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Open access

Erika Sugito, Akiyo Tanabe, Koji Maruyama, Kyoko Nohara, Naoki Enomoto, Ryotaro Bouchi, Mitsuru Ohsugi, Kohjiro Ueki, Kazuhiko Yamada, and Hiroshi Kajio

Summary

A 47-year-old man was diagnosed with a left adrenal incidentaloma at 40 years of age. The tumor had irregular margins and grew from 18 mm to 30 mm in maximum diameter over 7 years. On computed tomography scan, the mass appeared to localize within the tip of the lateral limb of the left adrenal gland, and between the left adrenal gland and the posterior wall of the stomach. The plasma corticotropin and cortisol concentrations and the 24-h urine fractionated metanephrine levels were normal. 123I-metaiodobenzylguanidine scintigraphy showed tumor avidity consistent with a hormonally inactive pheochromocytoma. A laparoscopic left adrenalectomy was performed; however, no tumor was present in the resected specimen. Abdominal computed tomography postoperatively showed that the tumor remained intact and appeared to connect to the posterior wall of the stomach. A laparotomy was performed and the tumor was removed. The tumor was localized to the intraperitoneal space and isolated from the posterior wall of the stomach. The pathological diagnosis was a gastrointestinal stromal tumor. Clinicians need to be aware of the limitations of diagnostic imaging studies in diagnosing non-functioning adrenal incidentalomas, which require a pathological analysis for the final diagnosis. Moreover, clinicians need to provide patients with sufficient informed consent when deciding on treatment strategies.

Learning points

  • Anatomic structures and tumors that develop in neighboring tissues to the adrenal glands may be confused with primary adrenal tumors.

  • 123I- metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scintigraphy is specific for diagnosing pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas; however, it has been reported that 123I-MIBG may accumulate in neuroendocrine tumors as well as other tumors.

  • Clinicians should recognize the limitations of imaging studies and the uncertainty of an imaging-based preoperative diagnosis.

Open access

Evangelos Karvounis, Ioannis Zoupas, Dimitra Bantouna, Rodis D Paparodis, Roxani Efthymiadou, Christina Ioakimidou, and Christos Panopoulos

Summary

Large-cell neuroendocrine carcinoma (LCNEC) is a rare neuroendocrine prostatic malignancy. It usually arises after androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), while de novo cases are even more infrequent, with only six cases described. The patient was a 78-year-old man with no history of ADT who presented with cervical lymphadenopathy. Diagnostic approaches included PET/CT, MRI, CT scans, ultrasonography, biopsies, and cytological and immunohistochemical evaluations. Results showed a poorly differentiated carcinoma in the thyroid gland accompanied by cervical lymph node enlargement. Thyroid surgery revealed LCNEC metastasis to the thyroid gland. Additional metastases were identified in both the adrenal glands. Despite appropriate treatment, the patient died of the disease. De novo LCNEC of the prostate is a rare, highly aggressive tumor with a poor prognosis. It is resistant to most therapeutic agents, has a high metastatic potential, and is usually diagnosed at an advanced stage. Further studies are required to characterize this tumor.

Learning points

  • De novo LCNECs of the prostate gland can metastasize almost anywhere in the body, including the thyroid and adrenal glands.

  • LCNECs of the prostate are usually associated with androgen-depriving therapy, but de novo cases are also notable and should be accounted for.

  • Further studies are required to fully understand and treat LCNECs more effectively.

Open access

Katarzyna Guziejko, Łukasz Minarowski, Agata Piłaszewicz-Puza, Anna Szumera-Ciećkiewicz, and Robert Marek Mróz

Summary

Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory, multisystem disease with an undetermined etiology. The presence of noncaseating granulomas in involved organs is a characteristic pathomorphological feature. Sarcoidosis, like a chameleon, can mimic different medical conditions. Although the lungs are most commonly involved, extrapulmonary manifestations can influence any system. The clinical course of the disease may differ. Immediate initiation of glucocorticosteroid therapy is important when critical organs are impaired. A case of a patient with sarcoidosis whose first clinical symptoms were related to diabetes insipidus (DI) was presented. The diagnosis of multiple organ sarcoidosis was delayed because of an adequate response to treatment with vasopressin. The multidisciplinary diagnostic approach validated the involvement of the pituitary gland, lungs, lymph nodes, bones, and subcutaneous tissue. The presented case emphasizes the critical importance of the multifaceted differential diagnosis of patients with DI.

