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Open access

Karen Decaestecker, Veerle Wijtvliet, Peter Coremans and Nike Van Doninck

Summary

ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism is caused by an ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS) in 20% of cases. We report a rare cause of EAS in a 41-year-old woman, presenting with clinical features of Cushing’s syndrome which developed over several months. Biochemical tests revealed hypokalemic metabolic alkalosis and high morning cortisol and ACTH levels. Further testing, including 24-hour urine analysis, late-night saliva and low-dose dexamethasone suppression test, confirmed hypercortisolism. An MRI of the pituitary gland was normal. Inferior petrosal sinus sampling (IPSS) revealed inconsistent results, with a raised basal gradient but no rise after CRH stimulation. Additional PET-CT showed intense metabolic activity in the left nasal vault. Biopsy of this lesion revealed an unsuspected cause of Cushing’s syndrome: an olfactory neuroblastoma (ONB) with positive immunostaining for ACTH. Our patient underwent transnasal resection of the tumour mass, followed by adjuvant radiotherapy. Normalisation of cortisol and ACTH levels was seen immediately after surgery. Hydrocortisone substitution was started to prevent withdrawal symptoms. As the hypothalamic–pituitary–axis slowly recovered, daily hydrocortisone doses were tapered and stopped 4 months after surgery. Clinical Cushing’s stigmata improved gradually.

Learning points:

  • Ectopic ACTH syndrome can originate from tumours outside the thoracoabdominal region, like the sinonasal cavity.
  • The diagnostic accuracy of IPSS is not 100%: both false positives and false negatives may occur and might be due to a sinonasal tumour with ectopic ACTH secretion.
  • Olfactory neuroblastoma (syn. esthesioneuroblastoma), named because of its sensory (olfactory) and neuroectodermal origin in the upper nasal cavity, is a rare malignant neoplasm. It should not be confused with neuroblastoma, a tumour of the sympathetic nervous system typically occurring in children.
  • If one criticises MRI of the pituitary gland because of ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism, one should take a close look at the sinonasal field as well.
Open access

Isabella Lupi, Alessandro Brancatella, Mirco Cosottini, Nicola Viola, Giulia Lanzolla, Daniele Sgrò, Giulia Di Dalmazi, Francesco Latrofa, Patrizio Caturegli and Claudio Marcocci

Summary

Programmed cell death protein 1/programmed cell death protein ligand 1 (PD-1/PD-L1) and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4/B7 (CTLA-4/B7) pathways are key regulators in T-cell activation and tolerance. Nivolumab, pembrolizumab (PD-1 inhibitors), atezolizumab (PD-L1 inhibitor) and ipilimumab (CTLA-4 inhibitor) are monoclonal antibodies approved for treatment of several advanced cancers. Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs)-related hypophysitis is described more frequently in patients treated with anti-CTLA-4; however, recent studies reported an increasing prevalence of anti-PD-1/PD-L1-induced hypophysitis which also exhibits slightly different clinical features. We report our experience on hypophysitis induced by anti-PD-1/anti-PD-L1 treatment. We present four cases, diagnosed in the past 12 months, of hypophysitis occurring in two patients receiving anti-PD-1, in one patient receiving anti-PD-1 and anti-CTLA-4 combined therapy and in one patient receiving anti-PD-L1. In this case series, timing, clinical presentation and association with other immune-related adverse events appeared to be extremely variable; central hypoadrenalism and hyponatremia were constantly detected although sellar magnetic resonance imaging did not reveal specific signs of pituitary inflammation. These differences highlight the complexity of ICI-related hypophysitis and the existence of different mechanisms of action leading to heterogeneity of clinical presentation in patients receiving immunotherapy.

