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Open access

John J Orrego and Joseph A Chorny

Summary

We describe a 56-year-old postmenopausal woman with hypertension, hypokalemia and severe alopecia who was found to have a 4.5-cm lipid-poor left adrenal mass on CT scan performed to evaluate her chronic right-sided abdominal pain. Hormonal studies revealed unequivocal evidence of primary aldosteronism and subclinical hypercortisolemia of adrenal origin. Although a laparoscopic left adrenalectomy rendered her normotensive, normokalemic and adrenal insufficient for 2.5 years, her alopecia did not improve and she later presented with facial hyperpigmentation acne, worsening hirsutism, clitoromegaly, and an estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. Further testing demonstrated markedly elevated serum androstenedione and total and free testosterone and persistently undetectable DHEAS levels. As biochemical and radiologic studies ruled out primary adrenal malignancy and obvious ovarian neoplasms, a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy was undertaken, which revealed bilateral ovarian hyperthecosis. This case highlights how the clinical manifestations associated with hyperaldosteronism and hypercortisolemia masqueraded the hyperandrogenic findings. It was only when her severe alopecia failed to improve after the resolution of hypercortisolism, hyperandrogenic manifestations worsened despite adrenal insufficiency and an estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer was found, did it becomes apparent that her symptoms were due to ovarian hyperthecosis.

Learning points:

  • As cortisol cosecretion appears to be highly prevalent in patients with primary aldosteronism, the term ‘Connshing’ syndrome has been suggested.
  • The associated subclinical hypercortisolemia could be the driver for the increased metabolic alterations seen in patients with Conn syndrome.
  • The identification of these dual secretors before adrenal venous sampling could alert the clinician about possible equivocal test results.
  • The identification of these dual secretors before unilateral adrenalectomy could avoid unexpected postoperative adrenal crises.
  • Hyperfunctioning adrenal and ovarian lesions can coexist, and the clinical manifestations associated with hypercortisolemia can masquerade the hyperandrogenic findings.
Open access

Skand Shekhar, Rasha Haykal, Crystal Kamilaris, Constantine A Stratakis, and Fady Hannah-Shmouni

Summary

A 29-year-old primigravida woman with a known history of primary aldosteronism due to a right aldosteronoma presented with uncontrolled hypertension at 5 weeks of estimated gestation of a spontaneous pregnancy. Her hypertension was inadequately controlled with pharmacotherapy which lead to the consideration of surgical management for her primary aldosteronism. She underwent curative right unilateral adrenalectomy at 19 weeks of estimated gestational age. The procedure was uncomplicated, and her blood pressure normalized post-operatively. She did, however, have a preterm delivery by cesarean section due to intrauterine growth retardation with good neonatal outcome. She is normotensive to date.

Learning points:

  • Primary aldosteronism is the most common etiology of secondary hypertension with an estimated prevalence of 5–10% in the hypertensive population.
  • It is important to recognize the subtypes of primary aldosteronism given that certain forms can be treated surgically.
  • Hypertension in pregnancy is associated with significantly higher maternal and fetal complications.
  • Data regarding the treatment of primary aldosteronism in pregnancy are limited.
  • Adrenalectomy can be considered during the second trimester of pregnancy if medical therapy fails to adequately control hypertension from primary aldosteronism.
Open access

Rachel Wurth, Crystal Kamilaris, Naris Nilubol, Samira M Sadowski, Annabel Berthon, Martha M Quezado, Fabio R Faucz, Constantine A Stratakis, and Fady Hannah-Shmouni

Summary

Primary bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia (PBMAH) is a rare cause of ACTH-independent Cushing syndrome (CS). This condition is characterized by glucocorticoid and/or mineralocorticoid excess, and is commonly regulated by aberrant G-protein coupled receptor expression may be subclinical, allowing the disease to progress for years undetected. Inhibin A is a glycoprotein hormone and tumor marker produced by certain endocrine glands including the adrenal cortex, which has not been previously investigated as a potential tumor marker for PBMAH. In the present report, serum inhibin A levels were evaluated in three patients with PBMAH before and after adrenalectomy. In all cases, serum inhibin A was elevated preoperatively and subsequently fell within the normal range after adrenalectomy. Additionally, adrenal tissues stained positive for inhibin A. We conclude that serum inhibin A levels may be a potential tumor marker for PBMAH.

