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Open access

Aisling McCarthy, Sophie Howarth, Serena Khoo, Julia Hale, Sue Oddy, David Halsall, Brian Fish, Sashi Mariathasan, Katrina Andrews, Samson O Oyibo, Manjula Samyraju, Katarzyna Gajewska-Knapik, Soo-Mi Park, Diana Wood, Carla Moran and Ruth T Casey

Summary

Primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) is characterised by the overproduction of parathyroid hormone (PTH) due to parathyroid hyperplasia, adenoma or carcinoma and results in hypercalcaemia and a raised or inappropriately normal PTH. Symptoms of hypercalcaemia occur in 20% of patients and include fatigue, nausea, constipation, depression, renal impairment and cardiac arrythmias. In the most severe cases, uraemia, coma or cardiac arrest can result. Primary hyperparathyroidism in pregnancy is rare, with a reported incidence of 1%. Maternal and fetal/neonatal complications are estimated to occur in 67 and 80% of untreated cases respectively. Maternal complications include nephrolithiasis, pancreatitis, hyperemesis gravidarum, pre-eclampsia and hypercalcemic crises. Fetal complications include intrauterine growth restriction; preterm delivery and a three to five-fold increased risk of miscarriage. There is a direct relationship between the degree of severity of hypercalcaemia and miscarriage risk, with miscarriage being more common in those patients with a serum calcium greater than 2.85 mmol/L. Neonatal complications include hypocalcemia. Herein, we present a case series of three women who were diagnosed with primary hyperparathyroidism in pregnancy. Case 1 was diagnosed with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) in pregnancy and required a bilateral neck exploration and subtotal parathyroidectomy in the second trimester of her pregnancy due to symptomatic severe hypercalcaemia. Both case 2 and case 3 were diagnosed with primary hyperparathyroidism due to a parathyroid adenoma and required a unilateral parathyroidectomy in the second trimester. This case series highlights the work-up and the tailored management approach to patients with primary hyperparathyroidism in pregnancy.

Learning points:

  • Primary hyperparathyroidism in pregnancy is associated with a high incidence of associated maternal fetal and neonatal complications directly proportionate to degree of maternal serum calcium levels.

  • Parathyroidectomy is the definitive treatment for primary hyperparathyroidism in pregnancy and was used in the management of all three cases in this series. It is recommended when serum calcium is persistently greater than 2.75 mmol/L and or for the management of maternal or fetal complications of hypercalcaemia. Surgical management, when necessary is ideally performed in the second trimester.

  • Primary hyperparathyroidism is genetically determined in ~10% of cases, where the likelihood is increased in those under 40 years, where there is relevant family history and those with other related endocrinopathies. Genetic testing is a useful diagnostic adjunct and can guide treatment and management options for patients diagnosed with primary hyperparathyroidism in pregnancy, as described in case 1 in this series, who was diagnosed with MEN1 syndrome.

  • Women of reproductive age with primary hyperparathyroidism need to be informed of the risks and complications associated with primary hyperparathyroidism in pregnancy and pregnancy should be deferred and or avoided until curative surgery has been performed and calcium levels have normalised.

Open access

Peter Novodvorsky, Ziad Hussein, Muhammad Fahad Arshad, Ahmed Iqbal, Malee Fernando, Alia Munir and Sabapathy P Balasubramanian

Summary

Spontaneous remission of primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) due to necrosis and haemorrhage of parathyroid adenoma, the so-called ‘parathyroid auto-infarction’ is a very rare, but previously described phenomenon. Patients usually undergo parathyroidectomy or remain under close clinical and biochemical surveillance. We report two cases of parathyroid auto-infarction diagnosed in the same tertiary centre; one managed surgically and the other conservatively up to the present time. Case #1 was a 51-year old man with PHPT (adjusted (adj.) calcium: 3.11 mmol/L (reference range (RR): 2.20–2.60 mmol/L), parathyroid hormone (PTH) 26.9 pmol/L (RR: 1.6–6.9 pmol/L) and urine calcium excretion consistent with PHPT) referred for parathyroidectomy. Repeat biochemistry 4 weeks later at the surgical clinic showed normal adj. calcium (2.43 mmol/L) and reduced PTH. Serial ultrasound imaging demonstrated reduction in size of the parathyroid lesion from 33 to 17 mm. Twenty months later, following recurrence of hypercalcaemia, he underwent neck exploration and resection of an enlarged right inferior parathyroid gland. Histology revealed increased fibrosis and haemosiderin deposits in the parathyroid lesion in keeping with auto-infarction. Case #2 was a 54-year-old lady admitted with severe hypercalcaemia (adj. calcium: 4.58 mmol/L, PTH 51.6 pmol/L (RR: 1.6–6.9 pmol/L)) and severe vitamin D deficiency. She was treated with intravenous fluids and pamidronate and 8 days later developed symptomatic hypocalcaemia (1.88 mmol/L) with dramatic decrease of PTH (17.6 pmol/L). MRI of the neck showed a 44 mm large cystic parathyroid lesion. To date, (18 months later), she has remained normocalcaemic.

