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Open access

Eka Melson, Sidra Amir, Lisa Shepherd, Samina Kauser, Bethan Freestone and Punith Kempegowda

Summary

Although pheochromocytoma classically presents with headaches, palpitations and paroxysmal hypertension, atypical presentations such as cardiomyopathy, stroke and subarachnoid haemorrhage have been infrequently documented. We present in this case report, an uncommon presentation of pheochromocytoma with myocardial infarction with normal coronary arteries (MINOCA). A 79-year-old woman presented with central crushing chest pain radiating to left arm associated with headache, palpitations, sweating and difficulty in breathing. For 2 years, she experienced brief episodes of headache, tinnitus, dizziness, palpitations, and sweating that spontaneously resolved. Clinical examination was unremarkable except for high blood pressure (210/105 mmHg). Her electrocardiogram showed T wave inversions from V1 to V6 and elevated troponins (774 ng/L at baseline and 932 ng/L 3 h from baseline (normal <16 ng/L) in keeping with a diagnosis of non-ST elevated myocardial infarction. Coronary angiography showed normal coronary arteries. Patient was hence treated as myocardial infarction with normal coronaries (MINOCA). Despite appropriate treatment for MINOCA, she continued to experience episodic headaches, palpitations, dizziness and erratic blood pressures (particularly severe hypertension shortly after beta-blocker administration). Further investigations revealed raised urine noradrenaline of 4724 nmol/24 h (<554 nmol/24 h) and urine adrenaline of 92863 nmol/24 h (<77 nmol/24 h). Computerised tomography demonstrated a well-defined rounded mass in right adrenal gland morphological of pheochromocytoma. She underwent laparoscopic right adrenalectomy with histology confirming pheochromocytoma. This case highlights the importance of thorough investigation for the underlying cause for MINOCA. In patients with unexplained erratic blood pressure control, pheochromocytoma should be considered as a differential diagnosis.

Learning points:

  • Pheochromocytoma is rare tumour that often presents with non-specific symptoms.
  • It is important to investigate underlying cause of MINOCA.
  • Thorough history is the key to diagnosis.
Open access

Natasha Shrikrishnapalasuriyar, Mirena Noyvirt, Philip Evans, Bethan Gibson, Elin Foden and Atul Kalhan

A 54-year-old woman was admitted to hospital with a presumed allergic reaction to a single dose of amoxicillin given for a suspected upper respiratory tract infection. She complained of chest tightness although there was no wheeze or stridor. On examination, she was pyrexial, tachycardic, hypertensive and had a diffuse mottled rash on her lower limbs. Her initial investigations showed raised inflammatory markers. She was treated in the intensive care for a presumed anaphylactic reaction with an underlying sepsis. Further investigations including CT head and CSF examination were unremarkable; however, a CT abdomen showed a 10 cm heterogeneous right adrenal mass. Based on review by the endocrine team, a diagnosis of pheochromocytoma crisis was made, which was subsequently confirmed on 24-h urinary metanephrine measurement. An emergency adrenalectomy was considered although she was deemed unfit for surgery. Despite intensive medical management, her conditioned deteriorated and she died secondary to multi-organ failure induced by pheochromocytoma crisis.

Learning points:

  • Pheochromocytoma have relatively higher prevalence in autopsy series (0.05–1%) suggestive of a diagnosis, which is often missed.
  • Pheochromocytoma crisis is an endocrine emergency characterized by hemodynamic instability induced by surge of catecholamines often precipitated by trauma and medications (β blockers, general anesthetic agents, ephedrine and steroids).
  • Pheochromocytoma crisis can mimic acute coronary syndrome, cardiogenic or septic shock.
  • Livedo reticularis can be a rare although significant cutaneous marker of underlying pheochromocytoma crisis.
Open access

Catherine Alguire, Jessica Chbat, Isabelle Forest, Ariane Godbout and Isabelle Bourdeau

Summary

Pheochromocytoma is a rare tumor of the adrenal gland. It often presents with the classic triad of headache, palpitations and generalized sweating. Although not described as a typical symptom of pheochromocytoma, anxiety is the fourth most common symptom reported by patients suffering of pheochromocytoma. We report the case of a 64 year old man who had severe anxiety and panic disorder as presenting symptoms of pheochromocytoma. After 13 years of psychiatric follow-up, the patient was diagnosed with malignant pheochromocytoma. After surgical resection of his pheochromocytoma and his hepatic metastases, the major panic attacks completely disappeared, the anxiety symptoms improved significantly and the psychiatric medications were stopped except for a very low maintenance dose of venlafaxine. We found in our cohort of 160 patients with pheochromocytoma 2 others cases of apparently benign tumors with severe anxiety that resolved after pheochromocytoma resection. These cases highlight that pheochromocytoma should be included in the differential diagnosis of refractory anxiety disorder.

