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Open access

Jonathan Brown and Luqman Sardar

Summary

A 68-year-old previously independent woman presented multiple times to hospital over the course of 3 months with a history of intermittent weakness, vacant episodes, word finding difficulty and reduced cognition. She was initially diagnosed with a TIA, and later with a traumatic subarachnoid haemorrhage following a fall; however, despite resolution of the haemorrhage, symptoms were ongoing and continued to worsen. Confusion screen blood tests showed no cause for the ongoing symptoms. More specialised investigations, such as brain imaging, cerebrospinal fluid analysis, electroencephalogram and serology also gave no clear diagnosis. The patient had a background of hypothyroidism, with plasma thyroid function tests throughout showing normal free thyroxine and a mildly raised thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). However plasma anti-thyroid peroxidise (TPO) antibody titres were very high. After discussion with specialists, it was felt she may have a rare and poorly understood condition known as Hashimoto’s encephalopathy (HE). After a trial with steroids, her symptoms dramatically improved and she was able to live independently again, something which would have been impossible at presentation.

Learning points:

  • In cases of subacute onset confusion where most other diagnoses have already been excluded, testing for anti-thyroid antibodies can identify patients potentially suffering from HE.

  • In these patients, and under the guidance of specialists, a trial of steroids can dramatically improve patient’s symptoms.

  • The majority of patients are euthyroid at the time of presentation, and so normal thyroid function tests should not prevent anti-thyroid antibodies being tested for.

  • Due to high titres of anti-thyroid antibodies being found in a small percentage of the healthy population, HE should be treated as a diagnosis of exclusion, particularly as treatment with steroids may potentially worsen the outcome in other causes of confusion, such as infection.

Open access

Bidhya Timilsina, Niranjan Tachamo, Prem Raj Parajuli and Ilan Gabriely

Summary

A 74-year-old woman presented with progressive lethargy, confusion, poor appetite and abdominal pain. She was found to have non-PTH-mediated severe hypercalcemia with renal failure and metabolic alkalosis. Extensive workup for hypercalcemia to rule out alternate etiology was unrevealing. Upon further questioning, she was taking excess calcium carbonate (Tums) for her worsening heartburn. She was diagnosed with milk-alkali syndrome (MAS). Her hypercalcemia and alkalosis recovered completely with aggressive hydration along with improvement in her renal function. High index of suspicion should be maintained and history of drug and supplements, especially calcium ingestion, should be routinely asked in patients presenting with hypercalcemia to timely diagnose MAS and prevent unnecessary tests and treatments.

Learning points:

  • Suspect milk-alkali syndrome in patients with hypercalcemia, metabolic alkalosis and renal failure, especially in context of ingestion of excess calcium-containing supplements.

  • Careful history of over-the-counter medications, supplements and diet is crucial to diagnose milk-alkali syndrome.

  • Milk-alkali syndrome may cause severe hypercalcemia in up to 25–30% of cases.

Open access

Ploutarchos Tzoulis, Richard W Corbett, Swarupini Ponnampalam, Elly Baker, Daniel Heaton, Triada Doulgeraki and Justin Stebbing

Summary

Five days following the 3rd cycle of nivolumab, a monoclonal antibody, which acts as immune checkpoint inhibitor against the programmed cell death protein-1, for metastatic lung adenocarcinoma, a 56-year-old woman presented at the hospital critically ill. On admission, she had severe diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), as evidenced by venous glucose of 47 mmol/L, blood ketones of 7.5 mmol/L, pH of 6.95 and bicarbonate of 6.6 mmol/L. She has had no personal or family history of diabetes mellitus (DM), while random venous glucose, measured 1 week prior to hospitalisation, was 6.1 mmol/L. On admission, her HbA1c was 8.2% and anti-GAD antibodies were 12 kIU/L (0–5 kU/L), while islet cell antibodies and serum C-peptide were undetectable. Nivolumab was recommenced without the development of other immune-mediated phenomena until 6 months later, when she developed hypothyroidism with TSH 18 U/L and low free T4. She remains insulin dependent and has required levothyroxine replacement, while she has maintained good radiological and clinical response to immunotherapy. This case is notable for the rapidity of onset and profound nature of DKA at presentation, which occurred two months following commencement of immunotherapy. Despite the association of nivolumab with immune-mediated endocrinopathies, only a very small number of patients developing type 1 DM has been reported to date. Patients should be closely monitored for hyperglycaemia and thyroid dysfunction prior to and periodically during immunotherapy.

