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Open access

Darran Mc Donald, Tara Mc Donnell, Rachel Katherine Crowley, and Elizabeth Brosnan


Hyponatraemia is the most common electrolyte disturbance in hospitalised patients and is associated with numerous adverse outcomes. Patients with schizophrenia are particularly susceptible to hyponatraemia, in part due to the close association between this condition and primary polydipsia. We report the case of a 57-year-old woman with schizophrenia and primary polydipsia who was receiving inpatient psychiatric care. She became increasingly confused, had multiple episodes of vomiting, and collapsed 1 week after being commenced on quetiapine 300 mg. On examination, she was hypertensive and her Glasgow coma scale was nine. She had a fixed gaze palsy and a rigid, flexed posture. Investigations revealed extreme hyponatraemia with a serum sodium of 97 mmol/L. A CT brain demonstrated diffused cerebral oedema with sulcal and ventricular effacement. A urine sodium and serum osmolality were consistent with SIAD, which was stimulated by the introduction of quetiapine. The antidiuretic effect of vasopressin limited the kidney’s ability to excrete free water in response to the patients' excessive water intake, resulting in extreme, dilutional hyponatraemia. The patient was treated with two 100 mL boluses of hypertonic 3% saline but deteriorated further and required intubation. She had a complicated ICU course but went on to make a full neurological recovery. This is one of the lowest sodium levels attributed to primary polydipsia or second-generation antipsychotics reported in the literature.

Learning points

  • The combination of primary polydipsia and SIAD can lead to a life-threatening, extreme hyponatraemia.

  • SIAD is an uncommon side effect of second-generation anti-psychotics.

  • Serum sodium should be monitored in patients with primary polydipsia when commencing or adjusting psychotropic medications.

  • Symptomatic hyponatraemia is a medical emergency that requires treatment with boluses of hypertonic 3% saline.

  • A serum sodium of less than 105 mmol/L is associated with an increased risk of osmotic demyelination syndrome, therefore the correction should not exceed 8 mmol/L over 24 h.

Open access

S Ludgate, S P Connolly, D Fennell, M F Muhamad, I Welaratne, A Cotter, and S E McQuaid


Both human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and antiretroviral therapy (ART) are associated with endocrine dysfunction (1). The term 'immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome' (IRIS) describes an array of inflammatory conditions that occur during the return of cell-mediated immunity following ART. Graves’ disease (GD) occurs rarely as an IRIS following ART. In this study, we describe the case of a 40-year-old Brazilian female who was diagnosed with HIV following admission with cryptococcal meningitis and salmonellosis. At this time, she was also diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency. Her CD4 count at diagnosis was 17 cells/µL which rose to 256 cells/µL over the first 3 months of ART. Her HIV viral load, however, consistently remained detectable. When viral suppression was finally achieved 21 months post diagnosis, an incremental CD4 count of 407 cells/µL over the following 6 months ensued. Subsequently, she was diagnosed with a late IRIS to cryptococcus 32 months following initial ART treatment, which manifested as non-resolving lymphadenitis and resolved with high-dose steroids. Following the initiation of ART for 45 months, she developed symptomatic Graves’ hyperthyroidism. At this time, her CD4 count had risen to 941 cells/µL. She has been rendered euthyroid on carbimazole. This case serves to remind us that GD can occur as an IRIS post ART and typically has a delayed presentation.

Learning points

  • Endocrinologists should be aware of the endocrine manifestations of HIV disease, in particular, thyroid pathology.

  • Endocrinologists should be aware that IRIS can occur following the initiation of ART.

  • Thyroid dysfunction can occur post ART of which Graves' disease (GD) is the most common thyroid manifestation.

  • GD as a manifestation of ART-induced IRIS can have a delayed presentation.

  • Infectious disease physicians should be aware of endocrine manifestations associated with HIV and ART.

Open access

Clare E Bonnar, John F Brazil, Julie O Okiro, Louise Giblin, Yvonne Smyth, Paula M O’Shea, and Francis M Finucane


A 32-year-old Caucasian male presented to the emergency department with a one-day history of acute severe bilateral lower limb weakness, three days after competing in a bodybuilding competition. He consumed large quantities of carbohydrate-rich foods following the competition. His past medical history was significant for anxiety, and family history was non-contributory. Examination was normal except for reduced power and hyporeflexia in both legs, despite his muscular physique. He was noted to have severe hypokalaemia (K+= 1.9 mmol/L). His thyroid function tests were consistent with thyrotoxicosis. He reported taking thyroxine and several other agents to facilitate muscle mass generation before the bodybuilding competition. His presentation was reminiscent of thyrotoxic periodic paralysis, albeit uncommon with Caucasian ethnicity. He also had transient hyperglycaemia at presentation with concomitant hyperinsulinaemia, which could be attributed to the carbohydrate load and may have exacerbated his hypokalaemia through a transcellular shift. Urine toxicology screen subsequently ruled out the use of diuretics but confirmed the presence of a long-acting beta agonist (clenbuterol) which, along with other substances, may have aggravated the hypokalaemia further. After 12 h of i.v. replacement, the potassium level normalised and leg weakness resolved. The patient agreed to stop taking thyroxine and beta agonists and was well during the clinic visit at one month follow-up. This case highlights the potential for thyrotoxicosis factitia to exacerbate hypokalaemia and muscle weakness from other causes in bodybuilders presenting with acute severe weakness, irrespective of ethnicity.

