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Open access

Stephanie Wei Ping Wong, Yew Wen Yap, Ram Prakash Narayanan, Mohammad Al-Jubouri, Ashley Grossman, Christina Daousi and Yahya Mahgoub

Summary

We report our experience on managing a case of florid Cushing’s disease with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) sepsis using intravenous etomidate in the intensive care unit of a UK district general hospital.

Learning points:

  • Severe Cushing’s syndrome is associated with high morbidity and mortality.
  • Etomidate is a safe and effective medical therapy to rapidly lower cortisol levels even in the context of severe sepsis and immunosuppression.
  • Etomidate should ideally be administered in an intensive care unit but is still feasible in a district general hospital.
  • During treatment with etomidate, accumulation of serum 11β-deoxycortisol (11DOC) levels can cross-react with laboratory cortisol measurement leading to falsely elevated serum cortisol levels. For this reason, serum cortisol measurement using a mass spectrometry assay should ideally be used to guide etomidate prescription.
Open access

Pedro Marques, Nicola Tufton, Satya Bhattacharya, Mark Caulfield and Scott A Akker

Summary

Mineralocorticoid hypertension is most often caused by autonomous overproduction of aldosterone, but excess of other mineralocorticoid precursors can lead to a similar presentation. 11-Deoxycorticosterone (DOC) excess, which can occur in 11-β hydroxylase or 17-α hydroxylase deficiencies, in DOC-producing adrenocortical tumours or in patients taking 11-β hydroxylase inhibitors, may cause mineralocorticoid hypertension. We report a 35-year-old woman who in the third trimester of pregnancy was found to have a large adrenal mass on routine obstetric ultrasound. On referral to our unit, persistent hypertension and long-standing hypokalaemia was noted, despite good compliance with multiple antihypertensives. Ten years earlier, she had hypertension noted in pregnancy which had persisted after delivery. A MRI scan confirmed the presence of a 12 cm adrenal mass and biochemistry revealed high levels of DOC and low/normal renin, aldosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone, with normal catecholamine levels. The patient was treated with antihypertensives until obstetric delivery, following which she underwent an adrenalectomy. Histology confirmed a large adrenal cortical neoplasm of uncertain malignant potential. Postoperatively, blood pressure and serum potassium normalised, and the antihypertensive medication was stopped. Over 10 years of follow-up, she remains asymptomatic with normal DOC measurements. This case should alert clinicians to the possibility of a diagnosis of a DOC-producing adrenal tumours in patients with adrenal nodules and apparent mineralocorticoid hypertension in the presence of low or normal levels of aldosterone. The associated diagnostic and management challenges are discussed.

Learning points:

  • Hypermineralocorticoidism is characterised by hypertension, volume expansion and hypokalaemic alkalosis and is most commonly due to overproduction of aldosterone. However, excess of other mineralocorticoid products, such as DOC, lead to the same syndrome but with normal or low aldosterone levels.
  • The differential diagnosis of resistant hypertension with low renin and low/normal aldosterone includes congenital adrenal hyperplasia, syndrome of apparent mineralocorticoid excess, Cushing’s syndrome, Liddle’s syndrome and 11-deoxycorticosterone-producing tumours.
  • DOC is one intermediate product in the mineralocorticoid synthesis with weaker activity than aldosterone. However, marked DOC excess seen in 11-β hydroxylase or 17-α hydroxylase deficiencies in DOC-producing adrenocortical tumours or in patients taking 11-β hydroxylase inhibitors, may cause mineralocorticoid hypertension.
  • Excessive production of DOC in adrenocortical tumours has been attributed to reduced activity of the enzymes 11-β hydroxylase and 17-α hydroxylase and increased activity of 21-α hydroxylase.
  • The diagnosis of DOC-producing adrenal tumours is challenging because of its rarity and poor availability of DOC laboratory assays.
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

Benjamin G Challis, Chung Thong Lim, Alison Cluroe, Ewen Cameron and Stephen O’Rahilly

Summary

McKittrick–Wheelock syndrome (MWS) is a rare consequence of severe dehydration and electrolyte depletion due to mucinous diarrhoea secondary to a rectosigmoid villous adenoma. Reported cases of MWS commonly describe hypersecretion of mucinous diarrhoea in association with dehydration, hypokalaemia, hyponatraemia, hypochloraemia and pre-renal azotemia. Hyperglycaemia and diabetes are rarely reported manifestations of MWS. Herein we describe the case of a 59-year-old woman who presented with new-onset diabetes and severe electrolyte derangement due to a giant rectal villous adenoma. Subsequent endoscopic resection of the tumour cured her diabetes and normalised electrolytes. This case describes a rare cause of ‘curable diabetes’ and indicates hyperaldosteronism and/or whole-body potassium stores as important regulators of insulin secretion and glucose homeostasis.