Learning points:

  • PD-1/PD-L1 blockade can induce hypophysitis with a different clinical presentation when compared to CTLA-4 blockade.
  • Diagnosis of PD-1/PD-L1 induced hypophysitis is mainly made on clinical grounds and sellar MRI does not show radiological abnormalities.
  • Hyponatremia due to acute secondary adrenal insufficiency is often the principal sign of PD-1/PD-L1-induced hypophysitis and can be masked by other symptoms due to oncologic disease.
  • PD-1/PD-L1-induced hypophysitis can present as an isolated manifestation of irAEs or be in association with other autoimmune diseases
Open access

Joanna Prokop, João Estorninho, Sara Marote, Teresa Sabino, Aida Botelho de Sousa, Eduardo Silva and Ana Agapito

Summary

POEMS syndrome (Polyneuropathy, Organomegaly, Endocrinopathy, Monoclonal protein and Skin changes) is a rare multisystemic disease. Clinical presentation is variable, the only mandatory criteria being polyneuropathy and monoclonal gammapathy in association with one major and one minor criterion. Primary adrenal insufficiency is rarely reported. We describe a case of a 33-year-old patient, in whom the presenting symptoms were mandibular mass, chronic sensory-motor peripheral polyneuropathy and adrenal insufficiency. The laboratory evaluation revealed thrombocytosis, severe hyperkalemia with normal renal function, normal protein electrophoresis and negative serum immunofixation for monoclonal protein. Endocrinologic laboratory work-up confirmed Addison’s disease and revealed subclinical primary hypothyroidism. Thoracic abdominal CT showed hepatosplenomegaly, multiple sclerotic lesions in thoracic vertebra and ribs. The histopathologic examination of the mandibular mass was nondiagnostic. Bone marrow biopsy revealed plasma cell dyscrasia and confirmed POEMS syndrome. Axillary lymphadenopathy biopsy: Castleman’s disease. Gluco-mineralocorticoid substitution and levothyroxine therapy were started with clinical improvement. Autologous hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) was planned, cyclophosphamide induction was started. Meanwhile the patient suffered two ischemic strokes which resulted in aphasia and hemiparesis. Cerebral angiography revealed vascular lesions compatible with vasculitis and stenosis of two cerebral arteries. The patient deceased 14 months after the diagnosis. The young age at presentation, multiplicity of manifestations and difficulties in investigation along with the absence of serum monoclonal protein made the diagnosis challenging. We report this case to highlight the need to consider POEMS syndrome in differential diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy in association with endocrine abnormalities even in young patients.

Learning points:

  • POEMS syndrome is considered a ‘low tumor burden disease’ and the monoclonal protein in 15% of cases is not found by immunofixation.
  • Neuropathy is the dominant characteristic of POEMS syndrome and it is peripheral, ascending, symmetric and affecting both sensation and motor function.
  • Endocrinopathies are a frequent feature of POEMS syndrome, but the cause is unknown.
  • The most common endocrinopathies are hypogonadism, primary hypothyroidism and abnormalities in glucose metabolism.
  • There is no standard therapy; however, patients with disseminated bone marrow involvement are treated with chemotherapy with or without HCT.
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

Teresa M Canteros, Valeria De Miguel and Patricia Fainstein-Day

Summary

Severe Cushing syndrome (SCS) is considered an emergency that requires immediate treatment to lower serum cortisol levels. Fluconazole may be considered an alternative treatment in Cushing syndrome when ketoconazole is not tolerated or unavailable. We report a 39-year-old woman with a history of partial pancreaticoduodenectomy due to a periampullary neuroendocrine tumor with locoregional extension. Three years after surgery, she developed liver metastases and was started on 120 mg of lanreotide/month, despite which, liver metastases progressed in the following 6 months. The patient showed extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, delirium, moon face, hirsutism and severe proximal weakness. Laboratory tests showed anemia, hyperglycemia and severe hypokalemia. 24-h urinary free cortisol: 2152 nmol/day (reference range (RR): <276), morning serum cortisol 4883.4 nmol/L (RR: 138–690), ACTH 127.3 pmol/L (RR: 2.2–10). She was diagnosed with ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS). On admission, she presented with acute upper gastrointestinal tract bleeding and hemodynamic instability. Intravenous fluconazole 400 mg/day was started. After 48 h, her mental state improved and morning cortisol decreased by 25%. The dose was titrated to 600 mg/day which resulted in a 55% decrease in cortisol levels in 1 week, but then had to be decreased to 400 mg/day because transaminase levels increased over 3 times the upper normal level. After 18 days of treatment, hemodynamic stability, lower cortisol levels and better overall clinical status enabled successful bilateral adrenalectomy. This case report shows that intravenous fluconazole effectively decreased cortisol levels in SCS due to EAS.

