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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

Shunsuke Funazaki, Hodaka Yamada, Kazuo Hara and San-e Ishikawa

Summary

Lymphocytic hypophysitis (LyH) has been known to be associated with pregnancy. We herein report the case of a 33-year-old woman who underwent vaginal delivery without massive bleeding at 40 weeks of gestation. Because of the presence of headache and terrible fatigue after childbirth, she visited our hospital. Severe hyponatremia (Na, 118 mEq/L) and visual field abnormality was noted upon examination. MRI revealed pituitary enlargement with a swollen pituitary stalk, albeit at low signal intensity. Basal pituitary hormone levels were all reduced and remained low after exogenous administration of hypothalamic-releasing hormones. She was diagnosed with LyH and was started on prednisolone 60 mg/day. A month later, her pituitary function had gradually improved together with a decrease in pituitary enlargement and recovery of her visual field. The dose of prednisolone was gradually reduced and finally withdrawn 27 months later. After prednisolone withdrawal, her pituitary function remained normal despite the absence of any hormonal replacement. A year later, she became pregnant without medication and delivered a second baby without LyH recurrence. Thereafter, her pituitary function has been normal for more than 5 years. Two valuable observations can be highlighted from the case. First, the patient completely recovered from LyH through prompt prednisolone therapy during its initial phase and had almost normal pituitary function. Second, after recovery from LyH, she was able to undergo spontaneous pregnancy and deliver a baby. We believe that reporting incidences of spontaneous pregnancy after complete normalization of pituitary function in patients with LyH is of great significance.

Learning points:

  • Females are more affected by LyH than males given its strong association with pregnancy.
  • LyH possesses characteristic findings on pituitary MRI.
  • Glucocorticoid therapy for LyH has been recommended as an effective treatment.
  • A history of previous pregnancies does not increase the risk of developing AH in subsequent pregnancies.
  • Early induction of high-dose prednisolone was therapeutically effective in treating LyH.
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

Florence Gunawan, Elizabeth George and Adam Roberts

Summary

Immune checkpoint inhibitors are the mainstay of treatment for advanced melanoma, and their use is being increasingly implicated in the development of autoimmune endocrinopathies. We present a case of a 52-year-old man with metastatic melanoma on combination nivolumab and ipilumimab therapy who developed concurrent hypophysitis, type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) and diabetes insipidus. He presented prior to third cycle of combination treatment with a headache, myalgias and fatigue. Biochemistry and MRI pituitary confirmed anterior pituitary dysfunction with a TSH: 0.02 mU/L (0.5–5.5 mU/L), fT4: 5.2 pmol/L (11–22 pmol/L), fT3: 4.0 pmol/L (3.2–6.4 pmol/L), cortisol (12:00 h): <9 nmol/L (74–286 nmol/L), FSH: 0.7 IU/L (1.5–9.7 IU/L), LH: <0.1 IU/L (1.8–9.2 IU/L), PRL: 1 mIU/L (90–400 mIU/L), SHBG: 34 nmol/L (19–764 nmol/L) and total testosterone: <0.4 nmol/L (9.9–27.8 nmol/L). High-dose dexamethasone (8 mg) was administered followed by hydrocortisone, thyroxine and topical testosterone replacement. Two weeks post administration of the third cycle, he became unwell with lethargy, weight loss and nocturia. Central diabetes insipidus was diagnosed on the basis of symptoms and sodium of 149 mmol/L (135–145 mmol/L). Desmopressin nasal spray was instituted with symptom resolution and normalization of serum sodium. Three weeks later, he presented again polyuric and polydipsic. His capillary glucose was 20.8 mmol/L (ketones of 2.4 mmol), low C-peptide 0.05 nmol/L (0.4–1.5 nmol/L) and HbA1c of 7.7%. T1DM was suspected, and he was commenced on an insulin infusion with rapid symptom resolution. Insulin antibodies glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), insulin antibody-2 (IA-2) and zinc transporter-8 (ZnT8) were negative. A follow-up MRI pituitary revealed findings consistent with recovering autoimmune hypophysitis. Immunotherapy was discontinued based on the extent of these autoimmune endocrinopathies.

Learning points:

  • The most effective regime for treatment of metastatic melanoma is combination immunotherapy with nivolumab and ipilumimab, and this therapy is associated with a high incidence of autoimmune endocrinopathies.
  • Given the high prevalence of immune-related adverse events, the threshold for functional testing should be low.
  • Traditional antibody testing may not be reliable to identify early-onset endocrinopathy.
  • Routine screening pathways have yet to be adequately validated through clinical trials.
Open access

Charlotte S Schömig, Marie-Ève Robinson and Julia E von Oettingen

Summary

Congenital hypothyroidism requires prompt treatment to prevent adverse health outcomes. Poor intestinal levothyroxine absorption can complicate management. We present a case of a term female newborn with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) requiring subtotal ileum resection. Congenital hypothyroidism was diagnosed by newborn screening. Treatment was complicated by intestinal malabsorption of levothyroxine. Intravenous levothyroxine substitution restored euthyroidism and supraphysiologic PO doses subsequently maintained a euthyroid state. After several months, the required levothyroxine dose was weaned down to typical recommended dosing. In conclusion, small bowel resection secondary to NEC may lead to malabsorption of oral levothyroxine. An intravenous levothyroxine dose of approximately 50% typical PO dosing is effective in providing rapid normalization of free T4 and TSH. High PO doses may be required to maintain euthyroidism. Close thyroid function monitoring and immediate therapy adjustment are essential as the individual absorption may vary widely. Normal absorption levels may be regained due to adaption of the neonatal intestines.

