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Open access

Mike Lin, Venessa Tsang, Janice Brewer, Roderick Clifton-Bligh and Matti L Gild

Summary

Lymphocytic hypophysitis is a rare neuroendocrine disease characterised by an autoimmune inflammatory disorder of the pituitary gland. We report a 50-year-old woman who presented with headaches and bilateral sixth cranial nerve palsies. MRI of the pituitary revealed extensive fibrosis involving the sellar and extending into both cavernous sinuses causing bilateral occlusion of the internal carotid arteries (ICA). Transphenoidal biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of infiltrative fibrotic lymphocytic hypophysitis. Symptoms resolved with high dose of oral steroids but relapsed on tapering, requiring several treatments of i.v. pulse steroids over 8 months. Rituximab combined with mycophenolate mofetil was required to achieve long-term symptom relief. Serial MRI pituitary imaging showed stabilisation of her disease without reduction in sellar mass or regression of ICA occlusion. The patient’s brain remained perfused solely by her posterior circulation. This case demonstrates an unusual presentation of a rare disease and highlights a successful steroid-sparing regimen in a refractory setting.

Learning points:

  • Lymphocytic hypophysitis is a rare inflammatory disorder of the pituitary gland. In exceptional cases, there is infiltration of the cavernous sinus with subsequent occlusion of the internal carotid arteries.
  • First-line treatment of lymphocytic hypophysitis is high-dose glucocorticoids. Relapse after tapering or discontinuation is common and its use is limited by long-term adverse effects.
  • There is a paucity of data for treatment of refractory lymphocytic hypophysitis. Goals of treatment should include improvement in symptoms, correction of hormonal insufficiencies, reduction in lesion size and prevention of recurrence.
  • Steroid-sparing immunosuppressive drugs such as rituximab and mycophenolate mofetil have been successful in case reports. This therapeutic combination represents a viable alternative treatment for refractory disease.
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

Ellena Cotton and David Ray

Summary

A young woman carrying germline DICER1 mutation was discovered to have a pituitary microprolactinoma when she became amenorrhoic. The mutation was identified as a result of family screening following the early death of the patient’s daughter with ovarian cancer. The patient was in follow-up screening for thyroid disease, and investigations were initiated when she became amenorrhoic. MR scan revealed a 6 mm diameter pituitary microadenoma and raised prolactin. The prolactin was efficiently suppressed with low-dose cabergoline, and her menstrual cycles resumed. Dicer is an RNase enzyme, which is essential for processing small non-coding RNAs. These molecules play pleiotropic roles in regulating gene expression, by targeting mRNA sequences for degradation. DICER1 plays different roles depending on cell context, but is thought to be a functional tumour suppressor gene. Accordingly, germline mutation in one DICER1 allele is insufficient for oncogenesis, and a second hit on the other allele is required, as a result of postnatal somatic mutation. Loss of DICER1 is linked to multiple tumours, with prominent endocrine representation. Multinodular goitre is frequent, with increased risk of differentiated thyroid cancer. Rare, developmental pituitary tumours are reported, including pituitary blastoma, but not reports of functional pituitary adenomas. As DICER1 mutations are rare, case reports are the only means to identify new manifestations and to inform appropriate screening protocols.

Learning points:

  • DICER1 mutations lead to endocrine tumours.
  • DICER1 is required for small non-coding RNA expression.
  • DICER1 carriage and microprolactinoma are both rare, but here are reported in the same individual, suggesting association.
  • Endocrine follow-up of patients carrying DICER1 mutations should consider pituitary disease.
Open access