Learning points

  • Sarcoidosis usually affects the lung but can also be a multisystemic disease.

  • The assessment of the extension of sarcoidosis remains complex.

  • A multidisciplinary approach must identify all-organ involvement and initiate appropriate sarcoidosis treatment.

  • Diabetes insipidus (DI) can be the first symptom of a systemic granulomatous disorder.

  • In the differential diagnosis of DI, a comprehensive assessment of rare causes of endocrine disorders, including extrapulmonary sarcoidosis, should be considered.

Open access

David Lin, Jai Madhok, Jason Bouhenguel, and Frederick Mihm

Summary

We describe a case of a 47-year-old patient who presented with severe lactic acidosis, troponinemia, and acute kidney injury after receiving 8 mg of intramuscular dexamethasone for seasonal allergies in the setting of an undiagnosed epinephrine-secreting pheochromocytoma. This case was atypical, however, in that the patient exhibited only mildly elevated noninvasive measured blood pressures. Following a period of alpha-adrenergic blockade, the tumor was resected successfully. Steroid administration can precipitate pheochromocytoma crisis that may present unusually as in our patient with mild hypertension but profound lactic acidosis.

Learning points

  • Steroids administered via any route can precipitate pheochromocytoma crisis, manifested by excessive catecholamine secretion and associated sequelae from vasoconstriction.

  • Lack of moderate/severe hypertension on presentation detracts from consideration of pheochromocytoma as a diagnosis.

  • Lactatemia after steroid administration should prompt work-up for pheochromocytoma, as it can be seen in epinephrine-secreting tumors.

  • Noninvasive blood pressure measurements may be unreliable during pheochromocytoma crisis due to excessive peripheral vasoconstriction.

Open access

Filippo Crimì, Giulio Barbiero, Irene Tizianel, Laura Evangelista, and Filippo Ceccato

Summary

A 61-year-old man went to the Emergency Department with left upper abdominal quadrant pain and low-grade fever, as well as a loss of weight (3 kg in 6 weeks). A solid-cystic lesion in the left adrenal lodge was discovered by abdominal ultrasonography. A slight increase in the serum amylase with normal lipase was observed, but there were no signs or symptoms of pancreatitis. A contrast-enhanced CT revealed a tumor that was suspected of adrenocortical cancer. Therefore, he was referred to the endocrine unit. The hormonal evaluation revealed no signs of excessive or inadequate adrenal secretion. To characterize the mass, an MRI was performed; the lesion showed an inhomogeneous fluid collection with peripheral wall contrast-enhancement, as well as a minor 18-fluorodeoxyglucose uptake at PET/CT images. The risk of primary adrenal cancer was minimal after the multidisciplinary discussion. An acute necrotic collection after focal pancreatitis was suspected, according to the characteristics of imaging. Both CT-guided drainage of the necrotic accumulation and laboratory analysis of the aspirated fluid confirmed the diagnosis.

Learning points

  • Different types of expansive processes can mimic adrenal incidentalomas.

  • Necrotic collection after acute focal pancreatitis could be misdiagnosed as an adrenal mass, since its CT characteristics could be equivocal.

  • MRI has stronger capacities than CT in differentiating complex lesions of the adrenal lodge.

  • A multidisciplinary approach is fundamental in the management of patients with a newly discovered adrenal incidentaloma and equivocal/suspicious imaging features (low lipid content and size >4 cm).

Open access

Naomi Szwarcbard, Anna Davis, Leon A Bach, and Kathryn Hackman

Summary

Adrenal gland haemorrhage is an uncommon, yet likely under-diagnosed complication of high-impact trauma, such as motor vehicle accidents (MVA). It usually occurs with multi-trauma and is associated with additional injuries to the ribs, liver, kidney, spleen and vertebrae. Trauma cases with resultant adrenal gland injury have higher mortality rates. Primary adrenal insufficiency as a result of bilateral adrenal haemorrhage is potentially fatal. We report three cases of life-threatening adrenal insufficiency following adrenal injuries sustained in MVA’s. Case 1 was a 60-year-old-male who presented with acute haemodynamic instability on admission. Case 2 was an 88-year-old female on anticoagulation for atrial fibrillation, who developed haemodynamic instability 10 days into her admission. Case 3 was a 46-year-old male who developed hyponatraemia 2 weeks post-MVA. All were commenced on stress dose hydrocortisone replacement with improvement in clinical status. Only case 1 has had complete adrenal axis recovery, whereas the other patients remain on maintenance hydrocortisone replacement. Our cases demonstrate acute and subacute presentations of adrenal insufficiency following traumatic bilateral adrenal haemorrhages and highlight the importance of assessing adrenal morphology and function in any trauma patient with haemodynamic instability or hyponatraemia.

