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Open access

Skand Shekhar, Rasha Haykal, Crystal Kamilaris, Constantine A Stratakis, and Fady Hannah-Shmouni

Summary

A 29-year-old primigravida woman with a known history of primary aldosteronism due to a right aldosteronoma presented with uncontrolled hypertension at 5 weeks of estimated gestation of a spontaneous pregnancy. Her hypertension was inadequately controlled with pharmacotherapy which lead to the consideration of surgical management for her primary aldosteronism. She underwent curative right unilateral adrenalectomy at 19 weeks of estimated gestational age. The procedure was uncomplicated, and her blood pressure normalized post-operatively. She did, however, have a preterm delivery by cesarean section due to intrauterine growth retardation with good neonatal outcome. She is normotensive to date.

Learning points:

  • Primary aldosteronism is the most common etiology of secondary hypertension with an estimated prevalence of 5–10% in the hypertensive population.
  • It is important to recognize the subtypes of primary aldosteronism given that certain forms can be treated surgically.
  • Hypertension in pregnancy is associated with significantly higher maternal and fetal complications.
  • Data regarding the treatment of primary aldosteronism in pregnancy are limited.
  • Adrenalectomy can be considered during the second trimester of pregnancy if medical therapy fails to adequately control hypertension from primary aldosteronism.
Open access

Sofia Pilar Ildefonso-Najarro, Esteban Alberto Plasencia-Dueñas, Cesar Joel Benites-Moya, Jose Carrion-Rojas, and Marcio Jose Concepción-Zavaleta

Summary

Cushing’s syndrome is an endocrine disorder that causes anovulatory infertility secondary to hypercortisolism; therefore, pregnancy rarely occurs during its course. We present the case of a 24-year-old, 16-week pregnant female with a 10-month history of unintentional weight gain, dorsal gibbus, nonpruritic comedones, hirsutism and hair loss. Initial biochemical, hormonal and ultrasound investigations revealed hypokalemia, increased nocturnal cortisolemia and a right adrenal mass. The patient had persistent high blood pressure, hyperglycemia and hypercortisolemia. She was initially treated with antihypertensive medications and insulin therapy. Endogenous Cushing’s syndrome was confirmed by an abdominal MRI that demonstrated a right adrenal adenoma. The patient underwent right laparoscopic adrenalectomy and anatomopathological examination revealed an adrenal adenoma with areas of oncocytic changes. Finally, antihypertensive medication was progressively reduced and glycemic control and hypokalemia reversal were achieved. Long-term therapy consisted of low-dose daily prednisone. During follow-up, despite favorable outcomes regarding the patient’s Cushing’s syndrome, stillbirth was confirmed at 28 weeks of pregnancy. We discuss the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of Cushing’s syndrome to prevent severe maternal and fetal complications.

Learning points:

  • Pregnancy can occur, though rarely, during the course of Cushing’s syndrome.
  • Pregnancy is a transient physiological state of hypercortisolism and it must be differentiated from Cushing’s syndrome based on clinical manifestations and laboratory tests.
  • The diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome during pregnancy may be challenging, particularly in the second and third trimesters because of the changes in the maternal hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
  • Pregnancy during the course of Cushing’s syndrome is associated with severe maternal and fetal complications; therefore, its early diagnosis and treatment is critical.
Open access

Diana Catarino, Cristina Ribeiro, Leonor Gomes, and Isabel Paiva

Summary

Pituitary infections, particularly with fungus, are rare disorders that usually occur in immunocompromised patients. Cushing’s syndrome predisposes patients to infectious diseases due to their immunosuppression status. We report the case of a 55-year-old woman, working as a poultry farmer, who developed intense headache, palpebral ptosis, anisocoria, prostration and psychomotor agitation 9 months after initial diabetes mellitus diagnosis. Cranioencephalic CT scan showed a pituitary lesion with bleeding, suggesting pituitary apoplexy. Patient underwent transsphenoidal surgery and the neuropathologic study indicated a corticotroph adenoma with apoplexy and fungal infection. Patient had no preoperative Cushing’s syndrome diagnosis. She was evaluated by a multidisciplinary team who decided not to administer anti-fungal treatment. The reported case shows a rare association between a corticotroph adenoma and a pituitary fungal infection. The possible contributing factors were hypercortisolism, uncontrolled diabetes and professional activity. Transsphenoidal surgery is advocated in these infections; however, anti-fungal therapy is still controversial.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary infections are rare disorders caused by bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections.
  • Pituitary fungal infections usually occur in immunocompromised patients.
  • Cushing’s syndrome, as immunosuppression factor, predisposes patients to infectious diseases, including fungal infections.
  • Diagnosis of pituitary fungal infection is often achieved during histopathological investigation.
  • Treatment with systemic anti-fungal drugs is controversial.
  • Endocrine evaluation is recommended at the time of initial presentation of pituitary manifestations.
Open access

