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Open access

Punith Kempegowda, Lauren Quinn, Lisa Shepherd, Samina Kauser, Briony Johnson, Alex Lawson and Andrew Bates

Summary

A 62-year-old Asian British female presented with increasing tiredness. She had multiple co-morbidities and was prescribed steroid inhalers for asthma. She had also received short courses of oral prednisolone for acute asthma exacerbations in the last 2 years. Unfortunately, the frequency and dose of steroids for asthma was unclear from history. Her type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) control had deteriorated over a short period of time (HbA1c: 48–85 mmol/mol). Blood tests revealed undetectable cortisol and ACTH (<28 mmol/L, <5.0 ng/L). Renin, electrolytes and thyroid function were within normal limits. A diagnosis of secondary adrenal insufficiency, likely due to long-term steroid inhaler and recurrent short courses of oral steroids for asthma exacerbations was made. Patient was commenced on hydrocortisone 10 mg, 5 mg and 5 mg regimen. Steroid inhaler was discontinued following consultation with respiratory physicians. Despite discontinuation of inhaled steroids, patient continued not to mount a response to Synacthen®. Upon further detailed history, patient admitted taking a ‘herbal’ preparation for chronic osteoarthritic knee pain. Toxicology analysis showed presence of dexamethasone, ciprofloxacin, paracetamol, diclofenac, ibuprofen and cimetidine in the herbal medication. Patient was advised to discontinue her herbal preparation. We believe the cause of secondary adrenal insufficiency in our patient was the herbal remedy containing dexamethasone, explaining persistent adrenal suppression despite discontinuation of all prescribed steroids, further possibly contributing to obesity, hypertension and suboptimal control of DM. In conclusion, a comprehensive drug history including herbal and over-the-counter preparations should be elucidated. Investigation for the presence of steroids in these preparations should be considered when patients persist to have secondary adrenal insufficiency despite discontinuation of prescribed steroid medications.

Learning points:

  • The likelihood of complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) in medication-induced secondary adrenal insufficiency should be considered in any patient presenting with potential symptoms of adrenal insufficiency.

  • If the contents of CAM preparation cannot be ascertained, toxicology screening should be considered.

  • Patients should be advised to stop taking CAM preparation when it contains steroids and hydrocortisone replacement therapy commenced, with periodic reassessment of adrenal function, and then if indicated weaned accordingly.

  • Patients should be informed about the contents of CAM therapies, so they can make a truly informed choice regarding the risks and benefits.

  • This case also highlights a need to increase regulatory processes over CAM therapies, given their propensity to contain a number of undisclosed medications and potent steroids.

Open access

Marcela Rodríguez Flores, Ruth Carmina Cruz Soto, Verónica Vázquez Velázquez, Reina Ruth Soriano Cortés, Carlos Aguilar Salinas and Eduardo García García

Summary

In patients with gastric bypass (GB), high glucose variability (GV) and hypoglycemia have been demonstrated, which could impact the metabolic status and eating behavior. We describe the glucose patterns determined through continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) in two patients with >5 years follow-up after GB and significant weight recovery, who reported hypoglycemic symptoms that interfered with daily activities, and their response to a nutritional and psycho-educative prescription. Case 1: A 40-year-old woman without pre-surgical type 2 diabetes (T2DM) and normal HbA1c, in whom CGM showed high GV and hypoglycemic episodes that did not correlate with the time of hypoglycemic symptoms. Her GV reduced after prescription of a diet with low glycemic index and modification of meal patterns. Case 2: A 48-year-old male with pre-surgical diagnosis of T2DM and current normal HbA1c, reported skipping meals. The CGM showed high GV, 15% of time in hypoglycemia and hyperglycemic spikes. After prescription of a low glycemic index diet, his GV increased and time in hypoglycemia decreased. Through the detailed self-monitoring needed for CGM, we discovered severe anxiety symptoms, consumption of simple carbohydrates and lack of meal structure. He was referred for more intensive psychological counseling. In conclusion, CGM can detect disorders in glucose homeostasis derived both from the mechanisms of bariatric surgery, as well as the patient’s behaviors and mental health, improving decision-making during follow-up.