Learning points:

  • Primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) is characterised by excess parathyroid hormone (PTH) secretion arising mostly from one or more autonomously functioning parathyroid adenomas (up to 85%), diffuse parathyroid hyperplasia (<15%) and in 1–2% of cases from parathyroid carcinoma.

  • PHPT and hypercalcaemia of malignancy, account for the majority of clinical presentations of hypercalcaemia.

  • Spontaneous remission of PHPT due to necrosis, haemorrhage and infarction of parathyroid adenoma, the so-called ‘parathyroid auto-infarction’, ‘auto-parathyroidectomy’ or ‘parathyroid apoplexy’ is a very rare in clinical practice but has been previously reported in the literature.

  • In most cases, patients with parathyroid auto-infarction undergo parathyroidectomy. Those who are managed conservatively need to remain under close clinical and biochemical surveillance long-term as in most cases PHPT recurs, sometimes several years after auto-infarction.

Open access

Ilan Rahmani Tzvi-Ran, Judith Olchowski, Merav Fraenkel, Asher Bashiri and Leonid Barski

Summary

A previously healthy 24-year-old female underwent an emergent caesarean section without a major bleeding described. During the first post-operative days (POD) she complained of fatigue, headache and a failure to lactate with no specific and conclusive findings on head CT. On the following days, fever rose with a suspicion of an obstetric surgery-related infection, again with no evidence to support the diagnosis. On POD5 a new-onset hyponatremia was documented. The urine analysis suggested SIADH, and following a treatment failure, further investigation was performed and demonstrated both central hypothyroidism and adrenal insufficiency. The patient was immediately treated with hydrocortisone followed by levothyroxine with a rapid resolution of symptoms and hyponatremia. Further laboratory investigation demonstrated anterior hypopituitarism. The main differential diagnosis was Sheehan’s syndrome vs lymphocytic hypophysitis. Brain MRI was performed as soon as it was available and findings consistent with Sheehan’s syndrome confirmed the diagnosis. Lifelong hormonal replacement therapy was initiated. Further complaints on polyuria and polydipsia have led to a water deprivation testing and the diagnosis of partial central insipidus and appropriate treatment with DDAVP.

Learning points:

  • Sheehan’s syndrome can occur, though rarely, without an obvious major post-partum hemorrhage.

  • The syndrome may resemble lymphocytic hypophysitis clinically and imaging studies may be crucial in order to differentiate both conditions.

  • Hypopituitarism presentation may be variable and depends on the specific hormone deficit.

  • Euvolemic hyponatremia workup must include thyroid function test and 08:00 AM cortisol levels.

Open access

Michal Barabas, Isabel Huang-Doran, Debbie Pitfield, Hazel Philips, Manoj Goonewardene, Ruth T Casey and Benjamin G Challis

Summary

A 67-year-old woman presented with a generalised rash associated with weight loss and resting tachycardia. She had a recent diagnosis of diabetes mellitus. Biochemical evaluation revealed elevated levels of circulating glucagon and chromogranin B. Cross-sectional imaging demonstrated a pancreatic lesion and liver metastases, which were octreotide-avid. Biopsy of the liver lesion confirmed a diagnosis of well-differentiated grade 2 pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour, consistent with metastatic glucagonoma. Serial echocardiography commenced 4 years before this diagnosis demonstrated a progressive left ventricular dilatation and dysfunction in the absence of ischaemia, suggestive of glucagonoma-associated dilated cardiomyopathy. Given the severity of the cardiac impairment, surgical management was considered inappropriate and somatostatin analogue therapy was initiated, affecting clinical and biochemical improvement. Serial cross-sectional imaging demonstrated stable disease 2 years after diagnosis. Left ventricular dysfunction persisted, however, despite somatostatin analogue therapy and optimal medical management of cardiac failure. In contrast to previous reports, the case we describe demonstrates that chronic hyperglucagonaemia may lead to irreversible left ventricular compromise. Management of glucagonoma therefore requires careful and serial evaluation of cardiac status.

