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Open access

Mariana Barbosa, Sílvia Paredes, Maria João Machado, Rui Almeida, and Olinda Marques

Summary

Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists, currently used in the treatment of advanced prostate cancer, have been described as a rare cause of pituitary apoplexy, a potentially life-threatening clinical condition. We report the case of a 69-year-old man with a known pituitary macroadenoma who was diagnosed with prostate cancer and started treatment with GnRH agonist leuprorelin (other hormones were not tested before treatment). Few minutes after drug administration, the patient presented with acute-onset severe headache, followed by left eye ptosis, diplopia and vomiting. Pituitary MRI revealed tumor enlargement and T1-hyperintense signal, compatible with recent bleeding sellar content. Laboratory endocrine workup was significant for low total testosterone. The patient was managed conservatively with high-dose steroids, and symptoms significantly improved. This case describes a rare phenomenon, pituitary apoplexy induced by GnRH agonist. We review the literature regarding this condition: the pathophysiological mechanism involved is not clearly established and several hypotheses have been proposed. Although uncommon, healthcare professionals and patients should be aware of this complication and recognize the signs, preventing a delay in diagnosis and treatment.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary apoplexy (PA) is a potentially life-threatening complication that can be caused by gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist (GnRHa) administration for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer.
  • This complication is rare but should be taken into account when using GnRHa, particularly in the setting of a known pre-existing pituitary adenoma.
  • PA presents with classic clinical signs and symptoms that should be promptly recognized.
  • Patients should be instructed to seek medical care if suspicious symptoms occur.
  • Healthcare professionals should be aware of this complication, enabling its early recognition, adequate treatment and favorable outcome.
Open access

Diana Catarino, Cristina Ribeiro, Leonor Gomes, and Isabel Paiva

Summary

Pituitary infections, particularly with fungus, are rare disorders that usually occur in immunocompromised patients. Cushing’s syndrome predisposes patients to infectious diseases due to their immunosuppression status. We report the case of a 55-year-old woman, working as a poultry farmer, who developed intense headache, palpebral ptosis, anisocoria, prostration and psychomotor agitation 9 months after initial diabetes mellitus diagnosis. Cranioencephalic CT scan showed a pituitary lesion with bleeding, suggesting pituitary apoplexy. Patient underwent transsphenoidal surgery and the neuropathologic study indicated a corticotroph adenoma with apoplexy and fungal infection. Patient had no preoperative Cushing’s syndrome diagnosis. She was evaluated by a multidisciplinary team who decided not to administer anti-fungal treatment. The reported case shows a rare association between a corticotroph adenoma and a pituitary fungal infection. The possible contributing factors were hypercortisolism, uncontrolled diabetes and professional activity. Transsphenoidal surgery is advocated in these infections; however, anti-fungal therapy is still controversial.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary infections are rare disorders caused by bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections.
  • Pituitary fungal infections usually occur in immunocompromised patients.
  • Cushing’s syndrome, as immunosuppression factor, predisposes patients to infectious diseases, including fungal infections.
  • Diagnosis of pituitary fungal infection is often achieved during histopathological investigation.
  • Treatment with systemic anti-fungal drugs is controversial.
  • Endocrine evaluation is recommended at the time of initial presentation of pituitary manifestations.
Open access

Anna Popławska-Kita, Marta Wielogórska, Łukasz Poplawski, Katarzyna Siewko, Agnieszka Adamska, Piotr Szumowski, Piotr Myśliwiec, Janusz Myśliwiec, Joanna Reszeć, Grzegorz Kamiński, Janusz Dzięcioł, Dorota Tobiaszewska, Małgorzata Szelachowska, and Adam Jacek Krętowski

Summary

Papillary thyroid gland carcinoma is the most common type of malignancy of the endocrine system. Metastases to the pituitary gland have been described as a complication of papillary thyroid cancer in few reported cases since 1965. We report the case of a 68-year-old female patient with a well-differentiated form of thyroid gland cancer. Despite it being the most common malignant cancer of the endocrine system, with its papillary form being one of the two most frequently diagnosed thyroid cancers, the case we present is extremely rare. Sudden cardiac arrest during ventricular fibrillation occurred during hospitalization. Autopsy of the patient revealed papillary carcinoma of the thyroid, follicular variant, with metastasis to the sella turcica, and concomitant sarcoidosis of heart, lung, and mediastinal and hilar lymph nodes. Not only does atypical metastasis make our patient’s case most remarkable, but also the postmortem diagnosis of sarcoidosis makes her case particularly unusual.

