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Open access

Lima Lawrence, Peng Zhang, Humberto Choi, Usman Ahmad, Valeria Arrossi, Andrei Purysko and Vinni Makin

Summary

Ectopic adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) production leading to ectopic ACTH syndrome accounts for a small proportion of all Cushing’s syndrome (CS) cases. Thymic neuroendocrine tumors are rare neoplasms that may secrete ACTH leading to rapid development of hypercortisolism causing electrolyte and metabolic abnormalities, uncontrolled hypertension and an increased risk for opportunistic infections. We present a unique case of a patient who presented with a mediastinal mass, revealed to be an ACTH-secreting thymic neuroendocrine tumor (NET) causing ectopic CS. As the diagnosis of CS from ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS) remains challenging, we emphasize the necessity for high clinical suspicion in the appropriate setting, concordance between biochemical, imaging and pathology findings, along with continued vigilant monitoring for recurrence after definitive treatment.

Learning points:

  • Functional thymic neuroendocrine tumors are exceedingly rare.

  • Ectopic Cushing’s syndrome secondary to thymic neuroendocrine tumors secreting ACTH present with features of hypercortisolism including electrolyte and metabolic abnormalities, uncontrolled hypertension and hyperglycemia, and opportunistic infections.

  • The ability to undergo surgery and completeness of resection are the strongest prognostic factors for improved overall survival; however, the recurrence rate remains high.

  • A high degree of initial clinical suspicion followed by vigilant monitoring is required for patients with this challenging disease.

Open access

Carlos Tavares Bello, Emma van der Poest Clement and Richard Feelders

Summary

Cushing’s syndrome is a rare disease that results from prolonged exposure to supraphysiological levels of glucocorticoids. Severe and rapidly progressive cases are often, but not exclusively, attributable to ectopic ACTH secretion. Extreme hypercortisolism usually has florid metabolic consequences and is associated with an increased infectious and thrombotic risk. The authors report on a case of a 51-year-old male that presented with severe Cushing’s syndrome secondary to an ACTH-secreting pituitary macroadenoma, whose diagnostic workup was affected by concurrent subclinical multifocal pulmonary infectious nodules. The case is noteworthy for the atypically severe presentation of Cushing’s disease, and it should remind the clinician of the possible infectious and thrombotic complications associated with Cushing’s syndrome.

Learning points:

  • Severe Cushing’s syndrome is not always caused by ectopic ACTH secretion.

  • Hypercortisolism is a state of immunosuppression, being associated with an increased risk for opportunistic infections.

  • Infectious pulmonary infiltrates may lead to imaging diagnostic dilemmas when investigating a suspected ectopic ACTH secretion.

  • Cushing’s syndrome carries an increased thromboembolic risk that may even persist after successful surgical management.

  • Antibiotic and venous thromboembolism prophylaxis should be considered in every patient with severe Cushing’s syndrome.

Open access

Marlene Tarvainen, Satu Mäkelä, Jukka Mustonen and Pia Jaatinen

Summary

Puumala hantavirus (PUUV) infection causes nephropathia epidemica (NE), a relatively mild form of haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS). Hypophyseal haemorrhage and hypopituitarism have been described in case reports on patients with acute NE. Chronic hypopituitarism diagnosed months or years after the acute illness has also been reported, without any signs of a haemorrhagic aetiology. The mechanisms leading to the late-onset hormonal defects remain unknown. Here, we present a case of NE-associated autoimmune polyendocrinopathy and hypopituitarism presumably due to autoimmune hypophysitis. Thyroid peroxidase antibody seroconversion occurred between 6 and 12 months, and ovarian as well as glutamate decarboxylase antibodies were found 18 months after acute NE. Brain MRI revealed an atrophic adenohypophysis with a heterogeneous, low signal intensity compatible with a sequela of hypophysitis. The patient developed central (or mixed central and peripheral) hypothyroidism, hypogonadism and diabetes insipidus, all requiring hormonal replacement therapy. This case report suggests that late-onset hormonal defects after PUUV infection may develop by an autoimmune mechanism. This hypothesis needs to be confirmed by prospective studies with sufficient numbers of patients.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary haemorrhage resulting in hypopituitarism has been reported during acute HFRS caused by PUUV and other hantaviruses.

  • Central and peripheral hormone deficiencies developing months or years after HFRS have also been found, with an incidence higher than that in the general population. The pathogenesis of these late-onset hormonal defects remains unknown.

  • This case report suggests that the late-onset hypopituitarism and peripheral endocrine defects after HFRS could evolve via autoimmune mechanisms.

  • The sensitivity of current anti-pituitary antibody (APA) tests is low. A characteristic clinical course, together with typical brain MRI and endocrine findings may be sufficient for a non-invasive diagnosis of autoimmune hypophysitis, despite negative APAs.