Yew Wen Yap, Steve Ball and Zubair Qureshi

Summary

The coexistence of primary hypothyroidism and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)-stimulating pituitary macroadenoma can be a rare occurrence and can make diagnosis very challenging. We describe a case of a 44-year-old female with a history of fatigue, poor concentration, weight gain and amenorrhoea together with biochemical evidence of primary autoimmune hypothyroidism. Her initial TSH levels were elevated with low normal free thyroxine (T4) levels. Levothyroxine treatment was initiated and the dose was gradually titrated to supraphysiologic doses. This led to the normalisation of her TSH levels but her free T4 and triiodothyronine (T3) levels remained persistently elevated. This prompted a serum prolactin check which returned elevated at 2495 µ/L, leading onto pituitary imaging. A MRI of the pituitary gland revealed a pituitary macroadenoma measuring 2.4 × 2 × 1.6 cm. Despite starting her on cabergoline therapy with a reduction in her prolactin levels, her TSH levels began to rise even further. Additional thyroid assays revealed that she had an abnormally elevated alpha subunit at 3.95 (age-related reference range <3.00). This corresponded to a thyroid-secreting hormone pituitary macroadenoma. She went on to have a transphenoidal hypophysectomy. Histology revealed tissues staining for TSH, confirming this to be a TSH-secreting pituitary macroadenoma. This case highlighted the importance of further investigations with thyroid assay interferences, heterophile antibodies, alpha subunit testing and anterior pituitary profile in cases of resistant and non-resolving primary hypothyroidism.

Learning points:

  • Levothyroxine treatment in primary hypothyroidism can potentially unmask the presence of a latent TSH-secreting pituitary macroadenoma, which can make diagnosis very challenging.
  • A high index of suspicion should prompt clinicians to further investigate cases of primary hypothyroidism which despite increasing doses of levothyroxine treatment with normalisation of TSH, the free T4 and T3 levels remain persistently elevated.
  • Clinicians should consider investigating for adherence to levothyroxine, thyroid assay interference, heterophile antibodies, TSH dilution studies, alpha subunit and anterior pituitary profile testing to further clarity the diagnosis in these patients.
  • Although coexistent cases of TSHoma with primary hypothyroidism are rare, it should always be in the list of differential diagnoses in cases of unresolving primary hypothyroidism.
Open access

Michelle Maher, Federico Roncaroli, Nigel Mendoza, Karim Meeran, Natalie Canham, Monika Kosicka-Slawinska, Birgitta Bernhard, David Collier, Juliana Drummond, Kassiani Skordilis, Nicola Tufton, Anastasia Gontsarova, Niamh Martin, Márta Korbonits and Florian Wernig

Summary

Symptomatic pituitary adenomas occur with a prevalence of approximately 0.1% in the general population. It is estimated that 5% of pituitary adenomas occur in a familial setting, either in isolated or syndromic form. Recently, loss-of-function mutations in genes encoding succinate dehydrogenase subunits (SDHx) or MYC-associated factor X (MAX) have been found to predispose to pituitary adenomas in co-existence with paragangliomas or phaeochromocytomas. It is rare, however, for a familial SDHx mutation to manifest as an isolated pituitary adenoma. We present the case of a pituitary lactotroph adenoma in a patient with a heterozygous germline SDHB mutation, in the absence of concomitant neoplasms. Initially, the adenoma showed biochemical response but poor tumour shrinkage in response to cabergoline; therefore, transsphenoidal surgery was performed. Following initial clinical improvement, tumour recurrence was identified 15 months later. Interestingly, re-initiation of cabergoline proved successful and the lesion demonstrated both biochemical response and tumour shrinkage. Our patient’s SDHB mutation was identified when we realised that her father had a metastatic paraganglioma, prompting genetic testing. Re-inspection of the histopathological report of the prolactinoma confirmed cells with vacuolated cytoplasm. This histological feature is suggestive of an SDHx mutation and should prompt further screening for mutations by immunohistochemistry and/or genetic testing. Surprisingly, immunohistochemistry of this pituitary adenoma demonstrated normal SDHB expression, despite loss of SDHB expression in the patient’s father’s paraganglioma.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary adenomas may be the presenting and/or sole feature of SDHB mutation-related disease.
  • SDHx mutated pituitary adenomas may display clinically aggressive behaviour and demonstrate variable response to medical treatment.
  • Histological evidence of intracytoplasmic vacuoles in a pituitary adenoma might suggest an SDH-deficient tumour and should prompt further screening for SDHx mutations.
  • Immunohistochemistry may not always predict the presence of SDHx mutations.
Open access