Learning points:

  • In rare cases, glucagonoma may present with cardiac failure as the dominant feature. Significant cardiac impairment may occur in the absence of other features of glucagonoma syndrome due to subclinical chronic hyperglucagonaemia.

  • A diagnosis of glucagonoma should be considered in patients with non-ischaemic cardiomyopathy, particularly those with other features of glucagonoma syndrome.

  • Cardiac impairment due to glucagonoma may not respond to somatostatin analogue therapy, even in the context of biochemical improvement.

  • All patients with a new diagnosis of glucagonoma should be assessed clinically for evidence of cardiac failure and, if present, a baseline transthoracic echocardiogram should be performed. In the presence of cardiac impairment these patients should be managed by an experienced cardiologist.

Open access

Matthieu St-Jean, Jessica MacKenzie-Feder, Isabelle Bourdeau and André Lacroix

Summary

A 29-year-old G4A3 woman presented at 25 weeks of pregnancy with progressive signs of Cushing’s syndrome (CS), gestational diabetes requiring insulin and hypertension. A 3.4 × 3.3 cm right adrenal adenoma was identified during abdominal ultrasound imaging for nephrolithiasis. Investigation revealed elevated levels of plasma cortisol, 24 h urinary free cortisol (UFC) and late-night salivary cortisol (LNSC). Serum ACTH levels were not fully suppressed (4 and 5 pmol/L (N: 2–11)). One month post-partum, CS regressed, 24-h UFC had normalised while ACTH levels were now less than 2 pmol/L; however, dexamethasone failed to suppress cortisol levels. Tests performed in vivo 6 weeks post-partum to identify aberrant hormone receptors showed no cortisol stimulation by various tests (including 300 IU hLH i.v.) except after administration of 250 µg i.v. Cosyntropin 1–24. Right adrenalectomy demonstrated an adrenocortical adenoma and atrophy of adjacent cortex. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis of the adenoma revealed the presence of ACTH (MC2) receptor mRNA, while LHCG receptor mRNA was almost undetectable. This case reveals that CS exacerbation in the context of pregnancy can result from the placental-derived ACTH stimulation of MC2 receptors on the adrenocortical adenoma. Possible contribution of other placental-derived factors such as oestrogens, CRH or CRH-like peptides cannot be ruled out.

Learning points:

  • Diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome during pregnancy is complicated by several physiological alterations in hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis regulation occurring in normal pregnancy.

  • Cushing’s syndrome (CS) exacerbation during pregnancy can be associated with aberrant expression of LHCG receptor on primary adrenocortical tumour or hyperplasia in some cases, but not in this patient.

  • Placental-derived ACTH, which is not subject to glucocorticoid negative feedback, stimulated cortisol secretion from this adrenal adenoma causing transient CS exacerbation during pregnancy.

  • Following delivery and tumour removal, suppression of HPA axis can require several months to recover and requires glucocorticoid replacement therapy.

Open access

C Kamath, J Witczak, M A Adlan and L D Premawardhana

Summary

Thymic enlargement (TE) in Graves’ disease (GD) is often diagnosed incidentally when chest imaging is done for unrelated reasons. This is becoming more common as the frequency of chest imaging increases. There are currently no clear guidelines for managing TE in GD. Subject 1 is a 36-year-old female who presented with weight loss, increased thirst and passage of urine and postural symptoms. Investigations confirmed GD, non-PTH-dependent hypercalcaemia and Addison’s disease (AD). CT scans to exclude underlying malignancy showed TE but normal viscera. A diagnosis of hypercalcaemia due to GD and AD was made. Subject 2, a 52-year-old female, was investigated for recurrent chest infections, haemoptysis and weight loss. CT thorax to exclude chest malignancy, showed TE. Planned thoracotomy was postponed when investigations confirmed GD. Subject 3 is a 47-year-old female who presented with breathlessness, chest pain and shakiness. Investigations confirmed T3 toxicosis due to GD. A CT pulmonary angiogram to exclude pulmonary embolism showed TE. The CT appearances in all three subjects were consistent with benign TE. These subjects were given appropriate endocrine treatment only (without biopsy or thymectomy) as CT appearances showed the following appearances of benign TE – arrowhead shape, straight regular margins, absence of calcification and cyst formation and radiodensity equal to surrounding muscle. Furthermore, interval scans confirmed thymic regression of over 60% in 6 months after endocrine control. In subjects with CT appearances consistent with benign TE, a conservative policy with interval CT scans at 6 months after endocrine control will prevent inappropriate surgical intervention.

