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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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Kaja Grønning Department of Endocrinology, Akershus University Hospital, Lorenskog, Norway

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Archana Sharma Department of Endocrinology, Akershus University Hospital, Lorenskog, Norway

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Maria Adele Mastroianni Department of Haematology, Akershus University Hospital, Lorenskog, Norway

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Bo Daniel Karlsson Department of Radiology, Akershus University Hospital, Lorenskog, Norway

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Eystein S Husebye Department of Clinical Science and K.G. Jebsen Center of Autoimmune Disorders, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
Department of Medicine, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway

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Kristian Løvås Department of Clinical Science and K.G. Jebsen Center of Autoimmune Disorders, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
Department of Medicine, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway

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Ingrid Nermoen Department of Endocrinology, Akershus University Hospital, Lorenskog, Norway
Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

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Summary

Primary adrenal lymphoma (PAL) is a rare cause of adrenal insufficiency. More than 90% is of B-cell origin. The condition is bilateral in up to 75% of cases, with adrenal insufficiency in two of three patients. We report two cases of adrenal insufficiency presenting at the age of 70 and 79 years, respectively. Both patients had negative 21-hydroxylase antibodies with bilateral adrenal lesions on CT. Biopsy showed B-cell lymphoma. One of the patients experienced intermittent disease regression on replacement dosage of glucocorticoids.

Learning points:

  • Primary adrenal lymphoma (PAL) is a rare cause of adrenal insufficiency.

  • Bilateral adrenal masses of unknown origin or in individuals with suspected extra-adrenal malignancy should be biopsied quickly when pheochromocytoma is excluded biochemically.

  • Steroid treatment before biopsy may affect diagnosis.

  • Adrenal insufficiency with negative 21-hydroxylase antibodies should be evaluated radiologically.

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Wei Yang Division of Endocrinology, Department of Internal Medicine

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David Pham Department of Radiology, University of California Davis School of Medicine, Sacramento, California, USA

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Aren T Vierra Division of Endocrinology, Department of Internal Medicine

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Sarah Azam Division of Endocrinology, Department of Internal Medicine

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Dorina Gui Department of Pathology, University of California Davis School of Medicine, Sacramento, California, USA

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John C Yoon Division of Endocrinology, Department of Internal Medicine

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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.

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Diana Oliveira Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Department, Centro Hospitalar e Universitario de Coimbra EPE, Coimbra, Portugal

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Mara Ventura Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Department, Centro Hospitalar e Universitario de Coimbra EPE, Coimbra, Portugal

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Miguel Melo Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Department, Centro Hospitalar e Universitario de Coimbra EPE, Coimbra, Portugal

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Sandra Paiva Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Department, Centro Hospitalar e Universitario de Coimbra EPE, Coimbra, Portugal

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Francisco Carrilho Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Department, Centro Hospitalar e Universitario de Coimbra EPE, Coimbra, Portugal

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Summary

Addison’s disease (AD) is the most common endocrine manifestation of antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), but it remains a very rare complication of the syndrome. It is caused by adrenal venous thrombosis and consequent hemorrhagic infarction or by spontaneous (without thrombosis) adrenal hemorrhage, usually occurring after surgery or anticoagulant therapy. We present a clinical case of a 36-year-old female patient with a previous diagnosis of APS. She presented with multiple thrombotic events, including spontaneous abortions. During evaluation by the third episode of abortion, a CT imaging revealed an adrenal hematoma, but the patient was discharged without further investigation. A few weeks later, she presented in the emergency department with manifestations suggestive of adrenal insufficiency. Based on that assumption, she started therapy with glucocorticoids, with significant clinical improvement. After stabilization, additional investigation confirmed AD and excluded other etiologies; she also started mineralocorticoid replacement. This case illustrates a rare complication of APS that, if misdiagnosed, may be life threatening. A high index of suspicion is necessary for its diagnosis, and prompt treatment is crucial to reduce the morbidity and mortality potentially associated.

Learning points:

  • AD is a rare but life-threatening complication of APS.

  • It is important to look for AD in patients with APS and a suggestive clinical scenario.