Learning points:

  • In neonates with malabsorption after ileum resection intravenous levothyroxine replacement should be used to provide normalization of free T4 and TSH.
  • Very high doses of up to 500% usual oral levothyroxine may be required to maintain euthyroidism. The estimated degree of malabsorption can be used to determine the initial dose.
  • Close thyroid function monitoring and immediate therapy adjustment are essential as the absorption and intestinal adaption may vary widely.
Open access

Harris Trainer, Paul Hulse, Claire E Higham, Peter Trainer and Paul Lorigan

Summary

Checkpoint inhibitors, such as ipilimumab and pembrolizumab, have transformed the prognosis for patients with advanced malignant melanoma and squamous non-small-cell lung cancer, and their use will only expand as experience is gained in a variety of other malignancies, for instance, renal and lymphoma. As the use of checkpoint inhibitors increases, so too will the incidence of their unique side effects, termed immune-related adverse events (irAEs), which can affect dermatological, gastrointestinal, hepatic, endocrine and other systems. Nivolumab is a monoclonal antibody that blocks the human programmed death receptor-1 ligand (PD-L1) found on many cancer cells and is licensed for the treatment of advanced malignant melanoma. We describe the first case of nivolumab-induced adrenalitis resulting in primary adrenal failure presenting with hyponatraemia in a 43-year-old man with malignant melanoma. The case highlights the potentially life-threatening complications of checkpoint inhibitors and the need for patient education and awareness of irAEs among the wider clinical community because such side effects require prompt recognition and treatment.

Learning points:

  • Nivolumab can cause primary adrenal insufficiency.
  • Not all cases of hyponatraemia in patients with malignancy are due to SIADH.
  • Any patient on a checkpoint inhibitor becoming unwell should have serum cortisol urgently measured and if in doubt hydrocortisone therapy should be initiated.
  • Although hyponatraemia can occur in patients with ACTH deficiency, the possibility of primary adrenal failure should also be considered and investigated by measurement of renin, aldosterone and ACTH.
  • Patients receiving checkpoint inhibitors require education on the potential risks of hypocortisolaemia.
  • PET imaging demonstrated bilateral increased activity consistent with an autoimmune adrenalitis.
Open access

Emilia Sbardella, George Farah, Ahmed Fathelrahman, Simon Cudlip, Olaf Ansorge, Niki Karavitaki and Ashley B Grossman

Summary

Pituitary adenomas are a common intracranial neoplasm, usually demonstrating a benign phenotype. They can be classified according to pathological, radiological or clinical behaviour as typical, atypical or carcinomas, invasive or noninvasive, and aggressive or nonaggressive. Prolactinomas account for 40–60% of all pituitary adenomas, with dopamine agonists representing the first-line treatment and surgery/radiotherapy reserved for drug intolerance/resistance or in neuro-ophthalmological emergencies. We present the case of a 62-year-old man with an apparently indolent prolactin-secreting macroadenoma managed with partial resection and initially showing a biochemical response to cabergoline. Five years later, the tumour became resistant to cabergoline, despite a substantial increase in dosage, showing rapid growth and causing worsening of vision. The patient then underwent two further transsphenoidal operations and continued on high-dose cabergoline; despite these interventions, the tumour continued enlarging and prolactin increased to 107 269 U/L. Histology of the third surgical specimen demonstrated features of aggressive behaviour (atypical adenoma with a high cell proliferation index) not present in the tumour removed at the first operation. Subsequently, he was referred for radiotherapy aiming to control tumour growth.

Learning points:

  • The development of secondary resistance to dopamine agonists (DAs) is a serious sign as it may be associated with de-differentiation of the prolactinoma and thus of aggressive or malignant transformation.
  • Significant de-differentiation of the adenoma documented on consecutive histologies suggests a possible transition to malignancy.
  • A combination of histological ‘alarm’ features associated with persistent growth and escape from DAs treatment in recurrent adenomas should alert clinicians and demands close follow-up.
  • A multidisciplinary approach by pathologists, endocrinologists and neurosurgeons is essential.
Open access

