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Open access

Joanna Prokop, João Estorninho, Sara Marote, Teresa Sabino, Aida Botelho de Sousa, Eduardo Silva and Ana Agapito

Summary

POEMS syndrome (Polyneuropathy, Organomegaly, Endocrinopathy, Monoclonal protein and Skin changes) is a rare multisystemic disease. Clinical presentation is variable, the only mandatory criteria being polyneuropathy and monoclonal gammapathy in association with one major and one minor criterion. Primary adrenal insufficiency is rarely reported. We describe a case of a 33-year-old patient, in whom the presenting symptoms were mandibular mass, chronic sensory-motor peripheral polyneuropathy and adrenal insufficiency. The laboratory evaluation revealed thrombocytosis, severe hyperkalemia with normal renal function, normal protein electrophoresis and negative serum immunofixation for monoclonal protein. Endocrinologic laboratory work-up confirmed Addison’s disease and revealed subclinical primary hypothyroidism. Thoracic abdominal CT showed hepatosplenomegaly, multiple sclerotic lesions in thoracic vertebra and ribs. The histopathologic examination of the mandibular mass was nondiagnostic. Bone marrow biopsy revealed plasma cell dyscrasia and confirmed POEMS syndrome. Axillary lymphadenopathy biopsy: Castleman’s disease. Gluco-mineralocorticoid substitution and levothyroxine therapy were started with clinical improvement. Autologous hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) was planned, cyclophosphamide induction was started. Meanwhile the patient suffered two ischemic strokes which resulted in aphasia and hemiparesis. Cerebral angiography revealed vascular lesions compatible with vasculitis and stenosis of two cerebral arteries. The patient deceased 14 months after the diagnosis. The young age at presentation, multiplicity of manifestations and difficulties in investigation along with the absence of serum monoclonal protein made the diagnosis challenging. We report this case to highlight the need to consider POEMS syndrome in differential diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy in association with endocrine abnormalities even in young patients.

Learning points:

  • POEMS syndrome is considered a ‘low tumor burden disease’ and the monoclonal protein in 15% of cases is not found by immunofixation.

  • Neuropathy is the dominant characteristic of POEMS syndrome and it is peripheral, ascending, symmetric and affecting both sensation and motor function.

  • Endocrinopathies are a frequent feature of POEMS syndrome, but the cause is unknown.

  • The most common endocrinopathies are hypogonadism, primary hypothyroidism and abnormalities in glucose metabolism.

  • There is no standard therapy; however, patients with disseminated bone marrow involvement are treated with chemotherapy with or without HCT.

Open access

Su Ann Tee, Earn Hui Gan, Mohamad Zaher Kanaan, David Ashley Price, Tim Hoare and Simon H S Pearce

Summary

Primary adrenal insufficiency secondary to syphilis is extremely rare, with only five cases being reported in the literature. We report a case of adrenal insufficiency as a manifestation of Treponema pallidum infection (tertiary syphilis). A 69-year-old, previously fit and well Caucasian male was found to have adrenal insufficiency after being admitted with weight loss, anorexia and postural dizziness resulting in a fall. Biochemical testing showed hyponatraemia, hyperkalaemia, and an inadequate response to Synacthen testing, with a peak cortisol level of 302 nmol/L after administration of 250 µg Synacthen. Abdominal imaging revealed bilateral adrenal hyperplasia with inguinal and retroperitoneal lymphadenopathy. He was started on hydrocortisone replacement; however, it was not until he re-attended ophthalmology with a red eye and visual loss 1 month later, that further work-up revealed the diagnosis of tertiary syphilis. Following a course of penicillin, repeat imaging 5 months later showed resolution of the abnormal radiological appearances. However, adrenal function has not recovered and 3 years following initial presentation, the patient remains on both glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid replacement. In conclusion, this case highlights the importance of considering syphilis as a potential differential diagnosis in patients presenting with adrenal insufficiency and bilateral adrenal masses, given the recent re-emergence of this condition. The relative ease of treating infectious causes of adrenal lesions makes accurate and timely diagnosis crucial.

Learning points:

  • Infectious causes, including syphilis, should be excluded before considering adrenalectomy or biopsy for any patient presenting with an adrenal mass.

  • It is important to perform a full infection screen including tests for human immunodeficiency virus, other blood-borne viruses and concurrent sexually transmitted diseases in patients presenting with bilateral adrenal hyperplasia with primary adrenal insufficiency.

  • Awareness of syphilis as a potential differential diagnosis is important, as it not only has a wide range of clinical presentations, but its prevalence has been increasing in recent times.

Open access

Ali A Zaied, Halis K Akturk, Richard W Joseph and Augustine S Lee

Summary

Nivolumab, a monoclonal antibody against programmed cell death-1 receptor, is increasingly used in advanced cancers. While nivolumab use enhances cancer therapy, it is associated with increased immune-related adverse events. We describe an elderly man who presented in ketoacidosis after receiving nivolumab for metastatic renal cell carcinoma. On presentation, he was hyperpneic and laboratory analyses showed hyperglycemia and anion-gapped metabolic acidosis consistent with diabetic ketoacidosis. No other precipitating factors, besides nivolumab, were identified. Pre-nivolumab blood glucose levels were normal. The patient responded to treatment with intravenous fluids, insulin and electrolyte replacement. He was diagnosed with insulin-dependent autoimmune diabetes mellitus secondary to nivolumab. Although nivolumab was stopped, he continued to require multiple insulin injection therapy till his last follow-up 7 months after presentation. Clinicians need to be alerted to the development of diabetes mellitus and diabetic ketoacidosis in patients receiving nivolumab.