Learning points:

  • PBMAH is a rare cause of CS.
  • PBMAH may have an insidious presentation, allowing the disease to progress for years prior to diagnosis.
  • Inhibin A is a heterodimeric glycoprotein hormone expressed in the gonads and adrenal cortex.
  • Inhibin A serum concentrations are elevated in some patients with PBMAH, suggesting the potential use of this hormone as a tumor marker.
  • Further exploration of serum inhibin A concentration, as it relates to PBMAH disease progression, is warranted to determine if this hormone could serve as an early detection marker and/or predictor of successful surgical treatment.
Open access

Joanna Prokop, João Estorninho, Sara Marote, Teresa Sabino, Aida Botelho de Sousa, Eduardo Silva, and Ana Agapito

Summary

POEMS syndrome (Polyneuropathy, Organomegaly, Endocrinopathy, Monoclonal protein and Skin changes) is a rare multisystemic disease. Clinical presentation is variable, the only mandatory criteria being polyneuropathy and monoclonal gammapathy in association with one major and one minor criterion. Primary adrenal insufficiency is rarely reported. We describe a case of a 33-year-old patient, in whom the presenting symptoms were mandibular mass, chronic sensory-motor peripheral polyneuropathy and adrenal insufficiency. The laboratory evaluation revealed thrombocytosis, severe hyperkalemia with normal renal function, normal protein electrophoresis and negative serum immunofixation for monoclonal protein. Endocrinologic laboratory work-up confirmed Addison’s disease and revealed subclinical primary hypothyroidism. Thoracic abdominal CT showed hepatosplenomegaly, multiple sclerotic lesions in thoracic vertebra and ribs. The histopathologic examination of the mandibular mass was nondiagnostic. Bone marrow biopsy revealed plasma cell dyscrasia and confirmed POEMS syndrome. Axillary lymphadenopathy biopsy: Castleman’s disease. Gluco-mineralocorticoid substitution and levothyroxine therapy were started with clinical improvement. Autologous hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) was planned, cyclophosphamide induction was started. Meanwhile the patient suffered two ischemic strokes which resulted in aphasia and hemiparesis. Cerebral angiography revealed vascular lesions compatible with vasculitis and stenosis of two cerebral arteries. The patient deceased 14 months after the diagnosis. The young age at presentation, multiplicity of manifestations and difficulties in investigation along with the absence of serum monoclonal protein made the diagnosis challenging. We report this case to highlight the need to consider POEMS syndrome in differential diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy in association with endocrine abnormalities even in young patients.

Learning points:

  • POEMS syndrome is considered a ‘low tumor burden disease’ and the monoclonal protein in 15% of cases is not found by immunofixation.
  • Neuropathy is the dominant characteristic of POEMS syndrome and it is peripheral, ascending, symmetric and affecting both sensation and motor function.
  • Endocrinopathies are a frequent feature of POEMS syndrome, but the cause is unknown.
  • The most common endocrinopathies are hypogonadism, primary hypothyroidism and abnormalities in glucose metabolism.
  • There is no standard therapy; however, patients with disseminated bone marrow involvement are treated with chemotherapy with or without HCT.
Open access

Wei Yang, David Pham, Aren T Vierra, Sarah Azam, Dorina Gui, and John C Yoon

Summary

Ectopic ACTH-secreting pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors are rare and account for less than 5% of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome cases. We describe an unusual case of metastatic bronchial carcinoid tumor in a young woman presenting with unprovoked pulmonary emboli, which initially prevented the detection of the primary tumor on imaging. The source of ectopic ACTH was ultimately localized by a Gallium-DOTATATE scan, which demonstrated increased tracer uptake in a right middle lobe lung nodule and multiple liver nodules. The histological diagnosis was established based on a core biopsy of a hepatic lesion and the patient was started on a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist and a somatostatin analog. This case illustrates that hypercogulability can further aggravate the diagnostic challenges in ectopic ACTH syndrome. We discuss the literature on the current diagnosis and management strategies for ectopic ACTH syndrome.

