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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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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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