  • APS must be excluded in patients with primary adrenal insufficiency and adrenal imaging revealing thrombosis/hemorrhage.

  • Glucocorticoid therapy should be promptly initiated when AD is suspected.

  • Mineralocorticoid replacement must be started when there is confirmed aldosterone deficiency.

  • Hypertension is a common feature of APS; in patients with APS and AD, replacement therapy with glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids may jeopardize hypertension management.

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Katia Regina Marchetti Department of General Medicine

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Maria Adelaide Albergaria Pereira Department of Endocrinology, Clinics Hospital, University of Sao Paulo School of Medicine, Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil

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Arnaldo Lichtenstein Department of General Medicine

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Edison Ferreira Paiva Department of General Medicine

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Summary

Adrenacarcinomas are rare, and hypoglycemic syndrome resulting from the secretion of insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II) by these tumors have been described infrequently. This study describes the case of a young woman with severe persistent hypoglycemia and a large adrenal tumor and discusses the physiopathological mechanisms involved in hypoglycemia. The case is described as a 21-year-old woman who presented with 8 months of general symptoms and, in the preceding 3 months, with episodes of mental confusion and visual blurring secondary to hypoglycemia. A functional assessment of the adrenal cortex revealed ACTH-independent hypercortisolism and hyperandrogenism. Hypoglycemia, hypoinsulinemia, low C-peptide and no ketones were also detected. An evaluation of the GH–IGF axis revealed GH blockade (0.03; reference: up to 4.4 ng/mL), greatly reduced IGF-I levels (9.0 ng/mL; reference: 180–780 ng/mL), slightly reduced IGF-II levels (197 ng/mL; reference: 267–616 ng/mL) and an elevated IGF-II/IGF-I ratio (21.9; reference: ~3). CT scan revealed a large expansive mass in the right adrenal gland and pulmonary and liver metastases. During hospitalization, the patient experienced frequent difficult-to-control hypoglycemia and hypokalemia episodes. Octreotide was ineffective in controlling hypoglycemia. Due to unresectability, chemotherapy was tried, but after 3 months, the patient’s condition worsened and progressed to death. In conclusion, our patient presented with a functional adrenal cortical carcinoma, with hyperandrogenism associated with hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia and blockage of the GH–IGF-I axis. Patient’s data suggested a diagnosis of hypoglycemia induced by an IGF-II or a large IGF-II-producing tumor (low levels of GH, greatly decreased IGF-I, slightly decreased IGF-II and an elevated IGF-II/IGF-I ratio).

Learning points:

  • Hypoglycemyndrome resulting from the secretion of insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II) by adrenal tumors is a rare condition.

  • Hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia associated with hyperandrogenism and blockage of the GH–IGF-I axis suggests hypoglycemia induced by an IGF-II or a large IGF-II-producing tumor.

  • Hypoglycemia in cases of NICTH should be treated with glucocorticoids, glucagon, somatostatin analogs and hGH.

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Harish Venugopal Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology, Gold Coast, University Hospital, School of Medicine, Griffith University, 1 Hospital Boulevard, Southport, QLD 4215QLD 4215, Queensland, Australia

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Katherine Griffin Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology, Gold Coast, University Hospital, School of Medicine, Griffith University, 1 Hospital Boulevard, Southport, QLD 4215QLD 4215, Queensland, Australia

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Saima Amer Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology, Gold Coast, University Hospital, School of Medicine, Griffith University, 1 Hospital Boulevard, Southport, QLD 4215QLD 4215, Queensland, Australia