Learning points:

  • Severe Cushing syndrome can be effectively treated with fluconazole to achieve a significant improvement of hypercortisolism prior to bilateral adrenalectomy.
  • Intravenous fluconazole is an alternative treatment when ketoconazole is not tolerated and etomidate is not available.
  • Fluconazole is well tolerated with mild side effects. Hepatotoxicity is usually mild and resolves after drug discontinuation.
Open access

Mara Ventura, Leonor Gomes, Joana Rosmaninho-Salgado, Luísa Barros, Isabel Paiva, Miguel Melo, Diana Oliveira and Francisco Carrilho

Summary

Intracranial germinomas are rare tumors affecting mostly patients at young age. Therefore, molecular data on its etiopathogenesis are scarce. We present a clinical case of a male patient of 25 years with an intracranial germinoma and a 16p11.2 microdeletion. His initial complaints were related to obesity, loss of facial hair and polydipsia. He also had a history of social-interaction difficulties during childhood. His blood tests were consistent with hypogonadotropic hypogonadism and secondary adrenal insufficiency, and he had been previously diagnosed with hypothyroidism. He also presented with polyuria and polydipsia and the water deprivation test confirmed the diagnosis of diabetes insipidus. His sellar magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed two lesions: one located in the pineal gland and other in the suprasellar region, both with characteristics suggestive of germinoma. Chromosomal microarray analysis was performed due to the association of obesity with social disability, and the result identified a 604 kb 16p11.2 microdeletion. The surgical biopsy confirmed the histological diagnosis of a germinoma. Pharmacological treatment with testosterone, hydrocortisone and desmopressin was started, and the patient underwent radiotherapy (40 Gy divided in 25 fractions). Three months after radiotherapy, a significant decrease in suprasellar and pineal lesions without improvement in pituitary hormonal deficiencies was observed. The patient is currently under follow-up. To the best of our knowledge, we describe the first germinoma in a patient with a 16p11.2 deletion syndrome, raising the question about the impact of this genetic alteration on tumorigenesis and highlighting the need of molecular analysis of germ cell tumors as only little is known about their genetic background.

Learning points:

  • Central nervous system germ cell tumors (CNSGTs) are rare intracranial tumors that affect mainly young male patients. They are typically located in the pineal and suprasellar regions and patients frequently present with symptoms of hypopituitarism.
  • The molecular pathology of CNSGTs is unknown, but it has been associated with gain of function of the KIT gene, isochromosome 12p amplification and a low DNA methylation.
  • Germinoma is a radiosensitive tumor whose diagnosis depends on imaging, tumor marker detection, surgical biopsy and cerebrospinal fluid cytology.
  • 16p11.2 microdeletion syndrome is phenotypically characterized by developmental delay, intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorders.
  • Seminoma, cholesteatoma, desmoid tumor, leiomyoma and Wilms tumor have been described in a few patients with 16p11.2 deletion.
  • Bifocal germinoma was identified in this patient with a 16p11.2 microdeletion syndrome, which represents a putative new association not previously reported in the literature.
Open access

Snezana Burmazovic, Christoph Henzen, Lukas Brander and Luca Cioccari

Summary

The combination of hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic state and central diabetes insipidus is unusual and poses unique diagnostic and therapeutic challenges for clinicians. In a patient with diabetes mellitus presenting with polyuria and polydipsia, poor glycaemic control is usually the first aetiology that is considered, and achieving glycaemic control remains the first course of action. However, severe hypernatraemia, hyperglycaemia and discordance between urine-specific gravity and urine osmolality suggest concurrent symptomatic diabetes insipidus. We report a rare case of concurrent manifestation of hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic state and central diabetes insipidus in a patient with a history of craniopharyngioma.

