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Open access

Jai Madhok, Amy Kloosterboer, Chitra Venkatasubramanian, and Frederick G Mihm

Summary

We report the case of a 76-year-old male with a remote history of papillary thyroid cancer who developed severe paroxysmal headaches in the setting of episodic hypertension. Brain imaging revealed multiple lesions, initially of inconclusive etiology, but suspicious for metastatic foci. A search for the primary malignancy revealed an adrenal tumor, and biochemical testing confirmed the diagnosis of a norepinephrine-secreting pheochromocytoma. Serial imaging demonstrated multiple cerebral infarctions of varying ages, evidence of vessel narrowing and irregularities in the anterior and posterior circulations, and hypoperfusion in watershed areas. An exhaustive work-up for other etiologies of stroke including thromboembolic causes or vasculitis was unremarkable. There was resolution of symptoms, absence of new infarctions, and improvement in vessel caliber after adequate alpha-adrenergic receptor blockade for the management of pheochromocytoma. This clinicoradiologic constellation of findings suggested that the etiology of the multiple infarctions was reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS). Pheochromocytoma remains a poorly recognized cause of RCVS. Unexplained multifocal cerebral infarctions in the setting of severe hypertension should prompt the consideration of a vasoactive tumor as the driver of cerebrovascular dysfunction. A missed or delayed diagnosis has the potential for serious neurologic morbidity for an otherwise treatable condition.

Learning points:

  • The constellation of multifocal watershed cerebral infarctions of uncertain etiology in a patient with malignant hypertension should trigger the consideration of undiagnosed catecholamine secreting tumors, such as pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas.
  • Reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome is a serious but reversible cerebrovascular manifestation of pheochromocytomas that may lead to strokes (ischemic and hemorrhagic), seizures, and cerebral edema.
  • Alpha-adrenergic receptor blockade can reverse cerebral vasoconstriction and prevent further cerebral ischemia and infarctions.
  • Early diagnosis of catecholamine secreting tumors has the potential for reducing neurologic morbidity and mortality in patients presenting with cerebrovascular complications.
Open access

Takuya Higashitani, Shigehiro Karashima, Daisuke Aono, Seigoh Konishi, Mitsuhiro Kometani, Rie Oka, Masashi Demura, Kenji Furukawa, Yuto Yamazaki, Hironobu Sasano, Takashi Yoneda, and Yoshiyu Takeda

Summary

Renovascular hypertension (RVHT) is an important and potentially treatable form of resistant hypertension. Hypercortisolemia could also cause hypertension and diabetes mellitus. We experienced a case wherein adrenalectomy markedly improved blood pressure and plasma glucose levels in a patient with RVHT and low-level autonomous cortisol secretion. A 62-year-old Japanese man had been treated for hypertension and diabetes mellitus for 10 years. He was hospitalized because of a disturbance in consciousness. His blood pressure (BP) was 236/118 mmHg, pulse rate was 132 beats/min, and plasma glucose level was 712 mg/dL. Abdominal CT scanning revealed the presence of bilateral adrenal masses and left atrophic kidney. Abdominal magnetic resonance angiography demonstrated marked stenosis of the left main renal artery. The patient was subsequently diagnosed with atherosclerotic RVHT with left renal artery stenosis. His left adrenal lobular mass was over 40 mm and it was clinically suspected the potential for cortisol overproduction. Therefore, laparoscopic left nephrectomy and adrenalectomy were simultaneously performed, resulting in improved BP and glucose levels. Pathological studies revealed the presence of multiple cortisol-producing adrenal nodules and aldosterone-producing cell clusters in the adjacent left adrenal cortex. In the present case, the activated renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system and cortisol overproduction resulted in severe hypertension, which was managed with simultaneous unilateral nephrectomy and adrenalectomy.

Learning points:

  • Concomitant activation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system and cortisol overproduction may contribute to the development of severe hypertension and lead to lethal cardiovascular complications.
  • Treatment with simultaneous unilateral nephrectomy and adrenalectomy markedly improves BP and blood glucose levels.
  • CYP11B2 immunohistochemistry staining revealed the existence of aldosterone-producing cell clusters (APCCs) in the adjacent non-nodular adrenal gland, suggesting that APCCs may contribute to aldosterone overproduction in patients with RVHT.
Open access