Learning points

  • In patients presenting with muscle weakness and hypokalaemia, early consideration of thyrotoxicosis is essential, even in the absence of a past history of thyroid disease or specific symptoms of thyrotoxicosis, in order to allow prompt initiation of appropriate treatment and to prevent recurrence.

  • Bodybuilders may constitute a uniquely ‘at-risk’ group for thyrotoxic periodic paralysis secondary to thyrotoxicosis factitia, especially where there is concomitant use of beta-adrenergic agonists, even in the absence of diuretic use.

  • Although rare and usually described in patients of Asian or Polynesian ethnicity, this case highlights that thyrotoxic periodic paralysis secondary to thyrotoxicosis factitia can also occur in patients with Caucasian ethnicity.

  • We speculate that consuming large quantities of carbohydrates may induce hyperinsulinaemia, which could theoretically contribute to worse hypokalaemia, though mechanistic studies would be needed to explore this further.

Open access

Darran Mc Donald, Eirena Goulden, Garret Cullen, John Crown, and Rachel K Crowley


Thyroid dysfunction is among the most common immune-related adverse reactions associated with immune checkpoint inhibitors. It most commonly manifests as painless thyroiditis followed by permanent hypothyroidism. This usually causes mild toxicity that does not interfere with oncological treatment. In rare instances, however, a life-threatening form of decompensated hypothyroidism called myxoedema coma may develop. We present a case of myxoedema coma in a woman in her sixties who was treated with a combination of CTLA-4 and PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitors; for stage four malignant melanoma. She became hypothyroid and required thyroxine replacement after an episode of painless thyroiditis. Six months after the initial diagnosis of malignant melanoma, she presented to the emergency department with abdominal pain, profuse diarrhoea, lethargy and confusion. She was drowsy, hypotensive with a BP of 60/40 mmHg, hyponatraemic and hypoglycaemic. Thyroid function tests (TFTs) indicated profound hypothyroidism with a TSH of 19 mIU/L, and undetectable fT3 and fT4, despite the patient being compliant with thyroxine. She was diagnosed with a myxoedema coma caused by immune-related enteritis and subsequent thyroxine malabsorption. The patient was treated with i.v. triiodothyronine (T3) and methylprednisolone in the ICU. While her clinical status improved with T3 replacement, her enteritis was refractory to steroid therapy. A thyroxine absorption test confirmed persistent malabsorption. Attempts to revert to oral thyroxine were unsuccessful. Unfortunately, the patient’s malignant melanoma progressed significantly and she passed away four months later. This is the first reported case of myxoedema coma that resulted from two distinct immune-related adverse reactions, namely painless thyroiditis and enterocolitis.

Learning points

  • Myxoedema coma, a severe form of decompensated hypothyroidism is a rare immunotherapy-related endocrinopathy.

  • Myxedema coma should be treated with either i.v. triiodothyronine (T3) or i.v. thyroxine (T4).

  • Intravenous glucocorticoids should be co-administered with thyroid hormone replacement to avoid precipitating an adrenal crisis.

  • Thyroid function tests (TFTs) should be monitored closely in individuals with hypothyroidism and diarrhoea due to the risk of thyroxine malabsorption.

  • A thyroxine absorption test can be used to confirm thyroxine malabsorption in individuals with persistent hypothyroidism.

Open access

Milad Darrat, Brian Gilmartin, Carmel Kennedy, and Diarmuid Smith


Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a rare but life-threatening complication of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). We present the case of a young female, with no previous diagnosis of diabetes, presenting in DKA complicated by ARDS requiring extra corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) ventilator support. This case report highlights the importance of early recognition of respiratory complications of severe DKA and their appropriate management.

Learning points

  • ARDS is a very rare but life-threatening complication in DKA.

  • The incidence of ARDS remains unknown but less frequent than cerebral oedema in DKA.

  • The mechanism of ARDS in DKA has multifactorial aetiology, including genetic predisposition.

  • Early recognition and consideration of rare pulmonary complication of DKA can increase survival rate and provide very satisfactory outcomes.

  • DKA patients who present with refractory ARDS can be successfully rescued by ECMO support.