Learning points:

  • Chest imaging is common in modern clinical practice and incidental anterior mediastinal abnormalities are therefore diagnosed frequently.

  • Thymic enlargement (TE) associated with Graves’ disease (GD) is occasionally seen in view of the above.

  • There is no validated strategy to manage TE in GD at present.

  • However, CT (or MRI) scan features of the thymus may help characterise benign TE, and such subjects do not require thymic biopsy or surgery at presentation.

  • In them, an expectant ‘wait and see’ policy is recommended with GD treatment only, as the thymus will show significant regression 6 months after endocrine control.

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

Benjamin Kwan, Bernard Champion, Steven Boyages, Craig F Munns, Roderick Clifton-Bligh, Catherine Luxford and Bronwyn Crawford

Summary

Autosomal dominant hypocalcaemia type 1 (ADH1) is a rare familial disorder characterised by low serum calcium and low or inappropriately normal serum PTH. It is caused by activating CASR mutations, which produces a left-shift in the set point for extracellular calcium. We describe an Australian family with a novel heterozygous missense mutation in CASR causing ADH1. Mild neuromuscular symptoms (paraesthesia, carpopedal spasm) were present in most affected individuals and required treatment with calcium and calcitriol. Basal ganglia calcification was present in three out of four affected family members. This case highlights the importance of correctly identifying genetic causes of hypocalcaemia to allow for proper management and screening of family members.

Learning points:

  • ADH1 is a rare cause of hypoparathyroidism due to activating CASR mutations and is the mirror image of familial hypocalciuric hypercalcaemia.

  • In patients with ADH1, symptoms of hypocalcaemia may be mild or absent. Basal ganglia calcification may be present in over a third of patients.

  • CASR mutation analysis is required for diagnostic confirmation and to facilitate proper management, screening and genetic counselling of affected family members.

  • Treatment with calcium and activated vitamin D analogues should be reserved for symptomatic individuals due to the risk of exacerbating hypercalciuria and its associated complications.

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

Ehtasham Ahmad, Kashif Hafeez, Muhammad Fahad Arshad, Jimboy Isuga and Apostolos Vrettos

Summary

Primary hypothyroidism is a common endocrine condition, most commonly caused by autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s disease) while Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism is usually a permanent condition in most patients requiring lifelong levothyroxine treatment. Transformation from Hashimoto’s disease to Graves’ disease is considered rare but recently been increasingly recognised. We describe a case of a 61-year-old lady who was diagnosed with hypothyroidism approximately three decades ago and treated with levothyroxine replacement therapy. Approximately 27 years after the initial diagnosis of hypothyroidism, she started to become biochemically and clinically hyperthyroid. This was initially managed with gradual reduction in the dose of levothyroxine, followed by complete cessation of the medication, but she remained hyperthyroid, ultimately requiring anti-thyroid treatment with Carbimazole. This case highlights that there should be a high index of suspicion for a possible conversion of hypothyroidism to hyperthyroidism, even many years after the initial diagnosis of hypothyroidism. To our knowledge, this case illustrates the longest reported time interval between the diagnosis of hypothyroidism until the conversion to hyperthyroidism.

Learning points:

  • Occurrence of Graves’ disease after primary hypothyroidism is uncommon but possible.

  • In this case, there was a time-lapse of almost 28 years and therefore this entity may not be as rare as previously thought.

  • Diagnosis requires careful clinical and biochemical assessment. Otherwise, the case can be easily confused for over-replacement of levothyroxine.

  • We suggest measuring both anti-thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies and TSH receptor antibodies (TRAB) in suspected cases.

  • The underlying aetiology for the conversion is not exactly known but probably involves autoimmune switch by an external stimulus in genetically susceptible individuals.