Learning points:

  • Anxiety and panic disorder may be the main presenting symptoms of pheochromocytoma.
  • The diagnosis of pheochromocytoma should be excluded in cases of long-term panic disorder refractory to medications since the anxiety may be secondary to a catecholamine-secreting tumor.
  • Surgical treatment of pheochromocytoma leads to significant improvement of anxiety disorders.
Open access

Cheuk-Lik Wong, Chun-Kit Fok and Vicki Ho-Kee Tam

Summary

We report a case of elderly Chinese lady with neurofibromatosis type-1 presenting with longstanding palpitation, paroxysmal hypertension and osteoporosis. Biochemical testing showed mild hypercalcaemia with non-suppressed parathyroid hormone level suggestive of primary hyperparathyroidism, and mildly elevated urinary fractionated normetanephrine and plasma-free normetanephrine pointing to a catecholamine-secreting pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma. Further scintigraphic investigation revealed evidence of a solitary parathyroid adenoma causing primary hyperparathyroidism and a left pheochromocytoma. Resection of the parathyroid adenoma and pheochromocytoma resulted in normalization of biochemical abnormalities and hypertension. The rare concurrence of primary hyperparathyroidism and pheochromocytoma in neurofibromatosis type-1 is discussed.

Learning points:

  • All NF-1 patients who have symptoms suggestive of a pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma (PPGL), even remotely, should undergo biochemical testing.
  • The initial biochemical tests of choice for PPGL in NF-1 are either plasma-free metanephrines or urinary fractionated metanephrines. Any elevations of metanephrines should be carefully evaluated for the presence of PPGLs in NF-1 patients.
  • Primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) is described in subjects with NF-1. Due to the lack of epidemiological and functional studies, their association is yet to be substantiated. Meanwhile, PHPT may further exacerbate the metabolic bone defect in these patients and should be treated when present according to published guidelines.
  • Coexistence of PPGL and PHPT can occur in subjects with NF-1, mimicking multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2).
Open access

R T Casey, B G Challis, D Pitfield, R M Mahroof, N Jamieson, C J Bhagra, A Vuylsteke, S J Pettit and K C Chatterjee

Summary

A phaeochromocytoma (PC) is a rare, catecholamine-secreting neuroendocrine tumour arising from the adrenal medulla. Presenting symptoms of this rare tumour are highly variable but life-threatening multiorgan dysfunction can occur secondary to catecholamine-induced hypertension or hypotension and subsequent cardiovascular collapse. High levels of circulating catecholamines can induce an acute stress cardiomyopathy, also known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Recent studies have focused on early diagnosis and estimation of the prevalence of acute stress cardiomyopathy in patients with PC, but very little is reported about management of these complex cases. Here, we report the case of a 38-year-old lady who presented with an acute Takotsubo or stress cardiomyopathy and catecholamine crisis, caused by an occult left-sided 5 cm PC. The initial presenting crisis manifested with symptoms of severe headache and abdominal pain, triggered by a respiratory tract infection. On admission to hospital, the patient rapidly deteriorated, developing respiratory failure, cardiogenic shock and subsequent cardiovascular collapse due to further exacerbation of the catecholamine crisis caused by a combination of opiates and intravenous corticosteroid. An echocardiogram revealed left ventricular apical hypokinesia and ballooning, with an estimated left ventricular ejection fraction of 10–15%. Herein, we outline the early stabilisation period, preoperative optimisation and intraoperative management, providing anecdotal guidance for the management of this rare life-threatening complication of PC.

Learning points:

  • A diagnosis of phaeochromocytoma should be considered in patients presenting with acute cardiomyopathy or cardiogenic shock without a clear ischaemic or valvular aetiology.
  • Catecholamine crisis is a life-threatening medical emergency that requires cross-disciplinary expertise and management to ensure the best clinical outcome.
  • After initial resuscitation, treatment of acute catecholamine-induced stress cardiomyopathy requires careful introduction of alpha-blockade followed by beta-blockade if necessary to manage β-receptor-mediated tachycardia.
  • Prolonged α-adrenergic receptor stimulation by high levels of circulating catecholamines precipitates arterial vasoconstriction and intravascular volume contraction, which can further exacerbate hypotension. Invasive pressure monitoring can aid management of intravascular volume in these complex patients.
Open access

Kohei Saitoh, Takako Yonemoto, Takeshi Usui, Kazuhiro Takekoshi, Makoto Suzuki, Yoshiharu Nakashima, Koji Yoshimura, Rieko Kosugi, Tatsuo Ogawa and Tatsuhide Inoue

Summary

Pheochromocytomas (PCCs) and paragangliomas (PGLs) are rare tumours with a heterogeneous genetic background. Up to 40% of apparently sporadic PCC/PGL cases carry 1 of the 12 gene germline mutations conferring genetic susceptibility to PCC/PGL. Although the precise mechanisms are unclear, TMEM127 is one of the rare responsible genes for PCC/PGL. Here we report the case of a patient with familial PCC having a novel TMEM127 variant (c.119C > T, p.S40F). In silico prediction analysis to evaluate the functional significance of this variant suggested that it is a disease-causing variant. A PCC on the left side was considered to be the dominant lesion, and unilateral adrenalectomy was performed. The histopathologic findings were consistent with benign PCC. A loss of heterogeneity of the TMEM127 variant was detected in the surgically removed tumour.