Learning points:

  • Nivolumab can induce fulminant type 1 diabetes, resulting in DKA.

  • Nivolumab is frequently associated with thyroid dysfunction, mostly hypothyroidism.

  • Nivolumab-treated patients should be monitored regularly for hyperglycaemia and thyroid dysfunction.

  • Clinicians should be aware and warn patients of potential signs and symptoms of severe hyperglycaemia.

Open access

Catarina Roque, Ricardo Fonseca, Carlos Tavares Bello, Carlos Vasconcelos, António Galzerano and Sância Ramos

Summary

Primary adrenal lymphoma is a rare malignancy. It frequently presents bilaterally and with symptoms of adrenal insufficiency. Amiodarone may induce secondary organ dysfunction, and thyrotoxicosis develops in 15% of cases. The symptomatology of both conditions is nonspecific, especially in the elderly, and a high suspicion index is necessary for appropriate diagnosis. A 78-year-old female presented to the emergency department with confusion, nausea and vomiting. She had recently been to the emergency department with urinary tract infection, vomiting and acute hypochloremic hyponatremia. Upon re-evaluation, the leukocyturia persisted and because of TSH 0.01 µU/mL and free-T4 68 (10–18) pmol/L, she was admitted to the Endocrinology ward. Further evaluation supported amiodarone-induced thyroiditis type 2. Sepsis ensued, in the setting of nosocomial pneumonia. Hemodynamic instability, hyponatremia, hypoglycemia and vomiting raised the suspicion of adrenocortical insufficiency. Fluid resuscitation and hydrocortisone led to clinical improvement, and adrenal insufficiency was admitted. The thoracoabdominal tomography suggested an endobronchic primary lesion with hepatic and adrenal secondary deposits (6.6 and 7 cm), but this was confirmed neither on pleural effusion nor on bronchofibroscopic fluid analyses. The adrenals were not accessible for biopsy. Despite high-dose hydrocortisone maintenance, the patient died before definite diagnosis. The autopsy confirmed primary non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Learning points:

  • Primary adrenal lymphoma is a rare cause of adrenal insufficiency, but progression can be fast and fatal.

  • Hyperpigmentation is frequently absent.

  • The presenting symptoms are nonspecific and might mimic infection. Disproportion of the general state with signs of specific organ symptomatology is a diagnostic clue.

  • Infection may precipitate adrenal crisis and worsen thyroid function with further adrenal insufficiency exacerbation.

  • In the context of thyrotoxicosis, there may be little clinical response to a therapeutic trial with standard dose glucocorticoids.

  • High-dose glucocorticoid substitution may be required to achieve clinical stability in thyrotoxic patients.

Open access

Julian Choi, Perin Suthakar and Farbod Farmand

Summary

We describe the case of a young Hispanic female who presented with thyrotoxicosis with seizures and ischemic stroke. She was diagnosed with a rare vasculopathy – moyamoya syndrome. After starting antithyroid therapy, her neurologic symptoms did not improve. Acute neurosurgical intervention had relieved her symptoms in the immediate post-operative period after re-anastomosis surgery. However, 2 post-operative days later, she was found to be in status epilepticus and in hyperthyroid state. She quickly deteriorated clinically and had expired a few days afterward. This is the second case in literature of a fatality in a patient with moyamoya syndrome and Graves’ disease. However, unlike the other case report, our patient had undergone successful revascularization surgery. We believe her underlying non-euthyroid state had potentiated her clinical deterioration. Case studies have shown positive correlation between uncontrolled hyperthyroidism and stroke-like symptoms in moyamoya syndrome. Mostly all patients with these two disease processes become symptomatic in marked hyperthyroid states. Thus, it may be either fluctuations in baseline thyroid function or thyrotoxicosis that potentiate otherwise asymptomatic moyamoya vasculopathy.

Learning points:

  • Awareness of the association between Graves’ disease and moyamoya syndrome in younger patients presenting with stroke-like symptoms.

  • Obtaining euthyroid states before undergoing revascularization surgery may protect the patient from perioperative mortality and morbidity.

  • Although moyamoya disease is usually thought to be genetically associated, there are reports that thyroid antibodies may play a role in its pathogenesis and have an autoimmune link.

  • Fluctuations in baseline thyroid function for patients with known Graves’ disease may be a potentiating factor in exacerbating moyamoya vasculopathy.

