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Open access

Alessandro Rossini, Francesca Perticone, Laura Frosio, Marco Schiavo Lena and Roberto Lanzi

Summary

ACTH-secreting pheochromocytoma is a very rare cause of Cushing’s syndrome, with a high morbidity and mortality risk due to both cortisol and catecholamines excess. We report the case of a 45-year-old female patient with a 3 cm, high-density, left adrenal mass, diagnosed as an ACTH-secreting pheochromocytoma. The biochemical sensitivity of the tumor to somatostatin analogues was tested by a 100 μg s.c. octreotide administration, which led to an ACTH and cortisol reduction of 50 and 25% respectively. In addition to alpha and beta blockers, preoperative approach to laparoscopic adrenalectomy included octreotide, a somatostatin analogue, together with ketoconazole, in order to achieve an adequate pre-surgical control of cortisol release. Histopathological assessment confirmed an ACTH-secreting pheochromocytoma expressing type 2 and 5 somatostatin receptors (SSTR-2 and -5).

Learning points:

  • ACTH-secreting pheochromocytomas represent a rare and severe condition, characterized by high morbidity and mortality risk.
  • Surgical removal of the adrenal mass is the gold standard treatment, but adequate medical therapy is required preoperatively to improve the surgical outcome and to avoid major complications.
  • Somatostatin analogs, in addition to other medications, may represent a useful therapeutic option for the presurgical management of selected patients.
  • In this sense, the octreotide challenge test is a useful tool to predict favorable therapeutic response to the treatment.
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

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

S F Wan Muhammad Hatta, L Kandaswamy, C Gherman-Ciolac, J Mann and H N Buch

Summary

Myopathy is a well-known complication of hypercortisolism and commonly involves proximal lower-limb girdle. We report a rare case of Cushing’s syndrome in a 60-year-old female presenting with significant respiratory muscle weakness and respiratory failure. She had history of rheumatoid arthritis, primary biliary cirrhosis and primary hypothyroidism and presented with weight gain and increasing shortness of breath. Investigations confirmed a restrictive defect with impaired gas transfer but with no significant parenchymatous pulmonary disease. Respiratory muscle test confirmed weakness of respiratory muscles and diaphragm. Biochemical and radiological investigations confirmed hypercortisolaemia secondary to a left adrenal tumour. Following adrenalectomy her respiratory symptoms improved along with an objective improvement in the respiratory muscle strength, diaphragmatic movement and pulmonary function test.

Learning points:

  • Cushing’s syndrome can present in many ways, a high index of suspicion is required for its diagnosis, as often patients present with only few of the pathognomonic symptoms and signs of the syndrome.
  • Proximal lower-limb girdle myopathy is common in Cushing’s syndrome. Less often long-term exposure of excess glucocorticoid production can also affect other muscles including respiratory muscle and the diaphragm leading to progressive shortness of breath and even acute respiratory failure.
  • Treatment of Cushing’s myopathy involves treating the underlying cause that is hypercortisolism. Various medications have been suggested to hinder the development of GC-induced myopathy, but their effects are poorly analysed.
Open access

Carolina Shalini Singarayar, Foo Siew Hui, Nicholas Cheong and Goay Swee En

Summary

Thyrotoxicosis is associated with cardiac dysfunction; more commonly, left ventricular dysfunction. However, in recent years, there have been more cases reported on right ventricular dysfunction, often associated with pulmonary hypertension in patients with thyrotoxicosis. Three cases of thyrotoxicosis associated with right ventricular dysfunction were presented. A total of 25 other cases of thyrotoxicosis associated with right ventricular dysfunction published from 1994 to 2017 were reviewed along with the present 3 cases. The mean age was 45 years. Most (82%) of the cases were newly diagnosed thyrotoxicosis. There was a preponderance of female gender (71%) and Graves’ disease (86%) as the underlying aetiology. Common presenting features included dyspnoea, fatigue and ankle oedema. Atrial fibrillation was reported in 50% of the cases. The echocardiography for almost all cases revealed dilated right atrial and or ventricular chambers with elevated pulmonary artery pressure. The abnormal echocardiographic parameters were resolved in most cases after rendering the patients euthyroid. Right ventricular dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension are not well-recognized complications of thyrotoxicosis. They are life-threatening conditions that can be reversed with early recognition and treatment of thyrotoxicosis. Signs and symptoms of right ventricular dysfunction should be sought in all patients with newly diagnosed thyrotoxicosis, and prompt restoration of euthyroidism is warranted in affected patients before the development of overt right heart failure.

