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Open access

Diana Oliveira, Mara Ventura, Miguel Melo, Sandra Paiva and Francisco Carrilho

Summary

Addison’s disease (AD) is the most common endocrine manifestation of antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), but it remains a very rare complication of the syndrome. It is caused by adrenal venous thrombosis and consequent hemorrhagic infarction or by spontaneous (without thrombosis) adrenal hemorrhage, usually occurring after surgery or anticoagulant therapy. We present a clinical case of a 36-year-old female patient with a previous diagnosis of APS. She presented with multiple thrombotic events, including spontaneous abortions. During evaluation by the third episode of abortion, a CT imaging revealed an adrenal hematoma, but the patient was discharged without further investigation. A few weeks later, she presented in the emergency department with manifestations suggestive of adrenal insufficiency. Based on that assumption, she started therapy with glucocorticoids, with significant clinical improvement. After stabilization, additional investigation confirmed AD and excluded other etiologies; she also started mineralocorticoid replacement. This case illustrates a rare complication of APS that, if misdiagnosed, may be life threatening. A high index of suspicion is necessary for its diagnosis, and prompt treatment is crucial to reduce the morbidity and mortality potentially associated.

Learning points:

  • AD is a rare but life-threatening complication of APS.

  • It is important to look for AD in patients with APS and a suggestive clinical scenario.

  • APS must be excluded in patients with primary adrenal insufficiency and adrenal imaging revealing thrombosis/hemorrhage.

  • Glucocorticoid therapy should be promptly initiated when AD is suspected.

  • Mineralocorticoid replacement must be started when there is confirmed aldosterone deficiency.

  • Hypertension is a common feature of APS; in patients with APS and AD, replacement therapy with glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids may jeopardize hypertension management.

Open access

Philip D Oddie, Benjamin B Albert, Paul L Hofman, Craig Jefferies, Stephen Laughton and Philippa J Carter

Summary

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) during childhood is a rare malignant tumor that frequently results in glucocorticoid and/or androgen excess. When there are signs of microscopic or macroscopic residual disease, adjuvant therapy is recommended with mitotane, an adrenolytic and cytotoxic drug. In addition to the anticipated side effect of adrenal insufficiency, mitotane is known to cause gynecomastia and hypothyroidism in adults. It has never been reported to cause precocious puberty. A 4-year-old girl presented with a 6-week history of virilization and elevated androgen levels and 1-year advancement in bone age. Imaging revealed a right adrenal mass, which was subsequently surgically excised. Histology revealed ACC with multiple unfavorable features, including high mitotic index, capsular invasion and atypical mitoses. Adjuvant chemotherapy was started with mitotane, cisplatin, etoposide and doxorubicin. She experienced severe gastrointestinal side effects and symptomatic adrenal insufficiency, which occurred despite physiological-dose corticosteroid replacement. She also developed hypothyroidism that responded to treatment with levothyroxine and peripheral precocious puberty (PPP) with progressive breast development and rapidly advancing bone age. Five months after discontinuing mitotane, her adrenal insufficiency persisted and she developed secondary central precocious puberty (CPP). This case demonstrates the diverse endocrine complications associated with mitotane therapy, which contrast with the presentation of ACC itself. It also provides the first evidence that the known estrogenic effect of mitotane can manifest as PPP.

Learning points:

  • Adrenocortical carcinoma is an important differential diagnosis for virilization in young children

  • Mitotane is a chemotherapeutic agent that is used to treat adrenocortical carcinoma and causes adrenal necrosis

  • Mitotane is an endocrine disruptor. In addition to the intended effect of adrenal insufficiency, it can cause hypothyroidism, with gynecomastia also reported in adults.

  • Patients taking mitotane require very high doses of hydrocortisone replacement therapy because mitotane interferes with steroid metabolism. This effect persists after mitotane therapy is completed

  • In our case, mitotane caused peripheral precocious puberty, possibly through its estrogenic effect.

