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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

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

Lourdes Balcázar-Hernández, Guadalupe Vargas-Ortega, Yelitza Valverde-García, Victoria Mendoza-Zubieta and Baldomero González-Virla

Summary

The craniopharyngiomas are solid cystic suprasellar tumors that can present extension to adjacent structures, conditioning pituitary and hypothalamic dysfunction. Within hypothalamic neuroendocrine dysfunction, we can find obesity, behavioral changes, disturbed circadian rhythm and sleep irregularities, imbalances in the regulation of body temperature, thirst, heart rate and/or blood pressure and alterations in dietary intake (like anorexia). We present a rare case of anorexia–cachexia syndrome like a manifestation of neuroendocrine dysfunction in a patient with a papillary craniopharyngioma. Anorexia–cachexia syndrome is a complex metabolic process associated with underlying illness and characterized by loss of muscle with or without loss of fat mass and can occur in a number of diseases like cancer neoplasm, non-cancer neoplasm, chronic disease or immunodeficiency states like HIV/AIDS. The role of cytokines and anorexigenic and orexigenic peptides are important in the etiology. The anorexia–cachexia syndrome is a clinical entity rarely described in the literature and it leads to important function limitation, comorbidities and worsening prognosis.

Learning points:

  • Suprasellar lesions can result in pituitary and hypothalamic dysfunction.

  • The hypothalamic neuroendocrine dysfunction is commonly related with obesity, behavioral changes, disturbed circadian rhythm and sleep irregularities, but rarely with anorexia–cachexia.

  • Anorexia–cachexia syndrome is a metabolic process associated with loss of muscle, with or without loss of fat mass, in a patient with neoplasm, chronic disease or immunodeficiency states.

  • Anorexia–cachexia syndrome results in important function limitation, comorbidities that influence negatively on treatment, progressive clinical deterioration and bad prognosis that can lead the patient to death.

  • Anorexia–cachexia syndrome should be suspected in patients with emaciation and hypothalamic lesions.

Open access

Beverly T Rodrigues, Zulfiquer Otty, Kunwarjit Sangla and Vasant V Shenoy

Summary

Autoimmune hypophysitis (AH) has been previously described in a typical demographic population, primarily women in the reproductive age group and perinatal period. The era of immune modulation using anti-cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 biological therapy (ipilimumab) against advanced cancers like metastatic melanomas has now resulted in a new form of hypophysitis being increasingly recognised under a spectrum of immune-related adverse events. Drug-related AH often presents with subtle symptoms and a pituitary mass, with the potential for fatality necessitating wide awareness and a high index of clinical suspicion given that it is usually treatable. We describe below two cases of AH within the last three months at our centre, which were treated with different regimens and produced good endocrine outcomes.

Learning points

  • AH is a new and defined clinical entity occurring as a side effect of ipilimumab, which enhances immune-mediated destruction of metastatic melanoma.

  • It can present insidiously and have life-threatening complications related to hypocortisolism, hence a high index of clinical suspicion must be exerted by treating physicians, and seems to result in resolution of pituitary masses and variable improvements of pituitary function.

  • Clinical improvement, radiological resolution of pituitary masses and variable normalisation of pituitary function are possible with early treatment with high-dose oral or i.v. steroids and hormone replacement therapy, although duration and dosing protocols are unclear at this stage.

  • Ipilimumab should continue to be prescribed as treatment for metastatic melanoma; however, close clinical observation of patient's progress must be maintained while they are on this drug.

  • Predictive factors for onset of AH remain unclear and it is imperative that AH is distinguished from pituitary metastases.

  • Further studies are required to determine the safety of continuing therapy with ipilimumab in patients who have developed AH while on treatment.