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Open access

Yew Wen Yap, Steve Ball and Zubair Qureshi

Summary

The coexistence of primary hypothyroidism and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)-stimulating pituitary macroadenoma can be a rare occurrence and can make diagnosis very challenging. We describe a case of a 44-year-old female with a history of fatigue, poor concentration, weight gain and amenorrhoea together with biochemical evidence of primary autoimmune hypothyroidism. Her initial TSH levels were elevated with low normal free thyroxine (T4) levels. Levothyroxine treatment was initiated and the dose was gradually titrated to supraphysiologic doses. This led to the normalisation of her TSH levels but her free T4 and triiodothyronine (T3) levels remained persistently elevated. This prompted a serum prolactin check which returned elevated at 2495 µ/L, leading onto pituitary imaging. A MRI of the pituitary gland revealed a pituitary macroadenoma measuring 2.4 × 2 × 1.6 cm. Despite starting her on cabergoline therapy with a reduction in her prolactin levels, her TSH levels began to rise even further. Additional thyroid assays revealed that she had an abnormally elevated alpha subunit at 3.95 (age-related reference range <3.00). This corresponded to a thyroid-secreting hormone pituitary macroadenoma. She went on to have a transphenoidal hypophysectomy. Histology revealed tissues staining for TSH, confirming this to be a TSH-secreting pituitary macroadenoma. This case highlighted the importance of further investigations with thyroid assay interferences, heterophile antibodies, alpha subunit testing and anterior pituitary profile in cases of resistant and non-resolving primary hypothyroidism.

Learning points:

  • Levothyroxine treatment in primary hypothyroidism can potentially unmask the presence of a latent TSH-secreting pituitary macroadenoma, which can make diagnosis very challenging.

  • A high index of suspicion should prompt clinicians to further investigate cases of primary hypothyroidism which despite increasing doses of levothyroxine treatment with normalisation of TSH, the free T4 and T3 levels remain persistently elevated.

  • Clinicians should consider investigating for adherence to levothyroxine, thyroid assay interference, heterophile antibodies, TSH dilution studies, alpha subunit and anterior pituitary profile testing to further clarity the diagnosis in these patients.

  • Although coexistent cases of TSHoma with primary hypothyroidism are rare, it should always be in the list of differential diagnoses in cases of unresolving primary hypothyroidism.

Open access

Marlene Tarvainen, Satu Mäkelä, Jukka Mustonen and Pia Jaatinen

Summary

Puumala hantavirus (PUUV) infection causes nephropathia epidemica (NE), a relatively mild form of haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS). Hypophyseal haemorrhage and hypopituitarism have been described in case reports on patients with acute NE. Chronic hypopituitarism diagnosed months or years after the acute illness has also been reported, without any signs of a haemorrhagic aetiology. The mechanisms leading to the late-onset hormonal defects remain unknown. Here, we present a case of NE-associated autoimmune polyendocrinopathy and hypopituitarism presumably due to autoimmune hypophysitis. Thyroid peroxidase antibody seroconversion occurred between 6 and 12 months, and ovarian as well as glutamate decarboxylase antibodies were found 18 months after acute NE. Brain MRI revealed an atrophic adenohypophysis with a heterogeneous, low signal intensity compatible with a sequela of hypophysitis. The patient developed central (or mixed central and peripheral) hypothyroidism, hypogonadism and diabetes insipidus, all requiring hormonal replacement therapy. This case report suggests that late-onset hormonal defects after PUUV infection may develop by an autoimmune mechanism. This hypothesis needs to be confirmed by prospective studies with sufficient numbers of patients.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary haemorrhage resulting in hypopituitarism has been reported during acute HFRS caused by PUUV and other hantaviruses.

  • Central and peripheral hormone deficiencies developing months or years after HFRS have also been found, with an incidence higher than that in the general population. The pathogenesis of these late-onset hormonal defects remains unknown.

  • This case report suggests that the late-onset hypopituitarism and peripheral endocrine defects after HFRS could evolve via autoimmune mechanisms.

  • The sensitivity of current anti-pituitary antibody (APA) tests is low. A characteristic clinical course, together with typical brain MRI and endocrine findings may be sufficient for a non-invasive diagnosis of autoimmune hypophysitis, despite negative APAs.