Ekaterina Manuylova, Laura M Calvi, Catherine Hastings, G Edward Vates, Mahlon D Johnson, William T Cave Jr and Ismat Shafiq

Summary

Co-secretion of growth hormone (GH) and prolactin (PRL) from a single pituitary adenoma is common. In fact, up to 25% of patients with acromegaly may have PRL co-secretion. The prevalence of acromegaly among patients with a newly diagnosed prolactinoma is unknown. Given the possibility of mixed GH and PRL co-secretion, the current recommendation is to obtain an insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in patients with prolactinoma at the initial diagnosis. Long-term follow-up of IGF-1 is not routinely done. Here, we report two cases of well-controlled prolactinoma on dopamine agonists with the development of acromegaly 10–20 years after the initial diagnoses. In both patients, a mixed PRL/GH-cosecreting adenoma was confirmed on the pathology examination after transsphenoidal surgery (TSS). Therefore, periodic routine measurements of IGF-1 should be considered regardless of the duration and biochemical control of prolactinoma.

Learning points:

  • Acromegaly can develop in patients with well-controlled prolactinoma on dopamine agonists.
  • The interval between prolactinoma and acromegaly diagnoses can be several decades.
  • Periodic screening of patients with prolactinoma for growth hormone excess should be considered and can 
lead to an early diagnosis of acromegaly before the development of complications.
Open access

Ilse C A Bakker, Chris D Schubart and Pierre M J Zelissen

Summary

In this report, we describe a female patient with both prolactinoma and psychotic disorder who was successfully treated with aripiprazole, a partial dopamine 2 receptor agonist. During the follow-up of more than 10 years, her psychotic symptoms improved considerably, prolactin levels normalised and the size of the prolactinoma decreased. This observation may be of clinical relevance in similar patients who often are difficult to treat with the regular dopaminergic drugs.

Learning points

  • Prolactinoma coinciding with psychosis can represent a therapeutic challenge.
  • In contrast to many other antipsychotic drugs, aripiprazole is associated with a decrease in prolactin levels.
  • Aripiprazole can be a valuable pharmaceutical tool to treat both prolactinoma and psychosis.

Open access

Ahmed Iqbal, Peter Novodvorsky, Alexandra Lubina-Solomon, Fiona M Kew and Jonathan Webster

Summary

Secondary amenorrhoea and galactorrhoea represent a common endocrine presentation. We report a case of an oestrogen-producing juvenile granulosa cell tumour (JGCT) of the ovary in a 16-year-old post-pubertal woman with hyperprolactinaemia amenorrhoea and galactorrhoea which resolved following surgical resection of the tumour. This patient presented with a 9-month history of secondary amenorrhoea and a 2-month history of galactorrhoea. Elevated serum prolactin at 7081 mIU/l and suppressed gonadotropins (LH <0.1 U/l; FSH <0.1 U/l) were detected. Serum oestradiol was significantly elevated at 7442 pmol/l with undetectable β-human chorionic gonadotropin. MRI showed a bulky pituitary with no visible adenoma. MRI of the abdomen showed a 4.8 cm mass arising from the right ovary with no evidence of metastatic disease. Serum inhibin B was elevated at 2735 ng/l. A right salpingo-oophorectomy was performed, and histology confirmed the diagnosis of a JGCT, stage International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics 1A. Immunohistochemical staining for prolactin was negative. Post-operatively, oestrogen and prolactin levels were normalised, and she subsequently had a successful pregnancy. In summary, we present a case of an oestrogen-secreting JGCT with hyperprolactinaemia manifesting clinically with galactorrhoea and secondary amenorrhoea. We postulate that observed hyperprolactinaemia was caused by oestrogenic stimulation of pituitary lactotroph cells, a biochemical state analogous to pregnancy. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of hyperprolactinaemia as a result of excessive oestrogen production in the context of a JGCT.