Learning points

  • Adrenal gland haemorrhage is an under-diagnosed consequence of high-impact trauma.

  • Trauma patients with adrenal haemorrhage have a significantly increased mortality risk.

  • Bilateral adrenal gland haemorrhage can result in life-threatening adrenal insufficiency requiring urgent glucocorticoid replacement.

  • Biochemical assessment of the adrenocortical axis should be considered in all patients presenting with high-impact trauma following motor vehicle accidents.

  • Given the potential for delayed presentation, any patients with new haemodynamic instability should have repeat biochemistry and/or imaging performed, even if initial adrenal imaging and investigations were normal.

Open access

S D N De Silva, M Aravinthan, and P Katulanda

Summary

Long-term use of exogenous glucocorticoids leads to the suppression of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis. Therefore, if the glucocorticoid is withdrawn abruptly, patients will develop adrenal insufficiency. Hypercalcaemia is a rare but well-known complication of adrenal insufficiency. However, hypercalcaemia is a rare presentation of glucocorticoid-induced adrenal insufficiency (GI-AI). A 62-year-old patient with a past history of diabetes mellitus, ischaemic heart disease, stroke, hypertension and dyslipidaemia presented with polyuria, loss of appetite, malaise and vomiting for a duration of 2 months. His ionized calcium level was high at 1.47 mmol/L. Intact parathyroid hormone was suppressed (4.3 pg/mL) and vitamin D was in the insufficient range (24.6 ng/mL). Extensive evaluation for solid organ or haematological malignancy including contrast-enhanced CT chest, abdomen, pelvis, multiple myeloma workup and multiple tumour markers were negative. His synacthan-stimulated cortisol was undetectable thus confirming adrenal insufficiency. His adrenocorticotrophic hormone level was 3.82 pg/mL (4.7–48.8) excluding primary adrenal insufficiency. His MRI brain and other pituitary hormones were normal. Further inquiry revealed that the patient had taken over-the-counter dexamethasone on a regular basis for allergic rhinitis for more than 2 years and had stopped 2 weeks prior to the onset of symptoms. Therefore, a diagnosis of GI-AI leading to hypercalcemia was made. The patient was resuscitated with intravenous fluids and replacement doses of oral hydrocortisone were started with a plan of prolonged tailing off to allow the endogenous adrenal function to recover. His calcium normalized and he made a complete recovery.

Learning points

  • Long-term use of glucocorticoids leads to the suppression of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis.

  • If the glucocorticoid is withdrawn abruptly, patients will develop adrenal insufficiency which is known as glucocorticoid-induced adrenal insufficiency.

  • Adrenal insufficiency should be considered in the differential diagnosis of parathyroid hormone-independent hypercalcaemia.

  • A thorough clinical history is of paramount importance in arriving at the correct diagnosis.

Open access

J M K de Filette, Bastiaan Sol, Gil Awada, Corina E Andreescu, David Unuane, Sandrine Aspeslagh, Jan Poelaert, and Bert Bravenboer

Summary

The pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 is of an unprecedented magnitude and has made it challenging to properly treat patients with urgent or rare endocrine disorders. Little is known about the risk of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in patients with rare endocrine malignancies, such as pituitary carcinoma. We describe the case of a 43-year-old patient with adrenocorticotrophic hormone-secreting pituitary carcinoma who developed a severe COVID-19 infection. He had stabilized Cushing’s disease after multiple lines of treatment and was currently receiving maintenance immunotherapy with nivolumab (240 mg every 2 weeks) and steroidogenesis inhibition with ketoconazole (800 mg daily). On admission, he was urgently intubated for respiratory exhaustion. Supplementation of corticosteroid requirements consisted of high-dose dexamethasone, in analogy with the RECOVERY trial, followed by the reintroduction of ketoconazole under the coverage of a hydrocortisone stress regimen, which was continued at a dose depending on the current level of stress. He had a prolonged and complicated stay at the intensive care unit but was eventually discharged and able to continue his rehabilitation. The case points out that multiple risk factors for severe COVID-19 are present in patients with Cushing’s syndrome. ‘Block-replacement’ therapy with suppression of endogenous steroidogenesis and supplementation of corticosteroid requirements might be preferred in this patient population.