Jeremy M W Kirk, Nalin Wickramasuriya and Nicholas J Shaw

Summary

Estrogen is used to induce puberty in peripubertal girls with hypogonadism. Although both synthetic and natural forms are available, along with different routes of administration, in the UK oral ethinyl estradiol and the low-dose oral contraceptive pill are commonly used as hormone replacement therapy for practical reasons. We present five peripubertal girls (aged 12.5–14.9 years) with hypogonadism (two with primary hypogonadism due to Turner syndrome and three with central (secondary) hypogonadism as part of multiple pituitary hormone deficiency) who for a variety of reasons have received milligram doses of estradiol (E2) in error for between 6 weeks and 6 months, instead of the expected microgram doses of ethinyl estradiol. Although there are no direct comparisons in peripubertal girls between synthetic and natural estrogens, all girls had vaginal bleeding whilst receiving the milligram doses and have ended up with reduced final heights, below the 9th centile in 1 and below the 2nd centile in 4. Whilst reduction in final height may be part of the underlying condition (especially in Turner syndrome) the two girls with height predictions performed prior to receiving the estrogen overdose have not achieved their predicted height. Estrogen is one of the few drugs which is available in both milligram and microgram formulations. Clinicians need to be alert to the possibility of patients receiving the wrong formulation and dosage in error.

Learning points

  • Girls with primary and secondary gonadal failure require assistance with pubertal induction.
  • Although several different formulations and route of administration are available, for practical reasons, the majority of girls in the UK receive oral ethinyl estradiol.
  • Estrogen preparations are available in both milligram and microgram formulations, with potential for receiving the wrong dose.
  • Girls receiving milligram rather than microgram preparations all had vaginal bleeding and a short final height.

Open access

Angela S Lee and Stephen M Twigg

Summary

Adrenal insufficiency is a rare cause of hypercalcaemia and should be considered when more common causes such as primary hyperparathyroidism and malignancy are excluded. Opioid therapy as a cause of adrenal insufficiency is a possibly under-recognised endocrinopathy with potentially life-threatening adverse effects. We report on a case of opioid-induced secondary adrenal insufficiency presenting as hypercalcaemia. The patient was a 25-year-old man who developed hypercalcaemia during the recovery stage after a period of critical illness. Systematic investigation of his hypercalcaemia found it to be due to secondary adrenal insufficiency, developing as a consequence of methadone opioid analgesia. Treatment with i.v. saline and subsequent glucocorticoid replacement led to resolution of the hypercalcaemia. The hypoadrenalism resolved when opioids were subsequently weaned and ceased. These two interacting endocrinopathies of opioid-induced adrenal insufficiency and consequent hypercalcaemia highlight the importance of maintaining awareness of the potentially serious adverse clinical outcomes which can occur as a result of opioids, particularly considering that symptoms of hypoadrenalism can overlap with those of concomitant illness. Treatment with hydration and glucocorticoid replacement is effective in promptly resolving the hypercalcaemia due to hypoadrenalism. Hypoadrenalism due to prescribed and recreational opioids may be more common than is currently recognised.

Learning points

  • Opioid therapy can cause clinically significant secondary adrenal insufficiency, and this may be more common than is currently recognised.
  • Adrenal insufficiency is reversible after discontinuation of the opioid therapy.
  • Hypercalcaemia can occur as a consequence of adrenal insufficiency, and may be the presenting feature.
  • Treatment of hypercalcaemia due to adrenal insufficiency involves i.v. saline and glucocorticoid replacement.

Open access

Casey M Hay and Daniel I Spratt

Summary

A 55-year-old woman with asthma presented with adrenal insufficiency of unknown origin. She was referred to our Division of Reproductive Endocrinology to further evaluate an undetectable morning cortisol level discovered during the evaluation of a low serum DHEA-S level. She was asymptomatic other than having mild fatigue and weight gain. Her medication list included 220 μg of inhaled fluticasone propionate twice daily for asthma, which she was taking as prescribed. On presentation, the undetectable morning cortisol level was confirmed. A urinary measurement of fluticasone propionate 17β-carboxylic acid was markedly elevated. Fluticasone therapy was discontinued and salmeterol therapy initiated with supplemental hydrocortisone. Hydrocortisone therapy was discontinued after 2 months. A repeat urinary fluticasone measurement 4 months after the discontinuation of fluticasone therapy was undetectably low and morning cortisol level was normal at 18.0 μg/dl. Inhaled fluticasone is generally considered to be minimally systemically absorbed. This patient's only clinical evidence suggesting adrenal insufficiency was fatigue accompanying a low serum DHEA-S level. This case demonstrates that adrenal insufficiency can be caused by a routine dose of inhaled fluticasone. Missing this diagnosis could potentially result in adrenal crisis upon discontinuation of fluticasone therapy.

Learning points

  • Standard-dose inhaled fluticasone can cause adrenal insufficiency.
  • Adrenal insufficiency should be considered in patients taking, or who have recently discontinued, inhaled fluticasone therapy and present with new onset of nonspecific symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, depression, myalgia, arthralgia, unexplained weight loss, and nausea that are suggestive of adrenal insufficiency.
  • Adrenal insufficiency should be considered in postoperative patients who exhibit signs of hypoadrenalism after fluticasone therapy has been withheld in the perioperative setting.
  • Routine screening for hypoadrenalism in patients without clinical signs or symptoms of adrenal insufficiency after the discontinuation of inhaled fluticasone therapy is not indicated due to the apparently low incidence of adrenal insufficiency caused by fluticasone.