Learning points:

  • The goal of presenting this case is to raise awareness of the clinical heterogeneity of papillary cancer and promote early diagnosis of unexpected metastasis and coexisting diseases to improve clinical outcomes.
  • Clinicians must be skeptical. They should not fall into the trap of diagnostic momentum or accept diagnostic labels at face value. Regardless of the potential mechanisms, clinicians should be aware of the possibility of the coexistence of thyroid cancer and sarcoidosis as a differential diagnosis of lymphadenopathy.
  • This case highlights the importance of the diagnostic and therapeutic planning process and raises awareness of the fact that one uncommon disease could be masked by another extremely rare disorder.
Open access

N Siddique, R Durcan, S Smyth, T Kyaw Tun, S Sreenan, and J H McDermott

Summary

We present three cases of acute diabetic neuropathy and highlight a potentially underappreciated link between tightening of glycaemic control and acute neuropathies in patients with diabetes. Case 1: A 56-year-old male with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes (T2DM) was commenced on basal-bolus insulin. He presented 6 weeks later with a diffuse painful sensory neuropathy and postural hypotension. He was diagnosed with treatment-induced neuropathy (TIN, insulin neuritis) and obtained symptomatic relief from pregabalin. Case 2: A 67-year-old male with T2DM and chronic hyperglycaemia presented with left lower limb pain, weakness and weight loss shortly after achieving target glycaemia with oral anti-hyperglycaemics. Neurological examination and neuro-electrophysiological studies suggested diabetic lumbosacral radiculo-plexus neuropathy (DLPRN, diabetic amyotrophy). Pain and weakness resolved over time. Case 3: A 58-year-old male was admitted with blurred vision diplopia and complete ptosis of the right eye, with intact pupillary reflexes, shortly after intensification of glucose-lowering treatment with an SGLT2 inhibitor as adjunct to metformin. He was diagnosed with a pupil-sparing third nerve palsy secondary to diabetic mononeuritis which improved over time. While all three acute neuropathies have been previously well described, all are rare and require a high index of clinical suspicion as they are essentially a diagnosis of exclusion. Interestingly, all three of our cases are linked by the development of acute neuropathy following a significant improvement in glycaemic control. This phenomenon is well described in TIN, but not previously highlighted in other acute neuropathies.

Learning points:

  • A link between acute tightening of glycaemic control and acute neuropathies has not been well described in literature.
  • Clinicians caring for patients with diabetes who develop otherwise unexplained neurologic symptoms following a tightening of glycaemic control should consider the possibility of an acute diabetic neuropathy.
  • Early recognition of these neuropathies can obviate the need for detailed and expensive investigations and allow for early institution of appropriate pain-relieving medications.
Open access

Misaki Aoshima, Koji Nagayama, Kei Takeshita, Hiroshi Ajima, Sakurako Orikasa, Ayana Iwazaki, Hiroaki Takatori, and Yutaka Oki

Summary

Patients treated with immunosuppressive drugs, especially methotrexate (MTX), rarely develop lymphoproliferative disorders (LPDs), known as MTX-related LPD (MTX–LPD). The primary site of MTX–LPD is often extranodal. This is the first reported case of MTX–LPD in the pituitary. A 65-year-old woman was admitted to our hospital with symptoms of oculomotor nerve palsy and multiple subcutaneous nodules. She had been treated with MTX for 11 years for rheumatoid arthritis. Computed tomography showed multiple masses in the orbit, sinuses, lung fields, anterior mediastinum, kidney, and subcutaneous tissue. Brain magnetic resonance imaging revealed a sellar mass. She was diagnosed with hypopituitarism and central diabetes insipidus based on endocrine examination. Although pituitary biopsy could not be performed, we concluded that the pituitary lesion was from MTX–LPD, similar to the lesions in the sinuses, anterior mediastinum, and subcutaneous tissue, which showed polymorphic LPD on biopsy. MTX was discontinued, and methylprednisolone was administered to improve the neurologic symptoms. After several weeks, there was marked improvement of all lesions, including the pituitary lesion, but the pituitary function did not improve. When pituitary lesions are caused by MTX–LPD, the possibility of anterior hypopituitarism and central diabetes insipidus needs to be considered. Further studies are needed to investigate the effectiveness of early diagnosis and treatment of MTX–LPD in restoring pituitary dysfunction.