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Summary

Resection of primary tumour is the management of choice in patients with ectopic ACTH syndrome. However, tumours may remain unidentified or occult in spite of extensive efforts at trying to locate them. This can, therefore, pose a major management issue as uncontrolled hypercortisolaemia can lead to life-threatening infections. We present the case of a 66-year-old gentleman with ectopic ACTH syndrome from an occult primary tumour with multiple significant complications from hypercortisolaemia. Ectopic nature of his ACTH-dependent Cushing's syndrome was confirmed by non-suppression with high-dose dexamethasone suppression test and bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling. The primary ectopic source remained unidentified in spite of extensive anatomical and functional imaging studies, including CT scans and Dotatate-PET scan. Medical adrenolytic treatment at maximum tolerated doses failed to control his hypercortisolaemia, which led to recurrent intra-abdominal and pelvic abscesses, requiring multiple surgical interventions. Laparoscopic bilateral adrenalectomy was considered but decided against given concerns of technical difficulties due to recurrent intra-abdominal infections and his moribund state. Eventually, alcohol ablation of adrenal glands by retrograde adrenal vein approach was attempted, which resulted in biochemical remission of Cushing's syndrome. Our case emphasizes the importance of aggressive management of hypercortisolaemia in order to reduce the associated morbidity and mortality and also demonstrates that techniques like percutaneous adrenal ablation using a retrograde venous approach may be extremely helpful in patients who are otherwise unable to undergo bilateral adrenalectomy.

Learning points

  • Evaluation and management of patients with ectopic ACTH syndrome from an unidentified primary tumour can be very challenging.

  • Persisting hypercortisolaemia in this setting can lead to debilitating and even life-threatening complications and hence needs to be managed aggressively.

  • Bilateral adrenalectomy should be considered when medical treatment is ineffective or poorly tolerated.

  • Percutaneous adrenal ablation may be considered in patients who are otherwise unable to undergo bilateral adrenalectomy.

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Geetanjali Kale Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, Department of Medicine, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, USA

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Elaine M Pelley Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, Department of Medicine, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, USA

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Dawn Belt Davis Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, Department of Medicine, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, USA

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Summary

Myelolipomas have been reported in patients with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). ACTH excess, as seen with non-adherence to glucocorticoid therapy, may be responsible for tumor development. We report a case of a 51-year-old man with classic salt-wasting CAH managed on prednisone 7.5 mg daily and fludrocortisone who presented with chronic back pain and was found to have giant bilateral retroperitoneal masses. On computed tomography (CT) imaging, the masses were heterogeneous, but contained predominantly low-density fat attenuation. The tumors were resected due to concern for malignancy and mass symptoms. Pathologic examination identified both retroperitoneal masses as myelolipomas. The left tumor was 34×20×13 cm and weighed 4.7 kg and the right tumor was 20 cm in the largest dimension. Adrenal tissue was present in the specimen. The patient reported long-term compliance with glucocorticoid treatment. However, no biochemical monitoring of ACTH levels had occurred. Therefore, it is unclear if ACTH excess contributed to the development of these large tumors in this patient. It was presumed that both adrenal glands were inadvertently removed during surgery and the patient was treated with physiologic replacement doses of hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone postoperatively. In this case, the bilateral adrenalectomy was inadvertent. However, adrenalectomy can be considered as a treatment option in patients with classical CAH under certain circumstances to avoid complications of glucocorticoid excess.

Learning points

  • Myelolipomas should be considered in the differential diagnosis of adrenal or retroperitoneal masses in patients with CAH.

  • On CT imaging, myelolipomas are seen as heterogeneous masses with low-density mature fat interspersed with more dense myeloid tissue.

  • Myelolipomas are usually unilateral and measure <4 cm; however, very large and bilateral tumors have been reported.

  • Treatment of CAH typically involves using supraphysiologic doses of glucocorticoid to suppress adrenal hyperandrogenism. Bilateral adrenalectomy is an alternative treatment option in patients with CAH.

  • There is an association between ACTH excess and increased incidence of adrenal myelolipoma but the direct causal link remains to be established.

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Tohru Eguchi Department of Internal Medicine, Uwajima City Hospital, 1-1 Gotenmachi, Uwajima, Ehime, 798-8510, Japan

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Shozo Miyauchi Department of Internal Medicine, Uwajima City Hospital, 1-1 Gotenmachi, Uwajima, Ehime, 798-8510, Japan

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Summary

A 43-year-old Japanese woman was admitted to our hospital with weakness. Laboratory findings showed hypokalemia, hypocalcemia and elevation of the serum creatinine phosphokinase levels, but intact parathyroid hormone levels. Further evaluations suggested that she had primary aldosteronism (PA), secondary hyperparathyroidism and bilateral adrenal tumors. She was treated successfully by laparoscopic right adrenalectomy. This case not only serves to the diagnosis of bilateral adrenal tumors in which selective adrenal venous sampling (SAVS) proved to be useful, but also for physicians to be aware of secondary hyperparathyroidism and the risk of secondary osteoporosis caused by PA.