Learning points:

  • Thyrotoxicosis is associated with right ventricular dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension apart from left ventricular dysfunction described in typical thyrotoxic cardiomyopathy.
  • Symptoms and signs of right ventricular dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension should be sought in all patients with newly diagnosed thyrotoxicosis.
  • Thyrotoxicosis should be considered in all cases of right ventricular dysfunction or pulmonary hypertension not readily explained by other causes.
  • Prompt restoration of euthyroidism is warranted in patients with thyrotoxicosis complicated by right ventricular dysfunction with or without pulmonary hypertension to allow timely resolution of the abnormal cardiac parameters before development of overt right heart failure.
Open access

Natasha Shrikrishnapalasuriyar, Mirena Noyvirt, Philip Evans, Bethan Gibson, Elin Foden and Atul Kalhan

A 54-year-old woman was admitted to hospital with a presumed allergic reaction to a single dose of amoxicillin given for a suspected upper respiratory tract infection. She complained of chest tightness although there was no wheeze or stridor. On examination, she was pyrexial, tachycardic, hypertensive and had a diffuse mottled rash on her lower limbs. Her initial investigations showed raised inflammatory markers. She was treated in the intensive care for a presumed anaphylactic reaction with an underlying sepsis. Further investigations including CT head and CSF examination were unremarkable; however, a CT abdomen showed a 10 cm heterogeneous right adrenal mass. Based on review by the endocrine team, a diagnosis of pheochromocytoma crisis was made, which was subsequently confirmed on 24-h urinary metanephrine measurement. An emergency adrenalectomy was considered although she was deemed unfit for surgery. Despite intensive medical management, her conditioned deteriorated and she died secondary to multi-organ failure induced by pheochromocytoma crisis.

Learning points:

  • Pheochromocytoma have relatively higher prevalence in autopsy series (0.05–1%) suggestive of a diagnosis, which is often missed.
  • Pheochromocytoma crisis is an endocrine emergency characterized by hemodynamic instability induced by surge of catecholamines often precipitated by trauma and medications (β blockers, general anesthetic agents, ephedrine and steroids).
  • Pheochromocytoma crisis can mimic acute coronary syndrome, cardiogenic or septic shock.
  • Livedo reticularis can be a rare although significant cutaneous marker of underlying pheochromocytoma crisis.
Open access

Diana Oliveira, Adriana Lages, Sandra Paiva and Francisco Carrilho

Summary

Addison’s disease, or primary adrenocortical insufficiency, is a long-term, potentially severe, rare endocrine disorder. In pregnancy, it is even rarer. We report the case of a 30-year-old pregnant patient with Addison’s disease, referred to Obstetrics-Endocrinology specialty consult at 14 weeks gestation. She had been to the emergency department of her local hospital various times during the first trimester presenting with a clinical scenario suggestive of glucocorticoid under-replacement (nausea, persistent vomiting and hypotension), but this was interpreted as normal pregnancy symptoms. Hydrocortisone dose was adjusted, and the patient maintained regular follow-up. No complications were reported for the remainder of gestation and delivery. Pregnant patients with Addison’s disease should be monitored during gestation and in the peripartum period by multidisciplinary teams. Adjustments in glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid replacement therapy are often necessary, and monitoring should be based mainly on clinical findings, which becomes increasingly difficult during pregnancy. Patient education and specialized monitoring are key to avoiding complications from under- or over-replacement therapy in this period.

Learning points:

  • An increase in glucocorticoid replacement dose is expected to be necessary during pregnancy in a woman with Addison’s disease.
  • Patient education regarding steroid cover and symptoms of acute adrenal crisis are fundamental.
  • Monitoring in this period is challenging and remains mainly clinical.
  • The increase in hydrocortisone dose often obviates the need to increase fludrocortisone dose.
Open access

Run Yu, Danielle Sharaga, Christopher Donner, M Fernando Palma Diaz, Masha J Livhits and Michael W Yeh

Summary

Pheochromocytomatosis, a very rare form of pheochromocytoma recurrence, refers to new, multiple, and often small pheochromocytomas growing in and around the surgical resection bed of a previous adrenalectomy for a solitary pheochromocytoma. We here report a case of pheochromocytomatosis in a 70-year-old female. At age 64 years, she was diagnosed with a 6-cm right pheochromocytoma. She underwent laparoscopic right adrenalectomy, during which the tumor capsule was ruptured. At age 67 years, CT of abdomen did not detect recurrence. At age 69 years, she began experiencing episodes of headache and diaphoresis. At age 70 years, biochemical markers of pheochromocytoma became elevated with normal calcitonin level. CT revealed multiple nodules of various sizes in the right adrenal fossa, some of which were positive on metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scan. She underwent open resection of pheochromocytomatosis. Histological examination confirmed numerous pheochromocytomas ranging 0.1–1.2 cm in size. Next-generation sequencing of a panel of genes found a novel heterozygous germline c.570delC mutation in TMEM127, one of the genes that, if mutated, confers susceptibility to syndromic pheochromocytoma. Molecular analysis showed that the c.570delC mutation is likely pathogenic. Our case highlights the typical presentation of pheochromocytomatosis, a rare complication of adrenalectomy for pheochromocytoma. Previous cases and ours collectively demonstrate that tumor capsule rupture during adrenalectomy is a risk factor for pheochromocytomatosis. We also report a novel TMEM127 mutation in this case.

