease inhibitor-based regimen.
Initiating hydrocortisone replacement therapy to prevent an adrenal crisis is also an alternate option.
Ectopic ACTH/CRH co-secreting tumors are a very rare cause of Cushing’s syndrome and only a few cases have been reported in the literature. Differentiating between Cushing’s disease and ectopic Cushing’s syndrome may be particularly difficult if predominant ectopic CRH secretion leads to pituitary corticotroph hyperplasia that may mimic Cushing’s disease during dynamic testing with both dexamethasone and CRH as well as bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling (BIPSS). We present the case of a 24-year-old man diagnosed with ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome caused by an ACTH/CRH co-secreting midgut NET. Both high-dose dexamethasone testing and BIPSS suggested Cushing’s disease. However, the clinical presentation with a rather rapid onset of cushingoid features, hyperpigmentation and hypokalemia led to the consideration of ectopic ACTH/CRH-secretion and prompted a further workup. Computed tomography (CT) of the abdomen revealed a cecal mass which was identified as a predominantly CRH-secreting neuroendocrine tumor. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first reported case of an ACTH/CRH co-secreting tumor of the cecum presenting with biochemical features suggestive of Cushing’s disease.
The discrimination between a Cushing’s disease and ectopic Cushing’s syndrome is challenging and has many caveats.
Ectopic ACTH/CRH co-secreting tumors are very rare.
Dynamic tests as well as BIPSS may be compatible with Cushing’s disease in ectopic CRH-secretion.
High levels of CRH may induce hyperplasia of the corticotroph cells in the pituitary. This could be the cause of a preserved pituitary response to dexamethasone and CRH.
Clinical features of ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism with rapid development of Cushing’s syndrome, hyperpigmentation, high circulating levels of cortisol with associated hypokalemia, peripheral edema and proximal myopathy should be a warning flag of ectopic Cushing’s syndrome and lead to further investigations.