Learning points

  • The classic presenting signs of PA are hypertension and hypokalemia.

  • Hypokalemia can induce rhabdomyolysis.

  • PA causes secondary hyperparathyroidism.

  • Patients with PA have the risk of osteoporosis with secondary hyperparathyroidism.

  • SAVS is useful in bilateral adrenal tumors.

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Julien Ducry Services of Endocrinology Diabetes and Metabolism, Lausanne University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland

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Fulgencio Gomez Services of Endocrinology Diabetes and Metabolism, Lausanne University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland

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John O Prior Nuclear Medicine, Lausanne University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland

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Ariane Boubaker Nuclear Medicine, Lausanne University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland

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Maurice Matter Visceral Surgery, Lausanne University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland

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Matteo Monti Internal Medicine, Lausanne University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland

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Yan Pu Institute of Pathology, Lausanne University Hospital, Lausanne, CH-1011, Switzerland

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Nelly Pitteloud Services of Endocrinology Diabetes and Metabolism, Lausanne University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland

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Luc Portmann Services of Endocrinology Diabetes and Metabolism, Lausanne University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland

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Summary

Ectopic ACTH Cushing's syndrome (EAS) is often caused by neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) of lungs, pancreas, thymus, and other less frequent locations. Localizing the source of ACTH can be challenging. A 64-year-old man presented with rapidly progressing fatigue, muscular weakness, and dyspnea. He was in poor condition and showed facial redness, proximal amyotrophy, and bruises. Laboratory disclosed hypokalemia, metabolic alkalosis, and markedly elevated ACTH and cortisol levels. Pituitary was normal on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and bilateral inferior petrosal sinus blood sampling with corticotropin-releasing hormone stimulation showed no significant central-to-periphery gradient of ACTH. Head and neck, thoracic and abdominal computerized tomography (CT), MRI, somatostatin receptor scintigraphy (SSRS), and 18F-deoxyglucose-positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) failed to identify the primary tumor. 18F-dihydroxyphenylalanine (F-DOPA)-PET/CT unveiled a 20-mm nodule in the jejunum and a metastatic lymph node. Segmental jejunum resection showed two adjacent NETs, measuring 2.0 and 0.5 cm with a peritoneal metastasis. The largest tumor expressed ACTH in 30% of cells. Following surgery, after a transient adrenal insufficiency, ACTH and cortisol levels returned to normal values and remain normal over a follow-up of 26 months. Small mid-gut NETs are difficult to localize on CT or MRI, and require metabolic imaging. Owing to low mitotic activity, NETs are generally poor candidates for FDG-PET, whereas SSRS shows poor sensitivity in EAS due to intrinsically low tumor concentration of type-2 somatostatin receptors (SST2) or to receptor down regulation by excess cortisol. However, F-DOPA-PET, which is related to amine precursor uptake by NETs, has been reported to have high positive predictive value for occult EAS despite low sensitivity, and constitutes a useful alternative to more conventional methods of tumor localization.

Learning points

  • Uncontrolled high cortisol levels in EAS can be lethal if untreated.

  • Surgical excision is the keystone of NETs treatment, thus tumor localization is crucial.

  • Most cases of EAS are caused by NETs, which are located mainly in the lungs. However, small gut NETs are elusive to conventional imaging and require metabolic imaging for detection.

  • FDG-PET, based on tumor high metabolic rate, may not detect NETs that have low mitotic activity. SSRS may also fail, due to absent or low concentration of SST2, which may be down regulated by excess cortisol.

  • F-DOPA-PET, based on amine-precursor uptake, can be a useful method to localize the occult source of ACTH in EAS when other methods have failed.

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