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Open access

Jonathan Brown and Luqman Sardar

Summary

A 68-year-old previously independent woman presented multiple times to hospital over the course of 3 months with a history of intermittent weakness, vacant episodes, word finding difficulty and reduced cognition. She was initially diagnosed with a TIA, and later with a traumatic subarachnoid haemorrhage following a fall; however, despite resolution of the haemorrhage, symptoms were ongoing and continued to worsen. Confusion screen blood tests showed no cause for the ongoing symptoms. More specialised investigations, such as brain imaging, cerebrospinal fluid analysis, electroencephalogram and serology also gave no clear diagnosis. The patient had a background of hypothyroidism, with plasma thyroid function tests throughout showing normal free thyroxine and a mildly raised thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). However plasma anti-thyroid peroxidise (TPO) antibody titres were very high. After discussion with specialists, it was felt she may have a rare and poorly understood condition known as Hashimoto’s encephalopathy (HE). After a trial with steroids, her symptoms dramatically improved and she was able to live independently again, something which would have been impossible at presentation.

Learning points:

  • In cases of subacute onset confusion where most other diagnoses have already been excluded, testing for anti-thyroid antibodies can identify patients potentially suffering from HE.
  • In these patients, and under the guidance of specialists, a trial of steroids can dramatically improve patient’s symptoms.
  • The majority of patients are euthyroid at the time of presentation, and so normal thyroid function tests should not prevent anti-thyroid antibodies being tested for.
  • Due to high titres of anti-thyroid antibodies being found in a small percentage of the healthy population, HE should be treated as a diagnosis of exclusion, particularly as treatment with steroids may potentially worsen the outcome in other causes of confusion, such as infection.
Open access

D Cappellani, C Sardella, M C Campopiano, A Falorni, P Marchetti and E Macchia

Summary

Insulin autoimmune syndrome (IAS), or Hirata disease, is a rare hypoglycaemic disorder caused by the presence of high titer of insulin autoantibodies (IAA) in patients without previous exposure to exogenous insulin. Even though its pathogenesis is not fully understood, striking evidences link IAS to previous exposure to sulphydryl-containing medications, like alpha-lipoic acid, a widely used nutritional supplement. Although challenging, a careful differential diagnosis from other causes of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia (such as insulinoma) is mandatory, since these conditions require different therapeutic approaches. In the present study, we report a 35-year-old woman originally from Sri Lanka who was referred to our University Hospital on suspicion of occult insulinoma. Her medical history was positive for endometriosis, treated with estroprogestins and alpha-lipoic acid. The latter supplement was begun 2 weeks before the first hypoglycaemic episode. Our tests confirmed the presence of hypoglycaemia associated with high insulin and C-peptide concentrations. When insulin concentrations were compared using different assays, the results were significantly different. Moreover, insulin values significantly decreased after precipitation with polyethylene glycol. An assay for IAA proved positive (530 U/mL). A genetic analysis revealed the presence of HLA-DRB1*04,15, an immunogenetic determinant associated with IAS. On the basis of clinical data we avoided a first-line approach with immunosuppressive treatments, and the patient was advised to modify her diet, with the introduction of frequent low-caloric meals. During follow-up evaluations, glucose levels (registered trough a flash glucose monitoring system) resulted progressively more stable. IAA titer progressively decreased, being undetectable by the fifteenth month, thus indicating the remission of the IAS.

Learning points:

  • Insulin autoimmune syndrome (IAS) is a rare cause of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia, whose prevalence is higher in East Asian populations due to the higher prevalence of specific immunogenetic determinants. Nevertheless, an increasing number of IAS cases is being reported worldwide, due to the wide diffusion of medications such as alpha-lipoic acid.
  • Differential diagnosis of IAS from other causes of hyperinsulinemic hypoglycaemia is challenging. Even though many tests can be suggestive of IAS, the gold standard remains the detection of IAAs, despite that dedicated commercial kits are not widely available.
  • The therapeutic approach to IAS is problematic. As a matter of fact IAS is often a self-remitting disease, but sometimes needs aggressive immunosuppression. The benefits and risks of any therapeutic choice should be carefully weighted and tailored on the single patient.
Open access

Jennifer Hague, Ruth Casey, Jonathan Bruty, Tom Legerton, Stephen Abbs, Susan Oddy, Andrew S Powlson, Mohamed Majeed, Mark Gurnell, Soo-Mi Park and Helen Simpson