Learning points:

  • c.119C > T (p.S40F) is a novel TMEM127 variant that can cause pheochromocytoma.
  • The tumour showed loss of heterozygosity of this TMEM127 variant.
  • The clinical phenotype of this mutation is putative bilateral pheochromocytoma in the 4th decade.
  • Unilateral adrenalectomy may be performed as the initial surgery in such cases.
Open access

Annika Sjoeholm, Cassandra Li, Chaey Leem, Aiden Lee, Maria P Stack, Paul L Hofman and Benjamin J Wheeler

Summary

Phaeochromocytomas are a rare clinical entity, with dual hormone-secreting lesions particularly uncommon, seen in <1%. ACTH is the most common hormone co-produced, and is potentially lethal if not diagnosed. We present the case of a previously well 10-year-old boy, who presented acutely with a hypertensive crisis and was found to have a unilateral, non-syndromic phaeochromocytoma. Medical stabilization of his hypertension was challenging, and took 3 weeks to achieve, before proceeding to unilateral adrenalectomy. Post-operatively the child experienced severe fatigue and was subsequently confirmed to have adrenal insufficiency. He improved markedly with hydrocortisone replacement therapy, which is ongoing 6 months post-operatively. In retrospect this likely represents unrecognized, sub-clinical ACTH-dependent Cushing's syndrome secondary to an ACTH/or precursor dual-hormone secreting phaeochromocytoma. At follow-up, his hypertension had resolved, there was no biochemical evidence of recurrence of the phaeochromocytoma, and genetic analysis was indicative of a sporadic lesion.

Learning points

  • Dual hormone secreting phaeochromocytomas with ACTH/or a precursor may cause secondary adrenal insufficiency following surgical removal.
  • The concurrent features of Cushing's syndrome can be mild and easily overlooked presenting diagnostic and management pitfalls.
  • As concomitant syndromes of hormone excess are rare in phaeochromocytomas; the diagnosis requires a high index of suspicion.
  • Serial/diurnal cortisol levels, ACTH measurement +/− low dose dexamethasone suppression (when clinically stable, appropriate adrenergic blockade in place, and well supervised), can all be considered as needed.

Open access

N Atapattu, K A C P Imalke, M Madarasinghe, A Lamahewage and K S H de Silva

Summary

Children rarely present with phaeochromocytoma. Their presentation differs from that of adults. The classic triad of sweating, headache and palpitation may not always present in children with phaeochromocytoma. In this study, we present a 6-year-old girl who came to us with polyuria and polydipsia for evaluation of suspected diabetes insipidus. She gave a clear history of increased sweating in the recent past. On clinical examination, she was noted to have high blood pressure. Subsequent investigations revealed a phaeochromocytoma. Her polyuria and hypertension resolved immediately after the surgery. We did not have the facilities to arrange for genetic tests; however, the patient and the family members are under follow-up for other associated conditions.

Learning points

  • Polyuria and polydipsia are rare symptoms of phaeochromocytoma.
  • Complete physical examination prevented unnecessary investigations for polyuria and led to a correct diagnosis.
  • Classic features are not always necessary for diagnostic evaluation of rare diseases.

Open access

Omayma Elshafie, Yahya Al Badaai, Khalifa Alwahaibi, Asim Qureshi, Samir Hussein, Faisal Al Azzri, Ali Almamari and Nicholas Woodhouse

Summary

A 48-year-old hypertensive and diabetic patient presented with a 10-year history of progressive right facial pain, tinnitus, hearing loss, sweating, and palpitations. Investigations revealed a 5.6 cm vascular tumor at the carotid bifurcation. Her blood pressure (BP) was 170/110, on lisinopril 20 mg od and amlodipine 10 mg od and 100 U of insulin daily. A catecholamine-secreting carotid body paraganglioma (CSCBP) was suspected; the diagnosis was confirmed biochemically by determining plasma norepinephrine (NE) level, 89 000 pmol/l, and chromogranin A (CgA) level, 279 μg/l. Meta-iodobenzylguanidine and octreotide scanning confirmed a single tumor in the neck. A week after giving the patient a trial of octreotide 100 μg 8 h, the NE level dropped progressively from 50 000 to 25 000 pmol/l and CgA from 279 to 25 μg/l. Treatment was therefore continued with labetalol 200 mg twice daily (bid) and long-acting octreotide-LA initially using 40 mg/month and later increasing to 80 mg/month. On this dose and with a reduced labetalol intake of 100 mg bid, BP was maintained at 130/70 and her symptoms resolved completely. CgA levels returned to normal in the first week and these were maintained throughout the 3 month treatment period. During tumor resection, there were minimal BP fluctuations during the 10 h procedure. We conclude that short-term high-dose octreotide-LA might prove valuable in the preoperative management of catecholamine-secreting tumors. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report on the successful use of octreotide in a CSCBP.

Learning points

  • The value of octreotide scanning in the localization of extra-adrenal pheochromocytoma.
  • Control of catecholamine secretion using high-dose octreotide.
  • This is a report of a rare cause of secondary diabetes and hypertension.