Alessandro Rossini, Francesca Perticone, Laura Frosio, Marco Schiavo Lena, and Roberto Lanzi

Summary

ACTH-secreting pheochromocytoma is a very rare cause of Cushing’s syndrome, with a high morbidity and mortality risk due to both cortisol and catecholamines excess. We report the case of a 45-year-old female patient with a 3 cm, high-density, left adrenal mass, diagnosed as an ACTH-secreting pheochromocytoma. The biochemical sensitivity of the tumor to somatostatin analogues was tested by a 100 μg s.c. octreotide administration, which led to an ACTH and cortisol reduction of 50 and 25% respectively. In addition to alpha and beta blockers, preoperative approach to laparoscopic adrenalectomy included octreotide, a somatostatin analogue, together with ketoconazole, in order to achieve an adequate pre-surgical control of cortisol release. Histopathological assessment confirmed an ACTH-secreting pheochromocytoma expressing type 2 and 5 somatostatin receptors (SSTR-2 and -5).

Learning points:

  • ACTH-secreting pheochromocytomas represent a rare and severe condition, characterized by high morbidity and mortality risk.
  • Surgical removal of the adrenal mass is the gold standard treatment, but adequate medical therapy is required preoperatively to improve the surgical outcome and to avoid major complications.
  • Somatostatin analogs, in addition to other medications, may represent a useful therapeutic option for the presurgical management of selected patients.
  • In this sense, the octreotide challenge test is a useful tool to predict favorable therapeutic response to the treatment.
Open access

Nirusha Arnold, Victor O’Toole, Tien Huynh, Howard C Smith, Catherine Luxford, Roderick Clifton-Bligh, and Creswell J Eastman

Summary

Parathyroid-independent hypercalcaemia of pregnancy, due to biallelic loss of function of the P450 enzyme CYP24A1, the principal inactivator of 1,25(OH)2D results in hypervitaminosis D, hypercalcaemia and hypercalciuria. We report two cases of this disorder, with intractable hypercalcaemia, one occurring during gestation and into the postpartum, and the other in the postpartum period. Case 1, a 47-year-old woman with a twin pregnancy conceived by embryo transfer, presented with hypercalcaemia at 23 weeks gestation with subnormal serum parathyroid hormone (PTH) and normal serum 25-OH D levels. She was admitted to hospital at 31 weeks gestation with pregnancy-induced hypertension, gestational diabetes and increasing hypercalcaemia. Caesarean section at 34 weeks gestation delivered two healthy females weighing 2.13 kg and 2.51 kg. At delivery, the patient’s serum calcium level was 2.90 mmol/L. Postpartum severe hypercalcaemia was treated successfully with Denosumab 60 mg SCI, given on two occasions. CYP24A1 testing revealed she was compound heterozygous for pathogenic variants c.427_429delGAA, (p.Glu143del) and c.1186C>T, (p.Arg396Trp). Case 2, a 36-year-old woman presented 4 days after the delivery of healthy twins with dyspnoea, bradycardia, severe headaches, hypertension and generalized tonic-clonic seizures after an uneventful pregnancy. She was hypercalcaemic with a suppressed PTH, normal 25(OH)D, and elevated 1,25(OH)2D levels. Her symptoms partially responded to i.v. saline and corticosteroids in the short term but bisphosphonates such as Pamidronate and Zoledronic acid did not result in sustained improvement. Denosumab 120 mg SCI successfully treated the hypercalcaemia which resolved completely 2 months post-partum. CYP24A1 testing revealed she was homozygous for the pathogenic variant c.427_429delGAA, (p.Glu143del).