Learning points

  • Pituitary lesions from MTX–LPD may cause hypopituitarism and central diabetes insipidus.
  • Pituitary metastasis of malignant lymphoma and primary pituitary lymphoma, which have the same tissue types with MTX–LPD, have poor prognosis, but the lesions of MTX–LPD can regress only after MTX discontinuation.
  • In cases of pituitary lesions alone, a diagnosis of MTX–LPD may be difficult, unless pituitary biopsy is performed. This possibility should be considered in patients treated with immunosuppressive drugs.
  • Pituitary hypofunction and diabetes insipidus may persist, even after regression of the lesions on imaging due to MTX discontinuation.
Open access

Tessa Glyn, Beverley Harris, and Kate Allen

Summary

We present the case of a 57-year-old lady who had a delayed diagnosis of central hypothyroidism on a background of Grave’s thyrotoxicosis and a partial thyroidectomy. During the twenty years following her partial thyroidectomy, the patient developed a constellation of symptoms and new diagnoses, which were investigated by numerous specialists from various fields, namely rheumatology, renal and respiratory. She developed significantly impaired renal function and raised creatine kinase (CK). She was also referred to a tertiary neurology service for investigation of myositis, which resulted in inconclusive muscle biopsies. Recurrently normal TSH results reassured clinicians that this did not relate to previous thyroid dysfunction. In 2015, she developed increased shortness of breath and was found to have a significant pericardial effusion. The clinical biochemist reviewed this lady’s blood results and elected to add on a free T4 (fT4) and free T3 (fT3), which were found to be <0.4 pmol/L (normal range (NR): 12–22 pmol/L) and 0.3 pmol/L (NR: 3.1–6.8 pmol/L), respectively. She was referred urgently to the endocrine services and commenced on Levothyroxine replacement for profound central hypothyroidism. Her other pituitary hormones and MRI were normal. In the following year, her eGFR and CK normalised, and her myositis symptoms, breathlessness and pericardial effusion resolved. One year following initiation of Levothyroxine, her fT4 and fT3 were in the normal range for the first time. This case highlights the pitfalls of relying purely on TSH for excluding hypothyroidism and the devastating effect the delay in diagnosis had upon this patient.

Learning points:

  • Isolated central hypothyroidism is very rare, but should be considered irrespective of previous thyroid disorders.
  • If clinicians have a strong suspicion that a patient may have hypothyroidism despite normal TSH, they should ensure they measure fT3 and fT4.
  • Laboratories that do not perform fT3 and fT4 routinely should review advice sent to requesting clinicians to include a statement explaining that a normal TSH excludes primary but not secondary hypothyroidism.
  • Thyroid function tests should be performed routinely in patients presenting with renal impairment or a raised CK.
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

Ruth Mangupli, Adrian F Daly, Elvia Cuauro, Paul Camperos, Jaime Krivoy, and Albert Beckers

Summary

A 20-year-old man with an 8-year history of progressive enlargement of his hands and feet, coarsening facial features, painful joints and thickened, oily skin was referred for investigation of acromegaly. On examination, the subject was of normal height and weight. He had markedly increased skin thickness around the forehead, eyelids and scalp with redundant skin folds. Bilateral painful knee swelling was accompanied by enlargement of the extremities, and his fingers were markedly clubbed. Routine hematological, biochemical and hormonal blood tests, including GH and IGF-1 were normal. The clinical picture suggested primary hypertrophic osteoarthropathy (PHOA) rather than acromegaly and radiological studies were supportive of this, demonstrating increased subperiosteal bone formation and increased bone density and cortical thickening. There was widespread joint disease, with narrowing of joint spaces, whereas the knees demonstrated effusions and calcification. A skull X-ray revealed calvarial hyperostosis and a normal sellar outline. Family history was negative. Genetic studies were performed on peripheral blood leukocyte DNA for mutations in the two genes associated with PHOA, 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase (HPGD; OMIM: 601688) and solute carrier organic anion transporter family member 2A1 (SLCO2A1; OMIM: 601460). The sequence of HPGD was normal, whereas the subject was homozygous for a novel pathological variant in SLCO2A1, c.830delT, that predicted a frameshift and early protein truncation (p.Phe277Serfs*8). PHOA, also known as pachydermoperiostosis, is a rare entity caused by abnormal prostaglandin E2 metabolism, and both HPGD and SLCO2A1 are necessary for normal prostaglandin E2 handling. High prostaglandin levels lead to bone formation and resorption and connective tissue inflammation causing arthropathy, in addition to soft tissue swelling.