Learning points:

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis should be considered in the differential of patients presenting with metabolic acidosis following treatment with antibodies to programmed cell death-1 receptor (anti-PD-1).

  • Autoimmune islet cell damage is the presumed mechanism for how insulin requiring diabetes mellitus can develop de novo following administration of anti-PD-1.

  • Because anti-PD-1 works by the activation of T-cells and reduction of ‘self-tolerance’, other autoimmune disorders are likely to be increasingly recognized with increased use of these agents.

Open access

Carine Ghassan Richa, Khadija Jamal Saad, Georges Habib Halabi, Elie Mekhael Gharios, Fadi Louis Nasr and Marie Tanios Merheb

Summary

The objective of this study is to report three cases of paraneoplastic or ectopic Cushing syndrome, which is a rare phenomenon of the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-dependent Cushing syndrome. Three cases are reported in respect of clinical presentation, diagnosis and treatment in addition to relevant literature review. The results showed that ectopic ACTH secretion can be associated with different types of neoplasm most common of which are bronchial carcinoid tumors, which are slow-growing, well-differentiated neoplasms with a favorable prognosis and small-cell lung cancer, which are poorly differentiated tumors with a poor outcome. The latter is present in two out of three cases and in the remaining one, primary tumor could not be localized, representing a small fraction of patients with paraneoplastic Cushing. Diagnosis is established in the setting of high clinical suspicion by documenting an elevated cortisol level, ACTH and doing dexamethasone suppression test. Treatment options include management of the primary tumor by surgery and chemotherapy and treating Cushing syndrome. Prognosis is poor in SCLC. We concluded that in front of a high clinical suspicion, ectopic Cushing syndrome diagnosis should be considered, and identification of the primary tumor is essential.

Learning points:

  • Learning how to suspect ectopic Cushing syndrome and confirm it among all the causes of excess cortisol.

  • Distinguish between occult and severe ectopic Cushing syndrome and etiology.

  • Providing the adequate treatment of the primary tumor as well as for the cortisol excess.

  • Prognosis depends on the differentiation and type of the primary malignancy.

Open access

Hodaka Yamada, Shunsuke Funazaki, Masafumi Kakei, Kazuo Hara and San-e Ishikawa

Summary

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a critical complication of type 1 diabetes associated with water and electrolyte disorders. Here, we report a case of DKA with extreme hyperkalemia (9.0 mEq/L) in a patient with type 1 diabetes on hemodialysis. He had a left frontal cerebral infarction resulting in inability to manage his continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion pump. Electrocardiography showed typical changes of hyperkalemia, including absent P waves, prolonged QRS interval and tented T waves. There was no evidence of total body water deficit. After starting insulin and rapid hemodialysis, the serum potassium level was normalized. Although DKA may present with hypokalemia, rapid hemodialysis may be necessary to resolve severe hyperkalemia in a patient with renal failure.

Learning points:

  • Patients with type 1 diabetes on hemodialysis may develop ketoacidosis because of discontinuation of insulin treatment.

  • Patients on hemodialysis who develop ketoacidosis may have hyperkalemia because of anuria.

  • Absolute insulin deficit alters potassium distribution between the intracellular and extracellular space, and anuria abolishes urinary excretion of potassium.

  • Rapid hemodialysis along with intensive insulin therapy can improve hyperkalemia, while fluid infusions may worsen heart failure in patients with ketoacidosis who routinely require hemodialysis.

Open access

Victoria John, Philip Evans and Atul Kalhan

Summary

A 65-year-old woman was admitted to the emergency unit with a 48 h history of generalised weakness and confusion. On examination, she had mild slurring of speech although there was no other focal neurological deficit. She had profound hyponatraemia (serum sodium level of 100 mmol/L) on admission with the rest of her metabolic parameters being within normal range. Subsequent investigations confirmed the diagnosis of small-cell lung cancer with paraneoplastic syndrome of inappropriate antidiuresis (SIAD). She was monitored closely in high-dependency unit with an attempt to cautiously correct her hyponatraemia to prevent sequelae associated with rapid correction. The patient developed prolonged psychosis (lasting over 2 weeks) and displayed delayed dyskinetic movements, even after a gradual increase in serum sodium levels close to 130 mmol/L. To our knowledge, delayed neurological recovery from profound hyponatraemia (without long-term neurological sequelae) has previously not been reported. This case should alert a clinician regarding the possibility of prolonged although reversible psychosis and dyskinetic movements in a patient presenting with profound symptomatic hyponatraemia.

Learning points:

  • Patients with profound hyponatraemia may develop altered sensorium, dyskinesia and psychotic behaviour.

  • Full recovery from psychotic symptoms and dyskinesia may be delayed despite cautious correction of serum sodium levels.

  • Careful and close monitoring of such patients can help avoid long-term neurological sequelae.