Learning points:

  • High glycemic variability is frequent in patients operated with gastric bypass.

  • Diverse eating patterns, such as prolonged fasting and simple carbohydrate ingestion, and mental health disorders, including anxiety, can promote and be confused with worsened hypoglycemia.

  • CGM requires a detailed record of food ingested that can be accompanied by associated factors (circumstances, eating patterns, emotional symptoms). This allows the detection of particular behaviors and amount of dietary simple carbohydrates to guide recommendations provided within clinical care of these patients.

Open access

Wei Yang, David Pham, Aren T Vierra, Sarah Azam, Dorina Gui and John C Yoon

Summary

Ectopic ACTH-secreting pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors are rare and account for less than 5% of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome cases. We describe an unusual case of metastatic bronchial carcinoid tumor in a young woman presenting with unprovoked pulmonary emboli, which initially prevented the detection of the primary tumor on imaging. The source of ectopic ACTH was ultimately localized by a Gallium-DOTATATE scan, which demonstrated increased tracer uptake in a right middle lobe lung nodule and multiple liver nodules. The histological diagnosis was established based on a core biopsy of a hepatic lesion and the patient was started on a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist and a somatostatin analog. This case illustrates that hypercogulability can further aggravate the diagnostic challenges in ectopic ACTH syndrome. We discuss the literature on the current diagnosis and management strategies for ectopic ACTH syndrome.

Learning points:

  • In a young patient with concurrent hypokalemia and uncontrolled hypertension on multiple antihypertensive agents, secondary causes of hypertension should be evaluated.

  • Patients with Cushing’s syndrome can develop an acquired hypercoagulable state leading to spontaneous and postoperative venous thromboembolism.

  • Pulmonary emboli may complicate the imaging of the bronchial carcinoid tumor in ectopic ACTH syndrome.

  • Imaging with Gallium-68 DOTATATE PET/CT scan has the highest sensitivity and specificity in detecting ectopic ACTH-secreting tumors.

  • A combination of various noninvasive biochemical tests can enhance the diagnostic accuracy in differentiating Cushing’s disease from ectopic ACTH syndrome provided they have concordant results. Bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling remains the gold standard.

Open access

Catherine D Zhang, Pavel N Pichurin, Aleh Bobr, Melanie L Lyden, William F Young Jr and Irina Bancos

Summary

Carney complex (CNC) is a rare multiple neoplasia syndrome characterized by spotty pigmentation of the skin and mucosa in association with various non-endocrine and endocrine tumors, including primary pigmented nodular adrenocortical disease (PPNAD). A 20-year-old woman was referred for suspected Cushing syndrome. She had signs of cortisol excess as well as skin lentigines on physical examination. Biochemical investigation was suggestive of corticotropin (ACTH)-independent Cushing syndrome. Unenhanced computed tomography scan of the abdomen did not reveal an obvious adrenal mass. She subsequently underwent bilateral laparoscopic adrenalectomy, and histopathology was consistent with PPNAD. Genetic testing revealed a novel frameshift pathogenic variant c.488delC/p.Thr163MetfsX2 (ClinVar Variation ID: 424516) in the PRKAR1A gene, consistent with clinical suspicion for CNC. Evaluation for other clinical features of the complex was unrevealing. We present a case of PPNAD-associated Cushing syndrome leading to the diagnosis of CNC due to a novel PRKAR1A pathogenic variant.

Learning points:

  • PPNAD should be considered in the differential for ACTH-independent Cushing syndrome, especially when adrenal imaging appears normal.

  • The diagnosis of PPNAD should prompt screening for CNC.

  • CNC is a rare multiple neoplasia syndrome caused by inactivating pathogenic variants in the PRKAR1A gene.