Learning points:

  • In a young patient with concurrent hypokalemia and uncontrolled hypertension on multiple antihypertensive agents, secondary causes of hypertension should be evaluated.
  • Patients with Cushing’s syndrome can develop an acquired hypercoagulable state leading to spontaneous and postoperative venous thromboembolism.
  • Pulmonary emboli may complicate the imaging of the bronchial carcinoid tumor in ectopic ACTH syndrome.
  • Imaging with Gallium-68 DOTATATE PET/CT scan has the highest sensitivity and specificity in detecting ectopic ACTH-secreting tumors.
  • A combination of various noninvasive biochemical tests can enhance the diagnostic accuracy in differentiating Cushing’s disease from ectopic ACTH syndrome provided they have concordant results. Bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling remains the gold standard.
Open access

Tejhmal Rehman, Ali Hameed, Nigel Beharry, J Du Parcq, and Gul Bano

Summary

Beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (βhCG) is normally produced by syncytiotrophoblasts of the placenta during pregnancy and aids embryo implantation. However, it is also secreted in varying amounts in non-pregnant conditions commonly heralding a neoplastic process. We present a case of 50-year-old man, who presented with bilateral gynaecomastia with elevated testosterone, oestradiol, suppressed gonadotropins with progressively increasing levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). Biochemical and radiological investigations including ultrasonography of testes, breast tissue, MRI pituitary and CT scan full body did not identify the source of hCG. FDG PET scan revealed a large mediastinal mass with lung metastasis. Immunostaining and histological analysis confirmed the diagnosis of primary choriocarcinoma of the mediastinum. It is highly aggressive and malignant tumor with poor prognosis. Early diagnosis and management are essential for the best outcome.

Learning points:

  • High βhCG in a male patient or a non-pregnant female suggests a paraneoplastic syndrome.
  • In the case of persistently positive serum hCG, exclude immunoassay interference by doing the urine hCG as heterophilic antibodies are not present in the urine.
  • Non-gestational choriocarcinoma is an extremely rare trophoblastic tumor and should be considered in young men presenting with gynaecomastia and high concentration of hCG with normal gonads.
  • A high index of suspicion and extensive investigations are required to establish an early diagnosis of extra-gonadal choriocarcinoma.
  • Early diagnosis is crucial to formulate optimal management strategy and to minimize widespread metastasis for best clinical outcome.
Open access

A Chinoy, N B Wright, M Bone, and R Padidela

Summary

Hypokalaemia at presentation of diabetic ketoacidosis is uncommon as insulin deficiency and metabolic acidosis shifts potassium extracellularly. However, hypokalaemia is a recognised complication of the management of diabetic ketoacidosis as insulin administration and correction of metabolic acidosis shifts potassium intracellularly. We describe the case of a 9-year-old girl with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes mellitus presenting in diabetic ketoacidosis, with severe hypokalaemia at presentation due to severe and prolonged emesis. After commencing management for her diabetic ketoacidosis, her serum sodium and osmolality increased rapidly. However, despite maximal potassium concentrations running through peripheral access, and multiple intravenous potassium ‘corrections’, her hypokalaemia persisted. Seventy two hours after presentation, she became drowsy and confused, with imaging demonstrating central pontine myelinolysis – a rare entity seldom seen in diabetic ketoacidosis management in children despite rapid shifts in serum sodium and osmolality. We review the literature associating central pontine myelinolysis with hypokalaemia and hypothesise as to how the hypokalaemia may have contributed to the development of central pontine myelinolysis. We also recommend an approach to the management of a child in diabetic ketoacidosis with hypokalaemia at presentation.