Learning points

  • Hyperprolactinaemia with bilateral galactorrhoea and secondary amenorrhoea has a wide differential diagnosis and is not always caused by a prolactin secreting pituitary adenoma.
  • Significantly elevated serum oestradiol levels in the range seen in this case, in the absence of pregnancy, are indicative of an oestrogen-secreting tumour.
  • JGCTs are rare hormonally active ovarian neoplasms mostly secreting steroid hormones.
  • Serum inhibin can be used as a granulosa cell-specific tumour marker.
  • JGCTs have an excellent prognosis in the early stages of the disease.

Open access

Niki Margari, Jonathan Pollock and Nemanja Stojanovic

Summary

Prolactinomas constitute the largest subsection of all secretory pituitary adenomas. Most are microprolactinomas and are satisfactorily treated by medical management alone. Giant prolactinomas, measuring more than 4 cm in diameter, are rare and usually occur more commonly in men. Macroprolatinomas tend to present with symptoms of mass effect rather than those of hyperprolactinaemia. Dopamine agonists (DA) are the treatment of choice for all prolactinomas. Surgery is usually reserved for DA resistance or if vision is threatened by the mass effects of the tumour. We describe the case of a 52 year-old woman with a giant invasive prolactinoma who required multiple surgical procedures as well as medical management with DA. One of the surgical interventions required a posterior approach via the trans cranial sub occipital transtentorial approach, a surgical technique that has not been previously described in the medical literature for this indication. The giant prolactinoma was reduced significantly with the above approach and patient symptoms from the compressing effects of the tumour were resolved. This case highlights the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to the management of such patients who present with florid neurological sequelae secondary to pressure effects. Although this presentation is uncommon, surgery via a sub occipital transtentorial approach may be considered the treatment of choice in suitable patients with giant invasive prolactinomas compressing the brainstem.

Learning points

  • Giant prolactinomas present with symptoms of mass effect or those of hyperprolactinaemia.
  • Interpretation of the pituitary profile is crucial to guide further investigations and management.
  • Treatment of giant invasive prolactinomas may involve a combination of medical management and multiple surgical interventions.
  • Treatment with DA may cause pituitary haemorrhage or infarction in patients with these tumours.
  • A sub occipital transtetorial approach may be considered the treatment of choice in invasive prolactinomas compressing the brainstem.
  • Multidisciplinary approach of such patients is fundamental for a better outcome.

Open access

Maryam Rahman, Ignacio Jusué-Torres, Abdulrahman Alkabbani, Roberto Salvatori, Fausto J Rodríguez and Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa

Summary

Pituitary adenomas are usually solitary lesions. Rarely, patients may present with two distinct pituitary tumors. We report a case of synchronous secretory pituitary adenomas in a woman who initially presented with elevated prolactin levels. She was initially treated with cabergoline, but, after many years, she began developing symptoms consistent with acromegaly. Imaging revealed two distinct tumors within the pituitary gland. Endocrinological investigation confirmed acromegaly. At the time of surgery, two separate tumors were identified and resected. Pathological analysis demonstrated one tumor as a prolactinoma, and the other tumor as a GH-secreting adenoma. Postoperatively, her GH and IGF1 levels normalized, while the prolactin level remained slightly above normal. This case highlights that GH and prolactin level elevation is not always from co-secretion by the same adenoma.

Learning points

  • Synchronous pituitary adenomas represent <0.5% of pituitary tumors requiring surgery.
  • In the setting of elevated GH and prolactin levels, one cannot assume that they are co-secreted by the same adenoma.
  • A careful study of hormonal workup and pre-operative imaging is necessary for synchronous pituitary adenomas to assure resection of both tumors.