Learning points:

  • In patients with diabetes mellitus presenting with polyuria and polydipsia, poor glycaemic control is usually the first aetiology to be considered.
  • However, a history of craniopharyngioma, severe hypernatraemia, hyperglycaemia and discordance between urine-specific gravity and osmolality provide evidence of concurrent diabetes insipidus.
  • Therefore, if a patient with diabetes mellitus presents with severe hypernatraemia, hyperglycaemia, a low or low normal urinary-specific gravity and worsening polyuria despite correction of hyperglycaemia, concurrent diabetes insipidus should be sought.
Open access

Nikolaos Asonitis, Eva Kassi, Michalis Kokkinos, Ilias Giovanopoulos, Foteini Petychaki and Helen Gogas

Summary

Hypercalcemia of malignancy is the most common cause of hypercalcemia in hospitalized patients. It is associated with a poor prognosis, since it reflects an advanced cancer stage. Among all cancer in females, breast cancer is the most common malignancy, and it has the highest prevalence of hypercalcemia. Approximately 70% of patients with breast cancer have bone metastases and 10% of them will have hypercalcemia as a complication at some point in the disease. Herein, we report a 69-year-old female patient with metastatic breast cancer, who developed severe hypercalcemia in the course of her disease and was diagnosed with humoral hypercalcemia of malignancy (HHM). Intense hydration along with corticoisteroids and antiresorptive medication (calcitonin, bisphosphonates and denosumab) were administered to the patient. Despite the above treatment, serum calcium levels remain elevated and calcimimetic cinacalcet was added. Upon discontinuation of cinacalcet, calcium levels were raised and returned back to the normal levels following re-initiation of the calcimimetic. Her calcium level restored to normal, and she was discharged with the following medical treatment: denosumab monthly, and cinacalcet at a titrated dose of 90 mg per day. The patient is followed as an outpatient and 11 months later, her calcium level remained within the normal range.

Learning points:

  • Hypercalcemia of malignancy is the most common cause of hypercalcemia in hospitalized patients.
  • Breast cancer has the highest prevalence of hypercalcemia.
  • The cornerstone of therapy remains the intense hydration and intravenous bisphosphonates (preferably zoledronic acid).
  • In case of persistent hypercalcemia of malignancy, the administration of calcimimetic cinacalcet could be an additional effective therapeutic option.
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

Andromachi Vryonidou, Stavroula A Paschou, Fotini Dimitropoulou, Panagiotis Anagnostis, Vasiliki Tzavara and Apostolos Katsivas

Summary

We describe a case of a 40-year-old woman who was admitted to the intensive care unit with a rapid onset of dyspnea and orthopnea. She presented progressive weakness, weight loss and secondary amenorrhea during last year, while intermittent fever was present for the last two months. Initial biochemical evaluation showed anemia, hyponatremia and increased C-reactive protein levels. Clinical and echocardiographic evaluation revealed cardiac tamponade, which was treated with pericardiocentesis. Pleural fluid samples were negative for malignancy, tuberculosis or bacterial infection. Hormonal and serologic evaluation led to the diagnosis of autoimmune polyglandular syndrome (APS) type 2 (including primary adrenal insufficiency and autoimmune thyroiditis), possibly coexisting with systemic lupus erythematosus. After symptomatic rheumatologic treatment followed by replacement therapy with hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone, the patient fully recovered. In patients with the combination of polyserositis, cardiac tamponade and persistent hyponatremia, possible coexistence of rheumatologic and autoimmune endocrine disease, mainly adrenal insufficiency, should be considered. Early diagnosis and non-invasive treatment can be life-saving.

Learning points:

  • In patients with the combination of polyserositis, cardiac tamponade and persistent hyponatremia, possible coexistence of rheumatologic and autoimmune endocrine disease, mainly adrenal insufficiency, should be considered.
  • Early diagnosis and non-invasive treatment can be life-saving for these patients.
  • Primary adrenal insufficiency requires lifelong replacement therapy with oral administration of 15–25 mg hydrocortisone in split doses and 50–200 µg fludrocortisone once daily.