  • Timely diagnosis of CNC and careful surveillance can help prevent potentially fatal complications of the disease.

Open access

Alireza Arefzadeh, Pooyan Khalighinejad, Bahar Ataeinia and Pegah Parvar

Summary

Deletion of chromosome 2q37 results in a rare congenital syndrome known as brachydactyly mental retardation (BDMR) syndrome; a syndrome which has phenotypes similar to Albright hereditary osteodystrophy (AHO) syndrome. In this report, we describe a patient with AHO due to microdeletion in long arm of chromosome 2 [del(2)(q37.3)] who had growth hormone (GH) deficiency, which is a unique feature among reported BDMR cases. This case was presented with shortening of the fourth and fifth metacarpals which along with AHO phenotype, brings pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism (PPHP) and pseudohypoparathyroidism type Ia (PHP-Ia) to mind; however, a genetic study revealed del(2)(q37.3). We recommend clinicians to take BDMR in consideration when they are faced with the features of AHO; although this syndrome is a rare disease, it should be ruled out while diagnosing PPHP or PHP-Ia. Moreover, we recommend evaluation of IGF 1 level and GH stimulation test in patients with BDMR whose height is below the 3rd percentile.

Learning points:

  • Clinicians must have brachydactyly mental retardation (BDMR) syndrome in consideration when they are faced with the features of Albright hereditary osteodystrophy.

  • Although BDMR syndrome is a rare disease, it should be ruled out while diagnosing PPHP or PHP-Ia.

  • Evaluation of IGF1 level in patients diagnosed with BDMR whose height is below the 3rd percentile is important.

Open access

Lukas Burget, Laura Audí Parera, Monica Fernandez-Cancio, Rolf Gräni, Christoph Henzen and Christa E Flück

Summary

Steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (STAR) is a key protein for the intracellular transport of cholesterol to the mitochondrium in endocrine organs (e.g. adrenal gland, ovaries, testes) and essential for the synthesis of all steroid hormones. Several mutations have been described and the clinical phenotype varies strongly and may be grouped into classic lipoid congenital adrenal hyperplasia (LCAH), in which all steroidogenesis is disrupted, and non-classic LCAH, which resembles familial glucocorticoid deficiency (FGD), which affects predominantly adrenal functions. Classic LCAH is characterized by early and potentially life-threatening manifestation of primary adrenal insufficiency (PAI) with electrolyte disturbances and 46,XY disorder of sex development (DSD) in males as well as lack of pubertal development in both sexes. Non-classic LCAH manifests usually later in life with PAI. Nevertheless, life-long follow-up of gonadal function is warranted. We describe a 26-year-old female patient who was diagnosed with PAI early in life without detailed diagnostic work-up. At the age of 14 months, she presented with hyperpigmentation, elevated ACTH and low cortisol levels. As her older brother was diagnosed with PAI two years earlier, she was put on hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone replacement therapy before an Addisonian crisis occurred. Upon review of her case in adulthood, consanguinity was noted in the family. Genetic analysis for PAI revealed a homozygous mutation in the STAR gene (c.562C>T, p.Arg188Cys) in both siblings. This mutation has been previously described in non-classic LCAH. This case illustrates that early onset, familial PAI is likely due to autosomal recessive genetic mutations in known genes causing PAI.

Learning points:

  • In childhood-onset PAI, a genetic cause is most likely, especially in families with consanguinity.

  • Adult patients with an etiologically unsolved PAI should be reviewed repeatedly and genetic work-up should be considered.

  • Knowing the exact genetic diagnosis in PAI is essential for genetic counselling and may allow disease-specific treatment.

  • Young men and women with NCLAH due to homozygous STAR Arg188Cys mutation should be investigated for their gonadal function as hypogonadism and infertility might occur during puberty or in early adulthood.