Learning points:

  • Hypokalaemia is a recognised complication of treatment of paediatric diabetic ketoacidosis that should be aggressively managed to prevent acute complications.
  • Central pontine myelinolysis is rare in children, and usually observed in the presence of rapid correction of hyponatraemia. However, there is observational evidence of an association between hypokalaemia and central pontine myelinolysis, potentially by priming the endothelial cell membrane to injury by lesser fluctuations in osmotic pressure.
  • Consider central pontine myelinolysis as a complication of the management of paediatric diabetic ketoacidosis in the presence of relevant symptoms with profound hypokalaemia and/or fluctuations in serum sodium levels.
  • We have suggested an approach to the management strategies of hypokalaemia in paediatric diabetic ketoacidosis which includes oral potassium supplements if tolerated, minimising the duration and the rate of insulin infusion and increasing the concentration of potassium intravenously (via central line if necessary).
Open access

Priya Vaidyanathan and Paul Kaplowitz

Summary

Pubertal gynecomastia is common, can be seen in 65% of the adolescent boys and is considered physiological. It is thought to be due to transient imbalance between the ratio of testosterone and estradiol in the early stages of puberty. It resolves in 1–2 years and requires no treatment. However, more persistent and severe pubertal gynecomastia is less common and can be associated with pathological disorders. These can be due to diminished androgen production, increased estrogen production or androgen resistance. We report a case of persistent pubertal gynecomastia due to partial androgen insensitivity syndrome (PAIS), classical hormone findings and a novel mutation in the androgen receptor (AR) gene.

Learning points:

  • Laboratory testing of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), leutinizing hormone (LH) and testosterone for pubertal gynecomastia is most helpful in the setting of undervirization.
  • The hormonal finding of very high testosterone, elevated LH and estradiol and relatively normal FSH are classical findings of PAIS.
  • Gynecomastia due to PAIS will not resolve and surgery for breast reduction should be recommended.
Open access

Miriam Hinaa Ahmad and Ismat Shafiq

Summary

We report a case of a 21-year-old African American female with history of pre-diabetes, and a diagnosis of a rare leukemia, blastic-plasmacytoid dendritic neoplasm (BPDCN), who developed diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) after the third dose of PEG-asparaginase infusion. She was successfully treated with insulin. Asparaginase is a vital part of treatment protocols for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in combination with other chemotherapeutic drugs. Asparaginase therapy has been reported to cause hyperglycemia especially when used in conjunction with glucocorticoids for the treatment of ALL in the pediatric population. Multiple mechanisms for hyperglycemia have been hypothesized which include decreased insulin secretion, impaired insulin receptor function and excess glucagon formation. Hyperglycemia is usually self-limiting but can deteriorate to diabetic ketoacidosis. DKA is a rare adverse effect with asparaginase therapy with an incidence rate of about 0.8%.

Learning points:

  • DKA is a rare finding following asparaginase therapy.
  • Hyperglycemia is most commonly seen with asparaginase treatment when used along with glucocorticoid.
  • Frequent blood glucose monitoring and prompt initiation of insulin treatment with hyperglycemia can prevent severe complications.
  • Patients and physician education on this complication can reduce morbidity due to DKA.
Open access

E Mogas, A Campos-Martorell, M Clemente, L Castaño, A Moreno-Galdó, D Yeste, and A Carrascosa

Summary

Two pediatric patients with different causes of hyperparathyroidism are reported. First patient is a 13-year-old male with severe hypercalcemia due to left upper parathyroid gland adenoma. After successful surgery, calcium and phosphate levels normalized, but parathormone levels remained elevated. Further studies revealed a second adenoma in the right gland. The second patient is a 13-year-old female with uncommon hypercalcemia symptoms. Presence of pathogenic calcium-sensing receptor gene (CASR) mutation was found, resulting in diagnosis of symptomatic familial hypocalciuric hypercalcemia. Cinacalcet, a calcium-sensing agent that increases the sensitivity of the CASR, was used in both patients with successful results.

Learning points:

  • Hyperparathyroidism is a rare condition in pediatric patients. If not treated, it can cause serious morbidity.
  • Genetic tests searching for CASR or MEN1 gene mutations in pediatric patients with primary hyperparathyroidism should be performed.
  • Cinacalcet has been effective for treating different causes of hyperparathyroidism in our two pediatric patients.
  • Treatment has been well tolerated and no side effects have been detected.