Open access

Nicole Maison, Esther Korpershoek, Graeme Eisenhofer, Mercedes Robledo, Ronald de Krijger and Felix Beuschlein

Summary

Pheochromocytomas (PCC) and paraganglioma (PGL) are rare neuroendocrine tumors arising from chromaffin cells of the neural crest. Mutations in the RET-proto-oncogene are associated with sporadic pheochromocytoma, familial or sporadic medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) and multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2. In the past, only few cases of pigmented PCCs, PGLs, and one case of pigmented MTC have been reported in the literature. Herein, we present the case of a 77-year old woman with a history of Tako-tsubo-cardiomyopathy and laboratory, as well as radiological, high suspicion of pheochromocytoma, who underwent left-sided adrenalectomy. The 3 cm tumor, which was located on the upper pole of the left adrenal, appeared highly pigmented with dark red to black color. Histologic examinations revealed highly pleomorphic cells with bizarre, huge hyperchromatic nuclei, that immunohistochemically were positive for chromogranin A and synaptophysin, focally positive for HMB45 and negative for melan A. These clinical and pathological features led to the diagnosis of the rare variant of a melanotic ‘black’ pheochromocytoma. In our case a somatic RET mutation in exon 16 (RET c.2753T>C, p.Met918Thy) was detected by targeted next generation sequencing. In summary, this case represents a rare variant of catecholamine-producing tumor with distinct histological features. A potential relationship between the phenotype, the cellular origin and the genetic alterations is discussed.

Learning points

  • Pheochromocytoma is a rare neuroendocrine tumor.

  • Pigmentation is seen in several types of tumors arising from the neural crest. The macroscopic black aspect can mislead to the diagnosis of a metastasis deriving from a malignant melanoma.

  • RET mutation are seen in catecholamine and non-catecholamine producing tumors of the same cellular origin.

Open access

W C Candy Sze, Joe McQuillan, P Nicholas Plowman, Niall MacDougall, Philip Blackburn, H Ian Sabin, Nadeem Ali and William M Drake

Summary

We report three patients who developed symptoms and signs of ocular neuromyotonia (ONM) 3–6 months after receiving gamma knife radiosurgery (GKS) for functioning pituitary tumours. All three patients were complex, requiring multi-modality therapy and all had received prior external irradiation to the sellar region. Although direct causality cannot be attributed, the timing of the development of the symptoms would suggest that the GKS played a contributory role in the development of this rare problem, which we suggest clinicians should be aware of as a potential complication.

Learning points

  • GKS can cause ONM, presenting as intermittent diplopia.

  • ONM can occur quite rapidly after treatment with GKS.

  • Treatment with carbamazepine is effective and improve patient's quality of life.

Open access

Sunita M C De Sousa, Peter Earls and Ann I McCormack

Summary

Pituitary hyperplasia (PH) occurs in heterogeneous settings and remains under-recognised. Increased awareness of this condition and its natural history should circumvent unnecessary trans-sphenoidal surgery. We performed an observational case series of patients referred to a single endocrinologist over a 3-year period. Four young women were identified with PH manifesting as diffuse, symmetrical pituitary enlargement near or touching the optic apparatus on MRI. The first woman presented with primary hypothyroidism and likely had thyrotroph hyperplasia given prompt resolution with thyroxine. The second and third women were diagnosed with pathological gonadotroph hyperplasia due to primary gonadal insufficiency, with histopathological confirmation including gonadal-deficiency cells in the third case where surgery could have been avoided. The fourth woman likely had idiopathic PH, though she had concomitant polycystic ovary syndrome which is a debated cause of PH. Patients suspected of PH should undergo comprehensive hormonal, radiological and sometimes ophthalmological evaluation. This is best conducted by a specialised multidisciplinary team with preference for treatment of underlying conditions and close monitoring over surgical intervention.

Learning points

  • Normal pituitary dimensions are influenced by age and gender with the greatest pituitary heights seen in young adults and perimenopausal women.

  • Pituitary enlargement may be seen in the settings of pregnancy, end-organ insufficiency with loss of negative feedback, and excess trophic hormone from the hypothalamus or neuroendocrine tumours.

  • PH may be caused or exacerbated by medications including oestrogen, GNRH analogues and antipsychotics.

  • Management involves identification of cases of idiopathic PH suitable for simple surveillance and reversal of pathological or iatrogenic causes where they exist.

  • Surgery should be avoided in PH as it rarely progresses.