Learning points:

  • Hypercalcaemia in pregnancy can be associated with considerable morbidity with few options available for management.
  • In non-PTH-related hypercalcaemia the diagnosis of CYP24A1 deficiency should be considered.
  • Making a definitive diagnosis of CYP24A1 deficiency by genetic testing delays the diagnosis, while the availability of serum 24,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (24,25(OH)2D) will expedite a diagnosis.
  • In pregnant women with CYP24A1 deficiency hypercalcaemia can worsen in the post-partum period and is more likely to occur with twin pregnancies but generally resolves within 2–3 months.
  • Therapeutic alternatives are limited in pregnancy and their effectiveness is short-lived and mostly ineffective. Denosumab used in both our patients after delivery was the most effective agent normalizing calcium and may have benefit as a long-term therapeutic agent in preventing complications in patients with CYP24A1 deficiency.
Open access

Eka Melson, Sidra Amir, Lisa Shepherd, Samina Kauser, Bethan Freestone, and Punith Kempegowda

Summary

Although pheochromocytoma classically presents with headaches, palpitations and paroxysmal hypertension, atypical presentations such as cardiomyopathy, stroke and subarachnoid haemorrhage have been infrequently documented. We present in this case report, an uncommon presentation of pheochromocytoma with myocardial infarction with normal coronary arteries (MINOCA). A 79-year-old woman presented with central crushing chest pain radiating to left arm associated with headache, palpitations, sweating and difficulty in breathing. For 2 years, she experienced brief episodes of headache, tinnitus, dizziness, palpitations, and sweating that spontaneously resolved. Clinical examination was unremarkable except for high blood pressure (210/105 mmHg). Her electrocardiogram showed T wave inversions from V1 to V6 and elevated troponins (774 ng/L at baseline and 932 ng/L 3 h from baseline (normal <16 ng/L) in keeping with a diagnosis of non-ST elevated myocardial infarction. Coronary angiography showed normal coronary arteries. Patient was hence treated as myocardial infarction with normal coronaries (MINOCA). Despite appropriate treatment for MINOCA, she continued to experience episodic headaches, palpitations, dizziness and erratic blood pressures (particularly severe hypertension shortly after beta-blocker administration). Further investigations revealed raised urine noradrenaline of 4724 nmol/24 h (<554 nmol/24 h) and urine adrenaline of 92863 nmol/24 h (<77 nmol/24 h). Computerised tomography demonstrated a well-defined rounded mass in right adrenal gland morphological of pheochromocytoma. She underwent laparoscopic right adrenalectomy with histology confirming pheochromocytoma. This case highlights the importance of thorough investigation for the underlying cause for MINOCA. In patients with unexplained erratic blood pressure control, pheochromocytoma should be considered as a differential diagnosis.

Learning points:

  • Pheochromocytoma is rare tumour that often presents with non-specific symptoms.
  • It is important to investigate underlying cause of MINOCA.
  • Thorough history is the key to diagnosis.
Open access

Stephanie Wei Ping Wong, Yew Wen Yap, Ram Prakash Narayanan, Mohammad Al-Jubouri, Ashley Grossman, Christina Daousi, and Yahya Mahgoub

Summary

We report our experience on managing a case of florid Cushing’s disease with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) sepsis using intravenous etomidate in the intensive care unit of a UK district general hospital.

Learning points:

  • Severe Cushing’s syndrome is associated with high morbidity and mortality.
  • Etomidate is a safe and effective medical therapy to rapidly lower cortisol levels even in the context of severe sepsis and immunosuppression.
  • Etomidate should ideally be administered in an intensive care unit but is still feasible in a district general hospital.
  • During treatment with etomidate, accumulation of serum 11β-deoxycortisol (11DOC) levels can cross-react with laboratory cortisol measurement leading to falsely elevated serum cortisol levels. For this reason, serum cortisol measurement using a mass spectrometry assay should ideally be used to guide etomidate prescription.
Open access

Pedro Marques, Nicola Tufton, Satya Bhattacharya, Mark Caulfield, and Scott A Akker