Learning points:

  • Pheochromocytomatosis is a very rare form of pheochromocytoma recurrence.
  • Pheochromocytomatosis refers to new, multiple and often small pheochromocytomas growing in and around the surgical resection bed of a previous adrenalectomy for a solitary pheochromocytoma.
  • Tumor capsule rupture during adrenalectomy predisposes a patient to develop pheochromocytomatosis.
  • Surgical resection of the multiple tumors of pheochromocytomatosis is recommended.
  • Pheochromocytoma recurrence should prompt genetic testing for syndromic pheochromocytoma.
Open access

Kharis Burns, Darshika Christie-David and Jenny E Gunton

Summary

Ketoconazole was a first-line agent for suppressing steroidogenesis in Cushing's disease. It now has limited availability. Fluconazole, another azole antifungal, is an alternative, although its in vivo efficacy is unclear. A 61-year-old female presented with weight gain, abdominal striae and worsening depression. HbA1c increased to 76 mmol/mol despite increasing insulin. Investigations confirmed cortisol excess; afternoon serum cortisol was 552 nmol/l with an inappropriate ACTH of 9.3 pmol/l. In total, 24-h urinary free cortisol (UFC):creatinine ratio was 150 nmol/mmol with failure to suppress after 48 h of low-dose dexamethasone. Pituitary MRI revealed a 4-mm microadenoma. Inferior petrosal sinus sampling confirmed Cushing's disease. Transsphenoidal resection was performed and symptoms improved. However, disease recurred 6 months later with elevated 24-h UFC >2200 nmol/day. Metyrapone was commenced at 750 mg tds. Ketoconazole was later added at 400 mg daily, with dose reduction in metyrapone. When ketoconazole became unavailable, fluconazole 200 mg daily was substituted. Urine cortisol:creatinine ratio rose, and the dose was increased to 400 mg daily with normalisation of urine hormone levels. Serum cortisol and urine cortisol:creatinine ratios remain normal on this regimen at 6 months. In conclusion, to our knowledge, this is the first case demonstrating prolonged in vivo efficacy of fluconazole in combination with low-dose metyrapone for the treatment of Cushing's disease. Fluconazole has a more favourable toxicity profile, and we suggest that it is a potential alternative for medical management of Cushing's disease.

Learning points

  • Surgery remains first line for the management of Cushing's disease with pharmacotherapy used where surgery is unsuccessful or there is persistence of cortisol excess.
  • Ketoconazole has previously been used to treat cortisol excess through inhibition of CYP450 enzymes 11-β-hydroxylase and 17-α-hydroxylase, though its availability is limited in many countries.
  • Fluconazole shares similar properties to ketoconazole, although it has less associated toxicity.
  • Fluconazole represents a suitable alternative for the medical management of Cushing's disease and proved an effective addition to metyrapone in the management of this case.

Open access

C P Neves, E T Massolt, R P Peeters, S J Neggers and W W de Herder

Summary

A 21-year-old woman presented with amenorrhea, bilateral galactorrhea and fatigue. Visual acuity and visual fields were normal. Laboratory examination demonstrated hyperprolactinemia. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the pituitary showed a 19×17×12-mm sellar mass with supra- and parasellar extension, causing compression of the pituitary stalk and optic chiasm. Further examinations confirmed mild hyperprolactinemia, strongly elevated TSH (>500 mU/l), low free thyroxine (FT4), hypogonadotropic hypogonadism and secondary adrenal insufficiency. Hydrocortisone and l-T4 replacement therapy was started. Three months later, the galactorrhea had disappeared, thyroid function was normalized and MRI revealed regression of the pituitary enlargement, confirming the diagnosis of pituitary hyperplasia (PH) due to primary hypothyroidism. Subsequently, the menstrual cycle returned and the hypocortisolism normalized. This case demonstrates that severe primary hypothyroidism may have an unusual presentation and should be considered in the differential diagnosis of pituitary enlargement associated with moderate hyperprolactinemia.

Learning points

  • One should always try to find one etiology as the common cause of all the clinical findings in a pathologic process.
  • Amenorrhea, galactorrhea and fatigue may be the only presenting clinical manifestations of primary hypothyroidism.
  • Not every patient with galactorrhea, hyperprolactinemia and a pituitary mass has a prolactinoma.
  • Primary hypothyroidism should always be considered in the differential diagnosis of hyperprolactinemia associated with pituitary enlargement and pituitary hormone(s) deficiency(ies).
  • When PH due to primary hypothyroidism is suspected, thyroid hormone replacement should be started and only regression of pituitary enlargement on MRI follow-up can confirm the diagnosis.
  • Examination of thyroid function in patients with a pituitary mass may avoid unnecessary surgery.