Open access

Maria Batool, David Fennell, David Slattery, Eamon Leen, Liam Cormican, Seamus Sreenan, and John H McDermott


Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare malignancy with an incidence of 0.7–2.0 cases/million/year. A majority of patients present with steroid hormone excess or abdominal mass effects, and in 15% of patients ACC is discovered incidentally. We present a case of 30-year-old otherwise asymptomatic Caucasian male who presented with a testicular swelling. Subsequent imaging and investigations revealed disseminated sarcoidosis and an 11 cm adrenal lesion. An adrenalectomy was performed. Histological examination of the resected specimen confirmed an ACC and also demonstrated a thin rim of adrenal tissue containing non-caseating granulomas, consistent with adrenal sarcoid.

Learning points

  • This case highlights an unusual presentation of two uncommon diseases.

  • This case also highlights how separate and potentially unrelated disease processes may occur concomitantly and the importance, therefore, of keeping an open mind when dealing with unusual diagnostic findings.

  • We also hypothesize a potential link between the ACC and sarcoidosis in our patient.

Open access

David Joseph Tansey, Jim John Egan, Michelle Murray, Katie Padfield, John Conneely, and Mensud Hatunic


Phaeochromocytoma is a rare catecholamine-producing tumour. We present the case of phaeochromocytoma in a young man with a background history of a double-lung transplant for cystic fibrosis (CF). Clinical case: A 25-year-old man, with a background history of CF, CF-related diabetes (CFRD) and a double-lung transplant in 2012 was presented to the emergency department with crampy abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. He was diagnosed with distal intestinal obstructions syndrome (DIOS). Contrast-enhanced CT imaging of the abdomen and pelvis showed a 3.4 cm right adrenal lesion. This was confirmed by a subsequent MRI of adrenal glands that demonstrated moderate FDG uptake, suggestive of a diagnosis of phaeochromocytoma. The patient was noted to be hypertensive with a blood pressure averaging 170/90 mm/Hg despite treatment with three different anti-hypertensive medications – amlodipine, telmisartan and doxazosin. He had hypertension for the last 3 years and had noted increasingly frequent sweating episodes recently, without palpitations or headache. Laboratory analysis showed elevated plasma normetanephrines (NMN) of 3167 pmol/L (182–867) as well as elevated metanephrines (MN) of 793 pmol/L (61–377) and a high 3-MT of 257 pmol/L (<185). Once cathecholamine excess was identified biochemically, we proceeded to functional imaging to further investigate. MIBG scan showed a mild increase in the uptake of tracer to the right adrenal gland compared to the left. The case was discussed at a multidisciplinary (MDT) meeting at which the diagnosis of phaeochromocytoma was made. Following a challenging period of 4 weeks to control the patient’s blood pressure with an alpha-blocker and beta-blocker, the patient had an elective right adrenalectomy, with normalisation of his blood pressure post-surgery. The histopathology of the excised adrenal gland was consistent with a 3 cm phaeochromocytoma with no adverse features associated with malignant potential.

Learning points

  • Five to ten per cent of patients have a secondary cause for hypertension. Phaeochromocytomas are rare tumours, originating in chromaffin cells and they represent 0.1–1.0% of all secondary hypertension cases.

  • Secondary causes should be investigated in cases where:

  • Patient is presenting <20 years of age or >50 years of age,

  • There is refractory hypertension, or

  • There is serious end-organ damage present.

  • Patients may present with the triad of headache, sweating and palpitations or more vague, non-specific symptoms.

  • Patients with suspected phaeochromocytoma should have 24-h urinary catecholamines measured and if available, plasma metanephrines measured. Those with abnormal biochemical tests should be further investigated with imaging to locate the tumour.

  • Medical treatment involves alpha- and beta-blockade for at least 2 to 3 weeks before surgery as well as rehydration.

  • There is a possibility of relapse so high-risk patients require life-long follow-up.

Open access

Hannah E Forde, Niamh Mehigan-Farrelly, Katie Ryan, Tom Moran, Megan Greally, Austin G Duffy, and Maria M Byrne