Summary

Activating mutations in AVPR2 are associated with nephrogenic syndrome of inappropriate antidiuresis (NSIAD). NSIAD causes hyponatremia, decreased serum osmolality and clinical symptoms, which may present from birth or in infancy and include hypotonia, irritability, vomiting and/or seizures. Symptoms in later life are often less specific and include malaise, dizziness, confusion, tiredness and headache. NSIAD is a rare X-linked condition, which is associated with a variable phenotype in males, of whom some present in infancy but others do not become symptomatic until adulthood, or occasionally, never. Female carriers may present with episodes of hyponatremia, usually found incidentally. Literature in this field is limited; namely, two clinical reports describing a female proband, both diagnosed in infancy. We describe, for the first time, the case of an adult female proband with NSIAD, who had longstanding associated symptoms of tiredness, headache, temporary memory loss and mood changes as well as hyponatremia and decreased serum osmolality. A water load test demonstrated an inability to dilute urine and gene sequencing confirmed a recurrent activating mutation in AVPR2. The variant was inherited from the proband’s mother who had had longstanding episodes of transient asymptomatic hyponatremia. This is the third report of a female proband with NSIAD and is the first female reported who sought medical treatment for chronic symptoms from adulthood. This case acts as a reminder of the importance of considering NSIAD as a diagnosis in females of all ages with unexplained hyponatremia.

Learning points:

  • Activating mutations in the AVPR2 gene are associated with the rare X-linked condition nephrogenic syndrome of inappropriate antidiuresis.
  • NSIAD is associated with hyponatremia, decreased serum osmolality and inappropriately increased urinary osmolality. Early clinical symptoms in infancy include hypotonia, irritability, vomiting and/or seizures. Symptoms in later life include malaise, dizziness, confusion, tiredness and headache.
  • NSIAD should be considered in female, as well as male, patients who present with unexplained hyponatremia and decreased serum osmolality. Family history may reveal relevant symptoms or biochemical features in other family members. However, family history may not always be informative due to the variable nature of the condition or if the proband has a de novo pathogenic variant.
  • A water load test with measurement of AVP may be informative in distinguishing NSIAD from SIADH. Measurement of co-peptin levels may be considered, in substitution for direct measurement of AVP.
  • Patients with NSIAD should be counseled about appropriate daily fluid volume intake. Potential episodes of fluid overload should be avoided.
Open access

Joseph Cerasuolo and Anthony Izzo

Summary

Acute hyperglycemia has been shown to cause cognitive impairments in animal models. There is growing appreciation of the numerous effects of hyperglycemia on neuronal function as well as blood–brain barrier function. In humans, hypoglycemia is well known to cause cognitive deficits acutely, but hyperglycemia has been less well studied. We present a case of selective neurocognitive deficits in the setting of acute hyperglycemia. A 60-year-old man was admitted to the hospital for an episode of acute hyperglycemia in the setting of newly diagnosed diabetes mellitus precipitated by steroid use. He was managed with insulin therapy and discharged home, and later, presented with complaints of memory impairment. Deficits included impairment in his declarative and working memory, to the point of significant impairment in his overall functioning. The patient had no structural lesions on MRI imaging of the brain or other systemic illnesses to explain his specific deficits. We suggest that his acute hyperglycemia may have caused neurological injury, and may be responsible for our patient’s memory complaints.

Learning points:

  • Acute hyperglycemia has been associated with poor outcomes in several different central nervous system injuries including cerebrovascular accident and hypoxic injury.
  • Hyperglycemia is responsible for accumulation of reactive oxygen species in the brain, resulting in advanced glycosylated end products and a proinflammatory response that may lead to cellular injury.
  • Further research is needed to define the impact of both acute and chronic hyperglycemia on cognitive impairment and memory.
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

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.
Open access

J Bukowczan, K Lois, M Mathiopoulou, A B Grossman and R A James

Summary

Giant prolactinomas are rare tumours of the pituitary, which typically exceed 40 mm in their largest dimension. Impairment of higher cognitive function has been noted post-operatively after transcranial surgery and as a long-term consequence of the radiotherapy treatment. However, there has been little that is reported on such disturbances in relation to the tumour per se, and to our knowledge, there has been none in terms of responsivity to dopamine agonist therapy and shrinkage in these tumours. We present a case of successful restoration of severely impaired cognitive functions achieved safely after significant adenoma involution with medical treatment alone.

Learning points

  • Giant prolactinomas can be present with profound cognitive defects.
  • Dopamine agonists remain in the mainstay first-line treatment of giant prolactinomas.
  • Mechanisms of the reversible cognitive impairment associated with giant prolactinoma treatment appear to be complex and remain open to further studies.
  • Young patients with giant prolactinomas mandate genetic testing towards familial predisposition.