Learning points:

  • The differential diagnosis of enlarged extremities, coarsened facial features, skin changes and increased sweating in suspected acromegaly is quite limited and primary hypertrophic osteoarthropathy (PHOA) is one of the few conditions that can mimic acromegaly at presentation.
  • PHOA is not associated with abnormalities in GH and IGF-1 secretion and can be readily differentiated from acromegaly by hormonal testing.
  • Clubbing in the setting of diffuse enlargement of joints and extremities in addition to skin changes should alert the physician to the possibility of PHOA, as clubbing is not a usual feature of acromegaly. Underlying causes of secondary hypertrophic osteoarthroapthy (e.g. bronchial neoplasia) should be considered.
  • PHOA is a very rare condition caused by abnormalities in prostaglandin metabolism and has two known genetic causes (HPGD and SLCO2A1 mutations).
  • SLCO2A1 gene mutations lead usually to autosomal recessive PHOA; fewer than 50 SLCO2A1 mutations have been described to date and the current case is only the second in a Hispanic patient.
  • Treatment of primary hypertrophic osteoarthropathy is focused on the management of joint pain usually in the form of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug therapy.
Open access

Fergus Keane, Aoife M Egan, Patrick Navin, Francesca Brett, and Michael C Dennedy

Summary

Pituitary apoplexy represents an uncommon endocrine emergency with potentially life-threatening consequences. Drug-induced pituitary apoplexy is a rare but important consideration when evaluating patients with this presentation. We describe an unusual case of a patient with a known pituitary macroadenoma presenting with acute-onset third nerve palsy and headache secondary to tumour enlargement and apoplexy. This followed gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GNRH) agonist therapy used to treat metastatic prostate carcinoma. Following acute management, the patient underwent transphenoidal debulking of his pituitary gland with resolution of his third nerve palsy. Subsequent retrospective data interpretation revealed that this had been a secretory gonadotropinoma and GNRH agonist therapy resulted in raised gonadotropins and testosterone. Hence, further management of his prostate carcinoma required GNRH antagonist therapy and external beam radiotherapy. This case demonstrates an uncommon complication of GNRH agonist therapy in the setting of a pituitary macroadenoma. It also highlights the importance of careful, serial data interpretation in patients with pituitary adenomas. Finally, this case presents a unique insight into the challenges of managing a hormonal-dependent prostate cancer in a patient with a secretory pituitary tumour.

Learning points

  • While non-functioning gonadotropinomas represent the most common form of pituitary macroadenoma, functioning gonadotropinomas are exceedingly rare.
  • Acute tumour enlargement, with potential pituitary apoplexy, is a rare but important adverse effect arising from GNRH agonist therapy in the presence of both functioning and non-functioning pituitary gonadotropinomas.
  • GNRH antagonist therapy represents an alternative treatment option for patients with hormonal therapy-requiring prostate cancer, who also have diagnosed with a pituitary gonadotropinoma.

Open access

G K Dimitriadis, K Gopalakrishnan, R Rao, D K Grammatopoulos, H S Randeva, M O Weickert, and N Murthy

Summary

We report the case of a 70-year-old previously healthy female who presented acutely to the Accident and Emergency department with left-sided vasomotor symptoms including reduced muscle tone, weakness upon walking and slurred speech. Physical examination confirmed hemiparesis with VIIth nerve palsy and profound hepatomegaly. A random glucose was low at 1.7 mmol/l, which upon correction resolved her symptoms. In hindsight, the patient recalled having had similar episodes periodically over the past 3 months to which she did not give much attention. While hospitalized, she continued having episodes of symptomatic hypoglycaemia during most nights, requiring treatment with i.v. dextrose and/or glucagon. Blood tests including insulin and C-peptide were invariably suppressed, in correlation with low glucose. A Synacthen stimulation test was normal (Cort (0′) 390 nmol/l, Cort (30′) 773 nmol/l). A computed tomography scan showed multiple lobulated masses in the abdomen, liver and pelvis. An ultrasound guided biopsy of one of the pelvic masses was performed. Immunohistochemistry supported the diagnosis of a gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST) positive for CD34 and CD117. A diagnosis of a non islet cell tumour hypoglycaemia (NICTH) secondary to an IGF2 secreting GIST was confirmed with further biochemical investigations (IGF2=96.5 nmol/l; IGF2:IGF1 ratio 18.9, ULN <10). Treatment with growth hormone resolved the patient's hypoglycaemic symptoms and subsequent targeted therapy with Imatinib was successful in controlling disease progression over an 8-year observation period.

Learning points

  • NICTH can be a rare complication of GISTs that may manifest with severe hypoglycaemia and neuroglucopenic symptoms.
  • NICTH can masquerade as other pathologies thus causing diagnostic confusion.
  • Histological confirmation of GIST induced NICTH and exclusion of other conditions causing hypoglycaemia is essential.
  • Mutational analysis of GISTs should be carried out in all cases as it guides treatment decision.
  • Tailored management of hypoglycaemia, in this case using growth hormone and targeted cyto-reductive therapy, minimizes the risk of possible life-threatening complications.