Gastrointestinal perforation is a complication associated with steroid therapy or hypercortisolism, but it is rarely observed in patients with Cushing's disease in clinical practice, and only one case has been reported as a presenting symptom. Herein, we report a rare case of Cushing's disease in which a patient presented with gastrointestinal perforation as a symptom. A 79-year-old man complained of discomfort in the lower abdomen for 6 months. Based on the endocrinological and gastroenterological examinations, he was diagnosed with Cushing's disease with a perforation of the descending colon. After consultation with a gastroenterological surgeon, it was decided that colonic perforation could be conservatively observed without any oral intake and treated with parenteral administration of antibiotics because of the mild systemic inflammation and lack of abdominal guarding. Despite the marked elevated levels of serum cortisol, oral medication was not an option because of colonic perforation. Therefore, the patient was submitted to endonasal adenomectomy to normalize the levels of serum cortisol. Subsequently, a colostomy was successfully performed. Despite its rarity, physicians should be aware that gastrointestinal perforation may be associated with hypercortisolism, especially in elderly patients, and immediate diagnosis and treatment of this life-threatening condition are essential. If a perforation can be conservatively observed, endonasal adenomectomy prior to laparotomy is an alternative treatment option for hypercortisolism.
Thus far, only one case of gastrointestinal perforation as a presenting clinical symptom of Cushing's disease has been reported.
Physicians should be aware that gastrointestinal perforation might be associated with hypercortisolism in elderly patients because elevated levels of serum cortisol may mask the clinical signs of perforation. Because of this masking effect, the diagnosis of the perforation also tends to be delayed.
Although parenteral administration of etomidate is a standard treatment option for decreasing the elevated levels of serum cortisol, endonasal adenomectomy prior to laparotomy is an alternative treatment option if etomidate therapy is unavailable.