Learning points

  • Comorbidities for severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are frequently present in patients with Cushing’s syndrome.

  • ‘Block-replacement’ with suppression of endogenous steroidogenesis and supplementation of corticosteroid requirements might be preferred to reduce the need for biochemical monitoring and avoid adrenal insufficiency.

  • The optimal corticosteroid dose/choice for COVID-19 is unclear, especially in patients with endogenous glucocorticoid excess.

  • First-line surgery vs initial disease control with steroidogenesis inhibitors for Cushing’s disease should be discussed depending on the current healthcare situation.

Open access

Ray Wang, Benjamin Solomon, Stephen J Luen, Owen W.J. Prall, Christine Khoo, Anthony J Gill, Jeremy Lewin, and Nirupa Sachithanandan

Summary

Adrenocortical carcinoma is a rare disease with poor prognosis whose clinical heterogeneity can at times present a challenge to accurate and timely diagnosis. We present the case of a patient who presented with extensive pulmonary lesions, mediastinal and hilar lymphadenopathy and an adrenal mass in whom the oncological diagnosis was initially uncertain. Through the use of immunohistochemistry, biochemistry and genomic testing, an accurate diagnosis of adrenocortical carcinoma was ultimately made which resulted in more directed treatment being administered. The use of multidisciplinary input and genomics to aid in diagnosis and prognosis of adrenocortical carcinoma is discussed.

Learning points

  • Adrenocortical carcinomas can present a diagnostic challenge to clinicians given it is a rare malignancy with significant clinical heterogeneity.

  • Specialist multidisciplinary team input is vital in the diagnosis and management of adrenocortical carcinomas.

  • Hormonal testing is recommended in the diagnostic workup of adrenal masses, even in the absence of overt clinical signs/symptoms of hormone excess.

  • Immunostaining for the highly sensitive and specific steroidogenic factor-1 is vital for accurate diagnosis.

  • Genomics can provide prognostic utility in management of adrenocortical carcinoma.

Open access

Nam Quang Tran, Chien Cong Phan, Thao Thi Phuong Doan, and Thang Viet Tran

Summary

Primary adrenal insufficiency is a rare disease and can masquerade as other conditions; therefore, it is sometimes incorrectly diagnosed. Herein, we reported the case of a 39-year-old Vietnamese male with primary adrenal insufficiency due to bilateral adrenal tuberculosis. The patient presented to the emergency room with acute adrenal crisis and a 3-day history of nausea, vomiting, epigastric pain, and diarrhoea with a background of 6 months of fatigue, weight loss, and anorexia. Abdominal CT revealed bilateral adrenal masses. Biochemically, unequivocal low morning plasma cortisol (<83 nmol/L) and high plasma adrenocorticotropic hormone levels were consistent with primary adrenal insufficiency. There was no evidence of malignancy or lymphoma. As the patient was from a tuberculosis-endemic area, extra-adrenal tuberculosis was excluded during the work up. A retroperitoneal laparoscopic left adrenalectomy was performed, and tuberculous adrenalitis was confirmed by the histopathological results. The patient was started on antituberculous therapy, in addition to glucocorticoid replacement. In conclusion, even without evidence of extra-adrenal tuberculosis, a diagnosis of bilateral adrenal tuberculosis is required. A histopathological examination has a significant role along with clinical judgement and hormonal workup in establishing a definitive diagnosis of adrenal tuberculosis without evidence of active extra-adrenal involvement.

Learning points

  • Primary adrenal insufficiency can be misdiagnosed as other mimicking diseases, such as gastrointestinal illness, leading to diagnostic pitfalls.

  • Adrenal insufficiency can be confirmed with significantly low morning plasma cortisol levels of <83 nmol/L without a dynamic short cosyntropin stimulation test.

  • Tuberculous adrenalitis is an uncommon treatable condition; however, it remains an important cause of primary adrenal insufficiency, especially in developing countries. In the absence of extra-adrenal involvement, adrenal biopsy plays a key role in the diagnostic process. Alternatively, adrenalectomy for histopathological purposes should be considered if CT scan-guided fine needle aspiration is infeasible in cases of small adrenal masses.