Open access

Chrisanthi Marakaki, Anna Papadopoulou, Olga Karapanou, Dimitrios T Papadimitriou, Kleanthis Kleanthous and Anastasios Papadimitriou

Summary

11β-hydroxylase deficiency (11β-OHD), an autosomal recessive inherited disorder, accounts for 5–8% of congenital adrenal hyperplasia. In Greece, no cases of 11β-OHD have been described so far. The patient presented at the age of 13 months with mild virilization of external genitalia and pubic hair development since the age of 3 months. Hormonal profile showed elevated 11-deoxycortisol, adrenal androgens and ACTH levels. ACTH stimulation test was compatible with 11β-OHD. DNA of the proband and her parents was isolated and genotyped for CYP11B1 gene coding cytochrome P450c11. The girl was found to be compound heterozygous for two CYP11B1 novel mutations, p.Ala386Glu (exon 7), inherited from the father and p.Leu471Argin (exon 9) from the mother. Hydrocortisone supplementation therapy was initiated. Four years after presentation she remains normotensive, her growth pattern is normal and the bone age remains advanced despite adequate suppression of adrenal androgens.

Learning points

  • 11β-hydroxylase (CYP11B1) deficiency (11OHD; OMIM +202010) is the second most common cause of CAH accounting for approximately 5–8% of cases with an incidence of 1:100 000–1:200 000 live births in non-consanguineous populations.

  • Two CYP11B1 inactivating novel mutations, p.Ala386Glu and p.Leu471Arg are reported

  • Regarding newborn females, in utero androgen excess results in ambiguous genitalia, whereas in the male newborn diagnosis may go undetected. In infancy and childhood adrenal androgen overproduction results in peripheral precocious puberty in boys and various degrees of virilization in girls.

  • Accumulation of 11-deoxycorticosterone and its metabolites causes hypertension in about two thirds of patients.

  • Diagnosis lies upon elevated 11-deoxycortisol and DOC plus upstream precursors, such as 17α-hydroxyprogesterone and Δ4-androstenedione.

  • The established treatment of steroid 11β-OHD is similar to that of steroid 21-hydroxylase deficiency and consists of glucocorticoid administration in order to reduce ACTH-driven DOC overproduction resulting in hypertension remission and improvement of the virilization symptoms.

Open access

Casey M Hay and Daniel I Spratt

Summary

A 55-year-old woman with asthma presented with adrenal insufficiency of unknown origin. She was referred to our Division of Reproductive Endocrinology to further evaluate an undetectable morning cortisol level discovered during the evaluation of a low serum DHEA-S level. She was asymptomatic other than having mild fatigue and weight gain. Her medication list included 220 μg of inhaled fluticasone propionate twice daily for asthma, which she was taking as prescribed. On presentation, the undetectable morning cortisol level was confirmed. A urinary measurement of fluticasone propionate 17β-carboxylic acid was markedly elevated. Fluticasone therapy was discontinued and salmeterol therapy initiated with supplemental hydrocortisone. Hydrocortisone therapy was discontinued after 2 months. A repeat urinary fluticasone measurement 4 months after the discontinuation of fluticasone therapy was undetectably low and morning cortisol level was normal at 18.0 μg/dl. Inhaled fluticasone is generally considered to be minimally systemically absorbed. This patient's only clinical evidence suggesting adrenal insufficiency was fatigue accompanying a low serum DHEA-S level. This case demonstrates that adrenal insufficiency can be caused by a routine dose of inhaled fluticasone. Missing this diagnosis could potentially result in adrenal crisis upon discontinuation of fluticasone therapy.

Learning points

  • Standard-dose inhaled fluticasone can cause adrenal insufficiency.

  • Adrenal insufficiency should be considered in patients taking, or who have recently discontinued, inhaled fluticasone therapy and present with new onset of nonspecific symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, depression, myalgia, arthralgia, unexplained weight loss, and nausea that are suggestive of adrenal insufficiency.

  • Adrenal insufficiency should be considered in postoperative patients who exhibit signs of hypoadrenalism after fluticasone therapy has been withheld in the perioperative setting.

  • Routine screening for hypoadrenalism in patients without clinical signs or symptoms of adrenal insufficiency after the discontinuation of inhaled fluticasone therapy is not indicated due to the apparently low incidence of adrenal insufficiency caused by fluticasone.