A 41-year-old male presented to the Emergency Department with a 6-month history of back and hip pain. Skeletal survey revealed bilateral pubic rami fractures and MRI of the spine demonstrated multiple thoracic and lumbar fractures. Secondary work up for osteoporosis was undertaken. There was no evidence of hyperparathyroidism and the patient was vitamin D replete. Testosterone (T) was low at 1.7 nmol/L (8.6–29.0) and gonadotrophins were undetectable. The patient failed a 1 mg dexamethasone suppression test (DST) with a morning cortisol of 570 nmol/L (<50) and subsequently a low dose DST with a cortisol post 48 h of dexamethasone of 773 nmol/L (<50) and an elevated ACTH 98 ng/L. A corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) test suggested ectopic ACTH secretion. The patient was commenced on teriparatide for osteoporosis and metyrapone to control the hypercortisolaemia. A positron emission tomography (PET) scan to look for the source of ACTH secretion demonstrated right neck adenopathy. Biopsy and subsequent lymph node dissection were performed and histology revealed a metastatic neuroendocrine tumour. Immunostaining was positive for calcitonin and thyroid transcription factor 1 (TTF1). Serum calcitonin was also significantly elevated at 45 264 ng/L (<10). The patient proceeded to a total thyroidectomy and left neck dissection. Histology confirmed a 7 mm medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC). Post-operatively, the patient commenced vandetanib therapy and achieved a clinical and biochemical response. After approximately 18 months of vandetanib therapy, the patient developed recurrent disease in his neck. He is currently on LOXO-292 and is doing well 36 months post-diagnosis.

Learning points

  • Unexplained osteoporosis requires thorough investigation and the workup for secondary causes is not complete without excluding glucocorticoid excess.

  • MTC should be considered when searching for sources of ectopic ACTH secretion.

  • Resistance to tyrosine kinase inhibitors is well described with MTC and clinicians should have a low threshold for screening for recurrent disease.

Open access

Dalal Ali, Patrick Divilly, Ruth Prichard, Dermot O’Toole, Donal O’Shea, and Rachel K Crowley


Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) is a rare inherited endocrine disorder with a high rate of penetrance. The incidence of MEN1 is 1/30,000 in the general population; however, it is quite rare for a patient to present for medical attention with MEN1 for the first time in pregnancy. Primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) is one of the most common features of MEN1. The incidence of PHPT occurring in pregnancy is 1%. Despite advances in the medical, surgical and obstetric care over the years, management of this condition during pregnancy may be challenging. It can be difficult to identify pregnant women with PHPT requiring intervention and to monitor safely. Hypercalcemia can result in significant maternal and fetal adverse outcomes including: miscarriage, intrauterine growth restriction, preterm delivery, neonatal hypocalcaemia, pre-eclampsia and maternal nephrolithiasis. Herein, we present a case study of a lady with a strong family history of MEN1, who was biochemically proven to have PHPT and evidence of Zollinger Ellison Syndrome (ZE) on endoscopy. This patient delayed her assisted pregnancy plans for in vitro fertilization (IVF) until completion of the MEN1 workup; nevertheless, she spontaneously achieved an unplanned pregnancy. As a result, she required intervention with parathyroidectomy in the second trimester of her pregnancy as her calcium level continued to rise. This case study highlights the workup, follow up and management of MEN1 presenting with PHPT and ZE in pregnancy.

Learning points

  • Women of childbearing age who are suspected to have a diagnosis of primary hyperparathyroidism ideally should have genetic testing and avoid pregnancy until definitive plans are in place.

  • Zollinger Ellison syndrome in pregnancy means off-label use of high dose of proton pump inhibitors (PPI). Use of PPI in pregnancy is considered to be safe based on retrospective studies. Omeprazole, however, is FDA class C drug because of lack of large prospective studies or large case series during pregnancy.

  • Calcium supplements in the form of calcium carbonate must be converted to calcium chloride by gastric acid in order to be absorbed, however, patients rendered achlorhydric as a result of PPI use will have impaired absorption of calcium. Therefore, use of calcium citrate might be considered a better option in this case.

Open access

Milad Darrat, Mohammad Binhussein, Alan Beausang, Clare Faul, Michael W O’Reilly, Mohsen Javadpour, and Amar Agha

Pituitary adenomas are the commonest sellar tumours. Pituitary metastases are very rare, with the most common primaries being breast and lung cancers. We report the case of an 83-year-old man with a history of breast carcinoma who presented with recent-onset headaches and progressive deterioration of visual acuity. MRI brain showed a large sellar and suprasellar mass compressing the optic chiasm and involving the pituitary stalk. Transsphenoidal debulking resulted in symptomatic relief and visual recovery. Specimen examination revealed a combination of a gonadotroph pituitary adenoma that was infiltrated by metastatic breast carcinoma. He had no symptoms of diabetes insipidus. He was subsequently treated with pituitary radiotherapy. This is a very rare presentation of a pituitary mass with mixed pathology. To our knowledge, this is the third description of a breast carcinoma metastasis into a gonadotroph cell pituitary adenoma.

Learning points:

  • Infiltrating metastases into pituitary adenomas are very rare but do occur.

  • To our knowledge this is the third case of breast adenocarcinoma metastasising to a gonadotroph pituitary adenoma.

  • Pituitary metastases should always be considered in rapidly evolving pituitary symptoms in a cancer patient.

  • Not all complex pituitary lesions are associated with panhypopituitarism.

  • Early invasive local management (TSS and post TSS radiotherapy) can provide rapid satisfactory outcomes.