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Nam Quang Tran Department of Endocrinology, University of Medicine and Pharmacy at Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Department of Endocrinology, University of Medicine and Pharmacy at Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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Chien Cong Phan Department of Imaging, University Medical Center at Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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Thao Thi Phuong Doan Department of Histopathology, University of Medicine and Pharmacy at Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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Thang Viet Tran Department of Endocrinology, University of Medicine and Pharmacy at Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Department of Endocrinology, University of Medicine and Pharmacy at Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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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.

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Tina Kienitz Endocrinology in Charlottenburg, Stuttgarter Platz 1, Berlin, Germany

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Jörg Schwander Endocrinology in Charlottenburg, Stuttgarter Platz 1, Berlin, Germany

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Ulrich Bogner Endocrinology in Charlottenburg, Stuttgarter Platz 1, Berlin, Germany

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Michael Schwabe Pathology, DRK-Kliniken Westend, Berlin, Germany

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Thomas Steinmüller Department of Abdominal and Endocrine Surgery, DRK-Kliniken Westend, Berlin, Germany

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Marcus Quinkler Endocrinology in Charlottenburg, Stuttgarter Platz 1, Berlin, Germany

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Summary

Apart from adrenal myelolipomas, adrenal lipomatous tumors are rare and only seldom described in the literature. We present the case of a 50-year-old man, with a classical form of congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), which was well treated with prednisolone and fludrocortisone. The patient presented with pollakisuria and shortness of breath while bending over. On MRI, fat-equivalent masses were found in the abdomen (14 × 19 × 11 cm on the right side and 10 × 11 × 6 cm on the left side). The right adrenal mass was resected during open laparotomy and the pathohistological examination revealed the diagnosis of an adrenal lipoma. Symptoms were subdued totally postoperatively. This is the first report of a bilateral adrenal lipoma in a patient with CAH that we are aware of.

Learning points:

  • Macronodular hyperplasia is common in patients with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH).

  • Solitary adrenal tumors appear in approximately 10% of adult CAH patients and are often benign myelolipomas.

  • The Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline does not recommend routine adrenal imaging in adult CAH patients.

  • Adrenal imaging should be performed in CAH patients with clinical signs for an adrenal or abdominal mass.

  • Adrenal lipoma is rare and histopathological examinations should rule out a differentiated liposarcoma.

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