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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

R T Casey, B G Challis, D Pitfield, R M Mahroof, N Jamieson, C J Bhagra, A Vuylsteke, S J Pettit and K C Chatterjee

Summary

A phaeochromocytoma (PC) is a rare, catecholamine-secreting neuroendocrine tumour arising from the adrenal medulla. Presenting symptoms of this rare tumour are highly variable but life-threatening multiorgan dysfunction can occur secondary to catecholamine-induced hypertension or hypotension and subsequent cardiovascular collapse. High levels of circulating catecholamines can induce an acute stress cardiomyopathy, also known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Recent studies have focused on early diagnosis and estimation of the prevalence of acute stress cardiomyopathy in patients with PC, but very little is reported about management of these complex cases. Here, we report the case of a 38-year-old lady who presented with an acute Takotsubo or stress cardiomyopathy and catecholamine crisis, caused by an occult left-sided 5 cm PC. The initial presenting crisis manifested with symptoms of severe headache and abdominal pain, triggered by a respiratory tract infection. On admission to hospital, the patient rapidly deteriorated, developing respiratory failure, cardiogenic shock and subsequent cardiovascular collapse due to further exacerbation of the catecholamine crisis caused by a combination of opiates and intravenous corticosteroid. An echocardiogram revealed left ventricular apical hypokinesia and ballooning, with an estimated left ventricular ejection fraction of 10–15%. Herein, we outline the early stabilisation period, preoperative optimisation and intraoperative management, providing anecdotal guidance for the management of this rare life-threatening complication of PC.

Learning points:

  • A diagnosis of phaeochromocytoma should be considered in patients presenting with acute cardiomyopathy or cardiogenic shock without a clear ischaemic or valvular aetiology.
  • Catecholamine crisis is a life-threatening medical emergency that requires cross-disciplinary expertise and management to ensure the best clinical outcome.
  • After initial resuscitation, treatment of acute catecholamine-induced stress cardiomyopathy requires careful introduction of alpha-blockade followed by beta-blockade if necessary to manage β-receptor-mediated tachycardia.
  • Prolonged α-adrenergic receptor stimulation by high levels of circulating catecholamines precipitates arterial vasoconstriction and intravascular volume contraction, which can further exacerbate hypotension. Invasive pressure monitoring can aid management of intravascular volume in these complex patients.
Open access

Han Soo Park, Su Kyoung Kwon and Ye Na Kim

Summary

Thyroid storm is a rare and potentially life-threatening medical emergency. We experienced a case of thyroid storm associated with sepsis caused by pneumonia, which had a catastrophic course including recurrent cardiac arrest and subsequent multiple organ failure (MOF). A 22-year-old female patient with a 10-year history of Graves’ disease was transferred to our emergency department (ED). She had a cardiac arrest at her home and a second cardiac arrest at the ED. Her heart recovered after 20 min of cardiac resuscitation. She was diagnosed with thyroid storm associated with hyperthyroidism complicated by pneumonia and sepsis. Although full conventional medical treatment was given, she had progressive MOF and hemodynamic instability consisting of hyperthermia, tachycardia and hypotension. Because of hepatic and renal failure with refractory hypotension, we reduced the patient’s dose of beta-blocker and antithyroid drug, and she was started on continuous veno-venous renal replacement therapy (CRRT) with intravenous albumin and plasma supplementation. Subsequently, her body temperature and pulse rate began to stabilize within 1 h, and her blood pressure reached 120/60 mmHg after 6 h. We discontinued antithyroid drug 3 days after admission because of aggravated hyperbilirubinemia. The patient exhibited progressive improvement in thyroid function even after cessation of antithyroid drug, and she successfully recovered from thyroid storm and MOF. This is the first case of thyroid storm successfully treated by CRRT in a patient considered unfit for antithyroid drug treatment.

Learning points:

  • The presenting manifestations of thyroid storm vary and can include cardiac arrest with multiorgan failure in rare cases.
  • In some patients with thyroid storm, especially those with severe complications, conventional medical treatment may be ineffective or inappropriate.
  • During thyroid storm, the initiation of CRRT can immediately lower body temperature and subsequently stabilize vital signs.
  • Early initiation of CRRT can be life-saving in patients with thyroid storm complicated by MOF, even when used in combination with suboptimal medical treatment.
Open access

Wann Jia Loh, Kesavan Sittampalam, Suan Cheng Tan and Manju Chandran

Summary

Erdheim–Chester disease (ECD) is a potentially fatal condition characterized by infiltration of multiple organs by non-Langerhans histiocytes. Although endocrine dysfunction has been reported in association with ECD, to date, there have been no previous reports of empty sella syndrome (ESS) associated with it. We report the case of a patient with ECD who had symptomatic ESS. A 55-year-old man of Chinese ethnicity initially presented with symptoms of heart failure, fatigue and knee joint pain. Physical examination revealed xanthelasma, gynaecomastia, lung crepitations, hepatomegaly and diminished testicular volumes. He had laboratory evidence of hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism, secondary hypoadrenalism and GH deficiency. Imaging studies showed diffuse osteosclerosis of the long bones on X-ray, a mass in the right atrium and thickening of the pleura and of the thoracic aorta on fusion positron emission tomography–computed tomography. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain showed an empty sella. The diagnosis of ECD was confirmed by bone biopsy.

Learning points

  • ECD is a multisystemic disease that can affect the pituitary and other organs. The diagnosis of ECD is based on clinical and radiological features and histology, showing lipid-laden CD68+ CD1a S100 histiocytes surrounded by fibrosis.
  • The finding of xanthelasmas especially in the presence of normal lipid levels in the presence of a multisystem infiltrative disorder should raise the suspicion of ECD.
  • Systemic perturbation of autoimmunity may play a role in the pathogenesis of ECD and is an area that merits further research.