Open access

Carine Ghassan Richa, Khadija Jamal Saad, Georges Habib Halabi, Elie Mekhael Gharios, Fadi Louis Nasr and Marie Tanios Merheb

Summary

The objective of this study is to report three cases of paraneoplastic or ectopic Cushing syndrome, which is a rare phenomenon of the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-dependent Cushing syndrome. Three cases are reported in respect of clinical presentation, diagnosis and treatment in addition to relevant literature review. The results showed that ectopic ACTH secretion can be associated with different types of neoplasm most common of which are bronchial carcinoid tumors, which are slow-growing, well-differentiated neoplasms with a favorable prognosis and small-cell lung cancer, which are poorly differentiated tumors with a poor outcome. The latter is present in two out of three cases and in the remaining one, primary tumor could not be localized, representing a small fraction of patients with paraneoplastic Cushing. Diagnosis is established in the setting of high clinical suspicion by documenting an elevated cortisol level, ACTH and doing dexamethasone suppression test. Treatment options include management of the primary tumor by surgery and chemotherapy and treating Cushing syndrome. Prognosis is poor in SCLC. We concluded that in front of a high clinical suspicion, ectopic Cushing syndrome diagnosis should be considered, and identification of the primary tumor is essential.

Learning points:

  • Learning how to suspect ectopic Cushing syndrome and confirm it among all the causes of excess cortisol.

  • Distinguish between occult and severe ectopic Cushing syndrome and etiology.

  • Providing the adequate treatment of the primary tumor as well as for the cortisol excess.

  • Prognosis depends on the differentiation and type of the primary malignancy.

Open access

Peter Novodvorsky, Emma Walkinshaw, Waliur Rahman, Valerie Gordon, Karen Towse, Sarah Mitchell, Dinesh Selvarajah, Priya Madhuvrata and Alia Munir

Summary

Bariatric surgery is an effective therapy for obesity but is associated with long-term complications such as dumping syndromes and nutritional deficiencies. We report a case of a 26-year-old caucasian female, with history of morbid obesity and gestational diabetes (GDM), who became pregnant 4 months after Roux-en-Y bypass surgery. She developed GDM during subsequent pregnancy, which was initially managed with metformin and insulin. Nocturnal hypoglycaemia causing sleep disturbance and daytime somnolence occured at 19 weeks of pregnancy (19/40). Treatment with rapid-acting carbohydrates precipitated further hypoglycaemia. Laboratory investigations confirmed hypoglycaemia at 2.2 mmol/L with appropriately low insulin and C-peptide, intact HPA axis and negative IgG insulin antibodies. The patient was seen regularly by the bariatric dietetic team but concerns about compliance persisted. A FreeStyle Libre system was used from 21/40 enabling the patient a real-time feedback of changes in interstitial glucose following high or low GI index food intake. The patient declined a trial of acarbose but consented to an intraveneous dextrose infusion overnight resulting in improvement but not complete abolishment of nocturnal hypoglycaemia. Hypoglycaemias subsided at 34/40 and metformin and insulin had to be re-introduced due to high post-prandial blood glucose readings. An emergency C-section was indicated at 35 + 1/40 and a small-for-gestational-age female was delivered. There have been no further episodes of hypoglycaemia following delivery. This case illustrates challenges in the management of pregnancy following bariatric surgery. To our knowledge, this is the first use of FreeStyle Libre in dumping syndrome in pregnancy following bariatric surgery with troublesome nocturnal hypoglycaemia.

Learning points:

  • Bariatric surgery represents the most effective treatment modality in cases of severe obesity. With increasing prevalence of obesity, more people are likely to undergo bariatric procedures, many of which are women of childbearing age.

  • Fertility generally improves after bariatric surgery due to weight reduction, but pregnancy is not recommended for at least 12–24 months after surgery. If pregnancy occurs, there are currently little evidence-based guidelines available on how to manage complications such as dumping syndromes or gestational diabetes (GDM) in women with history of bariatric surgery.

  • Diagnosis of GDM relies on the use of a 75 g oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). The use of this test in pregnant women is not recommended due to its potential to precipitate dumping syndrome. Capillary glucose monitoring profiles or continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) is being currently discussed as alternative testing modalities.