Summary

Mineralocorticoid hypertension is most often caused by autonomous overproduction of aldosterone, but excess of other mineralocorticoid precursors can lead to a similar presentation. 11-Deoxycorticosterone (DOC) excess, which can occur in 11-β hydroxylase or 17-α hydroxylase deficiencies, in DOC-producing adrenocortical tumours or in patients taking 11-β hydroxylase inhibitors, may cause mineralocorticoid hypertension. We report a 35-year-old woman who in the third trimester of pregnancy was found to have a large adrenal mass on routine obstetric ultrasound. On referral to our unit, persistent hypertension and long-standing hypokalaemia was noted, despite good compliance with multiple antihypertensives. Ten years earlier, she had hypertension noted in pregnancy which had persisted after delivery. A MRI scan confirmed the presence of a 12 cm adrenal mass and biochemistry revealed high levels of DOC and low/normal renin, aldosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone, with normal catecholamine levels. The patient was treated with antihypertensives until obstetric delivery, following which she underwent an adrenalectomy. Histology confirmed a large adrenal cortical neoplasm of uncertain malignant potential. Postoperatively, blood pressure and serum potassium normalised, and the antihypertensive medication was stopped. Over 10 years of follow-up, she remains asymptomatic with normal DOC measurements. This case should alert clinicians to the possibility of a diagnosis of a DOC-producing adrenal tumours in patients with adrenal nodules and apparent mineralocorticoid hypertension in the presence of low or normal levels of aldosterone. The associated diagnostic and management challenges are discussed.

Learning points:

  • Hypermineralocorticoidism is characterised by hypertension, volume expansion and hypokalaemic alkalosis and is most commonly due to overproduction of aldosterone. However, excess of other mineralocorticoid products, such as DOC, lead to the same syndrome but with normal or low aldosterone levels.
  • The differential diagnosis of resistant hypertension with low renin and low/normal aldosterone includes congenital adrenal hyperplasia, syndrome of apparent mineralocorticoid excess, Cushing’s syndrome, Liddle’s syndrome and 11-deoxycorticosterone-producing tumours.
  • DOC is one intermediate product in the mineralocorticoid synthesis with weaker activity than aldosterone. However, marked DOC excess seen in 11-β hydroxylase or 17-α hydroxylase deficiencies in DOC-producing adrenocortical tumours or in patients taking 11-β hydroxylase inhibitors, may cause mineralocorticoid hypertension.
  • Excessive production of DOC in adrenocortical tumours has been attributed to reduced activity of the enzymes 11-β hydroxylase and 17-α hydroxylase and increased activity of 21-α hydroxylase.
  • The diagnosis of DOC-producing adrenal tumours is challenging because of its rarity and poor availability of DOC laboratory assays.
Open access

Michal Barabas, Isabel Huang-Doran, Debbie Pitfield, Hazel Philips, Manoj Goonewardene, Ruth T Casey, and Benjamin G Challis

Summary

A 67-year-old woman presented with a generalised rash associated with weight loss and resting tachycardia. She had a recent diagnosis of diabetes mellitus. Biochemical evaluation revealed elevated levels of circulating glucagon and chromogranin B. Cross-sectional imaging demonstrated a pancreatic lesion and liver metastases, which were octreotide-avid. Biopsy of the liver lesion confirmed a diagnosis of well-differentiated grade 2 pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour, consistent with metastatic glucagonoma. Serial echocardiography commenced 4 years before this diagnosis demonstrated a progressive left ventricular dilatation and dysfunction in the absence of ischaemia, suggestive of glucagonoma-associated dilated cardiomyopathy. Given the severity of the cardiac impairment, surgical management was considered inappropriate and somatostatin analogue therapy was initiated, affecting clinical and biochemical improvement. Serial cross-sectional imaging demonstrated stable disease 2 years after diagnosis. Left ventricular dysfunction persisted, however, despite somatostatin analogue therapy and optimal medical management of cardiac failure. In contrast to previous reports, the case we describe demonstrates that chronic hyperglucagonaemia may lead to irreversible left ventricular compromise. Management of glucagonoma therefore requires careful and serial evaluation of cardiac status.

Learning points:

  • In rare cases, glucagonoma may present with cardiac failure as the dominant feature. Significant cardiac impairment may occur in the absence of other features of glucagonoma syndrome due to subclinical chronic hyperglucagonaemia.
  • A diagnosis of glucagonoma should be considered in patients with non-ischaemic cardiomyopathy, particularly those with other features of glucagonoma syndrome.
  • Cardiac impairment due to glucagonoma may not respond to somatostatin analogue therapy, even in the context of biochemical improvement.
  • All patients with a new diagnosis of glucagonoma should be assessed clinically for evidence of cardiac failure and, if present, a baseline transthoracic echocardiogram should be performed. In the presence of cardiac impairment these patients should be managed by an experienced cardiologist.
Open access

Diana Oliveira, Mara Ventura, Miguel Melo, Sandra Paiva, and Francisco Carrilho

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.