Learning points

  • McKittrick–Wheelock syndrome (MWS) is typically characterised by the triad of pre-renal failure, electrolyte derangement and chronic diarrhoea resulting from a secretory colonic neoplasm.
  • Hyperglycaemia and new-onset diabetes are rare clinical manifestations of MWS.
  • Hyperaldosteronism and/or hypokalaemia may worsen glucose tolerance in MWS.
  • Aggressive replacement of fluid and electrolytes is the mainstay of acute management, with definitive treatment and complete reversal of the metabolic abnormalities being achieved by endoscopic or surgical resection of the neoplasm.

Open access

Yael R Nobel, Maya B Lodish, Margarita Raygada, Jaydira Del Rivero, Fabio R Faucz, Smita B Abraham, Charalampos Lyssikatos, Elena Belyavskaya, Constantine A Stratakis and Mihail Zilbermint

Summary

Autosomal recessive pseudohypoaldosteronism type 1 (PHA1) is a rare disorder characterized by sodium wasting, failure to thrive, hyperkalemia, hypovolemia and metabolic acidosis. It is due to mutations in the amiloride-sensitive epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) and is characterized by diminished response to aldosterone. Patients may present with life-threatening hyperkalemia, which must be recognized and appropriately treated. A 32-year-old female was referred to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for evaluation of hyperkalemia and muscle pain. Her condition started in the second week of life, when she was brought to an outside hospital lethargic and unresponsive. At that time, she was hypovolemic, hyperkalemic and acidotic, and was eventually treated with sodium bicarbonate and potassium chelation. At the time of the presentation to the NIH, her laboratory evaluation revealed serum potassium 5.1 mmol/l (reference range: 3.4–5.1 mmol/l), aldosterone 2800 ng/dl (reference range: ≤21 ng/dl) and plasma renin activity 90 ng/ml/h (reference range: 0.6–4.3 ng/ml per h). Diagnosis of PHA1 was suspected. Sequencing of the SCNN1B gene, which codes for ENaC, revealed that the patient is a compound heterozygote for two novel variants (c.1288delC and c.1466+1 G>A), confirming the suspected diagnosis of PHA1. In conclusion, we report a patient with novel variants of the SCNN1B gene causing PHA1 with persistent, symptomatic hyperkalemia.

Learning points

  • PHA1 is a rare genetic condition, causing functional abnormalities of the amiloride-sensitive ENaC.
  • PHA1 was caused by previously unreported SCNN1B gene mutations (c.1288delC and c.1466+1 G>A).
  • Early recognition of this condition and adherence to symptomatic therapy is important, as the electrolyte abnormalities found may lead to severe dehydration, cardiac arrhythmias and even death.
  • High doses of sodium polystyrene sulfonate, sodium chloride and sodium bicarbonate are required for symptomatic treatment.

Open access

Maura Bucciarelli, Ya-Yu Lee and Vasudev Magaji

Summary

Ectopic ACTH secretion from breast cancer is extremely rare. We report a case of a 30-year-old woman with a history of breast cancer, who presented with psychosis and paranoid behaviour. CT of the head showed white matter disease consistent with posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES). Despite using mifepristone with multiple antihypertensives including lisinopril, spironolactone and metoprolol, she was hypertensive. Transaminitis did not allow mifepristone dose escalation and ketoconazole utilization. Etomidate infusion at a non-sedating dose in the intensive care unit controlled her hypertension and cortisol levels. She was transitioned to metyrapone and spironolactone. She was discharged from the hospital on metyrapone with spironolactone and underwent chemotherapy. She died 9 months later after she rapidly redeveloped Cushing's syndrome and had progressive metastatic breast cancer involving multiple bones, liver and lungs causing respiratory failure.

Learning points

  • Cushing's syndrome from ectopic ACTH secreting breast cancer is extremely rare.
  • Cushing's syndrome causing psychosis could be multifactorial including hypercortisolism and PRES.
  • Etomidate at non-sedating doses in intensive care setting can be effective to reduce cortisol production followed by transition to oral metyrapone.