  • As the CGM technology becomes more available, including the recently introduced FreeStyle Libre Flash glucose monitoring system, more pregnant women, including those after bariatric surgery, will have access to this technology. We suggest urgent development of guidelines regarding the use of CGM and flash glucose monitoring tools in these circumstances and in the interim recommend careful consideration of their use on a case-to-case basis.

Open access

Teresa Rego, Fernando Fonseca, Stéphanie Espiard, Karine Perlemoine, Jérôme Bertherat and Ana Agapito

Summary

PBMAH is a rare etiology of Cushing syndrome (CS). Familial clustering suggested a genetic cause that was recently confirmed, after identification of inactivating germline mutations in armadillo repeat-containing 5 (ARMC5) gene. A 70-year-old female patient was admitted due to left femoral neck fracture in May 2014, in Orthopedics Department. During hospitalization, hypertension (HTA) and hypokalemia were diagnosed. She presented with clinical signs of hypercortisolism and was transferred to the Endocrinology ward for suspected CS. Laboratory workup revealed: ACTH <5 pg/mL; urinary free cortisol (UFC), 532 µg/24 h (normal range: 20–90); failure to suppress the low-dose dexamethasone test (0.5 mg every 6 h for 48 h): cortisol 21 µg/dL. Abdominal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed enlarged nodular adrenals (right, 55 × 54 × 30 mm; left, 85 × 53 × 35 mm), and she was submitted to bilateral adrenalectomy. In 2006, this patient’s 39-year-old daughter had been treated by one of the authors. She presented with severe clinical and biological hypercortisolism. Computed tomography (CT) scan showed massively enlarged nodular adrenals with maximal axis of 15 cm for both. Bilateral adrenalectomy was performed. In this familial context of PBMAH, genetic study was performed. Leucocyte DNA genotyping identified in both patients the same germline heterozygous ARMC5 mutation in exon 1 c.172_173insA p.I58Nfs*45. The clinical cases herein described have an identical phenotype with severe hypercortisolism and huge adrenal glands, but different ages at the time of diagnosis. Current knowledge of inheritance of this disease, its insidious nature and the well-known deleterious effect of hypercortisolism favor genetic study to timely identify and treat these patients.

Learning points:

  • PBMAH is a rare etiology of CS, characterized by functioning adrenal macronodules and variable cortisol secretion.

  • The asymmetric/asynchronous involvement of only one adrenal gland can also occur, making disease diagnosis a challenge.

  • Familial clustering suggests a genetic cause that was recently confirmed, after identification of inactivating germline mutations in armadillo repeat-containing 5 (ARMC5) gene.

  • The insidious nature of this disease and the well-known deleterious effect of hypercortisolism favor genetic study of other family members, to diagnose and treat these patients timely.

  • As ARMC5 is expressed in many organs and recent findings suggest an association of PBMAH and meningioma, a watchful follow-up is required.

Open access

Philip C Johnston, Amir H Hamrahian, Richard A Prayson, Laurence Kennedy and Robert J Weil

Summary

A 54-year-old woman presented with bi-temporal hemianopia, palpitations, and diaphoresis. An invasive pituitary macroadenoma was discovered. The patient had biochemical evidence of secondary hyperthyroidism and GH excess; however, she did not appear to be acromegalic. Surgical removal of the pituitary mass revealed a plurihormonal TSH/GH co-secreting pituitary adenoma. TSH-secreting adenomas can co-secrete other hormones including GH, prolactin, and gonadotropins; conversely, co-secretion of TSH from a pituitary adenoma in acromegaly is infrequent.

Learning points

  • This case highlights an unusual patient with a rare TSH/GH co-secreting pituitary adenoma with absence of the clinical features of acromegaly.

  • Plurihormonality does not always translate into the clinical features of hormonal excess.

  • There appears to be a clinical and immunohistochemical spectrum present in plurihormonal tumors.