Open access

Nicole Maison, Esther Korpershoek, Graeme Eisenhofer, Mercedes Robledo, Ronald de Krijger and Felix Beuschlein

Summary

Pheochromocytomas (PCC) and paraganglioma (PGL) are rare neuroendocrine tumors arising from chromaffin cells of the neural crest. Mutations in the RET-proto-oncogene are associated with sporadic pheochromocytoma, familial or sporadic medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) and multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2. In the past, only few cases of pigmented PCCs, PGLs, and one case of pigmented MTC have been reported in the literature. Herein, we present the case of a 77-year old woman with a history of Tako-tsubo-cardiomyopathy and laboratory, as well as radiological, high suspicion of pheochromocytoma, who underwent left-sided adrenalectomy. The 3 cm tumor, which was located on the upper pole of the left adrenal, appeared highly pigmented with dark red to black color. Histologic examinations revealed highly pleomorphic cells with bizarre, huge hyperchromatic nuclei, that immunohistochemically were positive for chromogranin A and synaptophysin, focally positive for HMB45 and negative for melan A. These clinical and pathological features led to the diagnosis of the rare variant of a melanotic ‘black’ pheochromocytoma. In our case a somatic RET mutation in exon 16 (RET c.2753T>C, p.Met918Thy) was detected by targeted next generation sequencing. In summary, this case represents a rare variant of catecholamine-producing tumor with distinct histological features. A potential relationship between the phenotype, the cellular origin and the genetic alterations is discussed.

Learning points

  • Pheochromocytoma is a rare neuroendocrine tumor.

  • Pigmentation is seen in several types of tumors arising from the neural crest. The macroscopic black aspect can mislead to the diagnosis of a metastasis deriving from a malignant melanoma.

  • RET mutation are seen in catecholamine and non-catecholamine producing tumors of the same cellular origin.

Open access

W C Candy Sze, Joe McQuillan, P Nicholas Plowman, Niall MacDougall, Philip Blackburn, H Ian Sabin, Nadeem Ali and William M Drake

Summary

We report three patients who developed symptoms and signs of ocular neuromyotonia (ONM) 3–6 months after receiving gamma knife radiosurgery (GKS) for functioning pituitary tumours. All three patients were complex, requiring multi-modality therapy and all had received prior external irradiation to the sellar region. Although direct causality cannot be attributed, the timing of the development of the symptoms would suggest that the GKS played a contributory role in the development of this rare problem, which we suggest clinicians should be aware of as a potential complication.

Learning points

  • GKS can cause ONM, presenting as intermittent diplopia.

  • ONM can occur quite rapidly after treatment with GKS.

  • Treatment with carbamazepine is effective and improve patient's quality of life.

Open access

Sunita M C De Sousa, Peter Earls and Ann I McCormack

Summary

Pituitary hyperplasia (PH) occurs in heterogeneous settings and remains under-recognised. Increased awareness of this condition and its natural history should circumvent unnecessary trans-sphenoidal surgery. We performed an observational case series of patients referred to a single endocrinologist over a 3-year period. Four young women were identified with PH manifesting as diffuse, symmetrical pituitary enlargement near or touching the optic apparatus on MRI. The first woman presented with primary hypothyroidism and likely had thyrotroph hyperplasia given prompt resolution with thyroxine. The second and third women were diagnosed with pathological gonadotroph hyperplasia due to primary gonadal insufficiency, with histopathological confirmation including gonadal-deficiency cells in the third case where surgery could have been avoided. The fourth woman likely had idiopathic PH, though she had concomitant polycystic ovary syndrome which is a debated cause of PH. Patients suspected of PH should undergo comprehensive hormonal, radiological and sometimes ophthalmological evaluation. This is best conducted by a specialised multidisciplinary team with preference for treatment of underlying conditions and close monitoring over surgical intervention.

Learning points

  • Normal pituitary dimensions are influenced by age and gender with the greatest pituitary heights seen in young adults and perimenopausal women.

  • Pituitary enlargement may be seen in the settings of pregnancy, end-organ insufficiency with loss of negative feedback, and excess trophic hormone from the hypothalamus or neuroendocrine tumours.

  • PH may be caused or exacerbated by medications including oestrogen, GNRH analogues and antipsychotics.

  • Management involves identification of cases of idiopathic PH suitable for simple surveillance and reversal of pathological or iatrogenic causes where they exist.

  • Surgery should be avoided in PH as it rarely progresses.