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Open access

Priya Darshani Chhiba and David Segal


Recombinant human growth hormone therapy (rhGH) has been available since 1985 for a variety of conditions and has expanded the indications for rhGH therapy and the number of patients receiving therapy. The very nature of the therapy exposes individuals to years of injections. There are a number of well-known adverse events, however, a lesser-known and rarely reported adverse event of rhGH therapy is localized lipoatrophy. We report nine cases of localized lipoatrophy during rhGH therapy accounting for 14.5% of patients taking rhGH presenting to a single centre for routine follow-up over just a 2-month period. The development of localized lipoatrophy does not appear to be age, indication or dose-related but rather related to repeated administration of rhGH into a limited number of sites. The most likely putative mechanism is the local lipolytic action of growth hormone (GH) itself, although the possibility of an excipient-based interaction cannot be excluded. Given the high prevalence of this adverse event and the potential to prevent it with adequate site rotation, we can recommend that patients be informed of the possible development of localized lipoatrophy. Doctors and nurses should closely examine injection sites at each visit, and site rotation should be emphasized during injection technique education.

Learning points

  • There are a number of well-known adverse events, however, a lesser-known and rarely reported adverse event of rhGH therapy is localized lipoatrophy.

  • Examination of the injection sites at each visit by the treating healthcare practitioner.

  • To advise the parents/caregivers/patients to change their injection site with each injection.

  • To advise the parents/caregivers/patients to change the needles after every use.

  • For parents, caregivers and patients to self-inspect their injection sites and have a high alert for the development of lipoatrophy and to then immediately report it to their doctor.

Open access

Reyna Daya, Faheem Seedat, Khushica Purbhoo, Saajidah Bulbulia, and Zaheer Bayat


Acromegaly is a rare, chronic progressive disorder with characteristic clinical features caused by persistent hypersecretion of growth hormone (GH), mostly from a pituitary adenoma (95%). Occasionally, ectopic production of GH or growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) with resultant GH hypersecretion may lead to acromegaly. Sometimes localizing the source of GH hypersecretion may prove difficult. Rarely, acromegaly has been found in patients with an empty sella (ES) secondary to prior pituitary radiation and/or surgery. However, acromegaly in patients with primary empty sella (PES) is exceeding rarely and has only been described in a few cases. We describe a 47-year-old male who presented with overt features of acromegaly (macroglossia, prognathism, increased hand and feet size). Biochemically, both the serum GH (21.6 μg/L) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (635 μg/L) were elevated. In addition, there was a paradoxical elevation of GH following a 75 g oral glucose load. Pituitary MRI demonstrated an ES. In order to exclude an ectopic source of GH hypersecretion, further biochemical tests and imaging were done, which were unremarkable. Notably, increased uptake in the sella turcica on the 68Gallium DOTATATE PET/CT confirmed the ES as the likely source of GH secretion. As no overt lesion was noted, medical treatment (octreotide acetate) was initiated with a good clinical and biochemical response. At his 3 month follow-up, he reported an improvement in symptoms (fatigue and headache), however he still complained of low libido. Due to a persistently low testosterone level at follow-up, a long-acting testosterone was initiated. His GH level normalised, and IGF-1 has significantly reduced.

Learning points

  • The commonest cause of acromegaly is due to GH hypersecretion from pituitary adenomas (95%).

  • Acromegaly has rarely been found in patients with ES.

  • It is important to exclude a past history suggestive of pituitary apoplexy.

  • Extra-pituitary source of GH such as ectopic production of GHRH with resultant GH hypersecretion needs to be excluded.

  • In such cases, since there is no resectable mass, medical therapy is the primary treatment option.

Open access

Nyasatu G Chamba, Ahlam A Amour, Abid M Sadiq, Tecla R Lyamuya, Emmanuel V Assey, Adnan M Sadiq, and William P Howlett


Acromegaly is a rare disease caused by hypersecretion of the growth hormone (GH). Most cases are caused by either pituitary microadenoma or macroadenoma. The GH producing tumors present with clinical manifestations of acromegaly due to excessive GH secretion or symptoms resulting from mass effects of the enlarging tumor. The physical changes are usually slow and, therefore, recognition of the disease is delayed. These adenomas are never malignant but can have significant morbidity and mortality. A subgroup of patients with acromegaly present with severe hyperglycemia resulting in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) which requires insulin. Rarely are pituitary tumors responsible for generalized convulsions except when they are too large. We hereby present two cases, the first is that of a 26-year-old female who presented with new onset status epilepticus, DKA with a 1-year history of diabetes mellitus (DM). On examination, she had clinical features of acromegaly. The second case is that of a 34-year-old female who presented with new onset status epilepticus, hyperglycemia with a history of recently diagnosed DM, and features of gigantism. In both cases, their diagnosis was confirmed by elevated serum GH and later by elevated insulin-like growth factor type 1 levels, and CT of the head demonstrating large pituitary macroadenoma. The importance of clinical history and examination, as well as investigations is vital in the recognition of acromegaly. The prognosis of acromegalic patients depends on early clinical recognition and tumor size reduction by either medical or surgical therapy.

Learning points

  • Conditions such as status epilepticus and DKA may be clinical presentations in patients presenting with acromegaly.

  • Seizures are rare in people with pituitary adenoma and typically occur when the tumor invades the suprasellar area due to mass effect on the brain.

  • This article shows how best we were able to manage the acromegaly complications in a low resource setting.

  • Hyperprolactinemia in acromegaly may be due to disruption of the normal dopaminergic inhibition of prolactin secretion due to mass effect of the macroadenoma, and around 25% of GH-secreting adenomas co-secrete prolactin.

Open access

John J Orrego and Joseph A Chorny


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


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


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


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


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


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


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).