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Open access

Jai Madhok, Amy Kloosterboer, Chitra Venkatasubramanian, and Frederick G Mihm

Summary

We report the case of a 76-year-old male with a remote history of papillary thyroid cancer who developed severe paroxysmal headaches in the setting of episodic hypertension. Brain imaging revealed multiple lesions, initially of inconclusive etiology, but suspicious for metastatic foci. A search for the primary malignancy revealed an adrenal tumor, and biochemical testing confirmed the diagnosis of a norepinephrine-secreting pheochromocytoma. Serial imaging demonstrated multiple cerebral infarctions of varying ages, evidence of vessel narrowing and irregularities in the anterior and posterior circulations, and hypoperfusion in watershed areas. An exhaustive work-up for other etiologies of stroke including thromboembolic causes or vasculitis was unremarkable. There was resolution of symptoms, absence of new infarctions, and improvement in vessel caliber after adequate alpha-adrenergic receptor blockade for the management of pheochromocytoma. This clinicoradiologic constellation of findings suggested that the etiology of the multiple infarctions was reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS). Pheochromocytoma remains a poorly recognized cause of RCVS. Unexplained multifocal cerebral infarctions in the setting of severe hypertension should prompt the consideration of a vasoactive tumor as the driver of cerebrovascular dysfunction. A missed or delayed diagnosis has the potential for serious neurologic morbidity for an otherwise treatable condition.

Learning points:

  • The constellation of multifocal watershed cerebral infarctions of uncertain etiology in a patient with malignant hypertension should trigger the consideration of undiagnosed catecholamine secreting tumors, such as pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas.
  • Reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome is a serious but reversible cerebrovascular manifestation of pheochromocytomas that may lead to strokes (ischemic and hemorrhagic), seizures, and cerebral edema.
  • Alpha-adrenergic receptor blockade can reverse cerebral vasoconstriction and prevent further cerebral ischemia and infarctions.
  • Early diagnosis of catecholamine secreting tumors has the potential for reducing neurologic morbidity and mortality in patients presenting with cerebrovascular complications.
Open access

Ravikumar Ravindran, Justyna Witczak, Suhani Bahl, Lakdasa D K E Premawardhana, and Mohamed Adlan

Summary

A 53-year-old man who used growth hormone (GH), anabolic steroids and testosterone (T) for over 20 years presented with severe constipation and hypercalcaemia. He had benign prostatic hyperplasia and renal stones but no significant family history. Investigations showed – (1) corrected calcium (reference range) 3.66 mmol/L (2.2–2.6), phosphate 1.39 mmol/L (0.80–1.50), and PTH 2 pmol/L (1.6–7.2); (2) urea 21.9 mmol/L (2.5–7.8), creatinine 319 mmol/L (58–110), eGFR 18 mL/min (>90), and urine analysis (protein 4+, glucose 4+, red cells 2+); (3) creatine kinase 7952 U/L (40–320), positive anti Jo-1, and Ro-52 antibodies; (4) vitamin D 46 nmol/L (30–50), vitamin D3 29 pmol/L (55–139), vitamin A 4.65 mmol/L (1.10–2.60), and normal protein electrophoresis; (5) normal CT thorax, abdomen and pelvis and MRI of muscles showed ‘inflammation’, myositis and calcification; (6) biopsy of thigh muscles showed active myositis, chronic myopathic changes and mineral deposition and of the kidneys showed positive CD3 and CD45, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis and hypercalcaemic tubular changes; and (7) echocardiography showed left ventricular hypertrophy (likely medications and myositis contributing), aortic stenosis and an ejection fraction of 44%, and MRI confirmed these with possible right coronary artery disease. Hypercalcaemia was possibly multifactorial – (1) calcium release following myositis, rhabdomyolysis and acute kidney injury; (2) possible primary hyperparathyroidism (a low but detectable PTH); and (3) hypervitaminosis A. He was hydrated and given pamidronate, mycophenolate and prednisolone. Following initial biochemical and clinical improvement, he had multiple subsequent admissions for hypercalcaemia and renal deterioration. He continued taking GH and T despite counselling but died suddenly of a myocardial infarction.

Learning points:

  • The differential diagnosis of hypercalcaemia is sometimes a challenge.
  • Diagnosis may require multidisciplinary expertise and multiple and invasive investigations.
  • There may be several disparate causes for hypercalcaemia, although one usually predominates.
  • Maintaining ‘body image’ even with the use of harmful drugs may be an overpowering emotion despite counselling about their dangers.
Open access

Shamaila Zaman, Bijal Patel, Paul Glynne, Mark Vanderpump, Ali Alsafi, Sairah Khan, Rashpal Flora, Fausto Palazzo, and Florian Wernig

Summary

Ectopic adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) production is an uncommon cause of Cushing’s syndrome and, rarely, the source can be a phaeochromocytoma. A 55-year-old man presented following an episode of presumed gastroenteritis with vomiting and general malaise. Further episodes of diarrhoea, joint pains and palpitations followed. On examination, he was hypertensive with no clinical features to suggest hypercortisolaemia. He was subsequently found to have raised plasma normetanephrines of 3.98 nmol/L (NR <0.71) and metanephrines of 0.69 nmol/L (NR <0.36). An adrenal CT showed a 3.8 cm right adrenal nodule, which was not MIBG-avid but was clinically and biochemically consistent with a phaeochromocytoma. He was started on alpha blockade and referred for right adrenalectomy. Four weeks later, on the day of admission for adrenalectomy, profound hypokalaemia was noted (serum potassium 2.0 mmol/L) with non-specific ST-segment ECG changes. He was also diagnosed with new-onset diabetes mellitus (capillary blood glucose of 28 mmol/L). He reported to have gained weight and his skin had become darker over the course of the last 4 weeks. Given these findings, he underwent overnight dexamethasone suppression testing, which showed a non-suppressed serum cortisol of 1099 nmol/L. Baseline serum ACTH was 273 ng/L. A preliminary diagnosis of ectopic ACTH secretion from the known right-sided phaeochromocytoma was made and he was started on metyrapone and insulin. Surgery was postponed for 4 weeks. Following uncomplicated laparoscopic adrenalectomy, the patient recovered with full resolution of symptoms.

Learning points:

  • Phaeochromocytomas are a rare source of ectopic ACTH secretion. A high clinical index of suspicion is therefore required to make the diagnosis.
  • Ectopic ACTH secretion from a phaeochromocytoma can rapidly progress to severe Cushing’s syndrome, thus complicating tumour removal.
  • Removal of the primary tumour often leads to full recovery.
  • The limited literature suggests that the presence of ectopic Cushing’s syndrome does not appear to have any long-term prognostic implications.
Open access

J K Witczak, N Ubaysekara, R Ravindran, S Rice, Z Yousef, and L D Premawardhana

Summary

Graves’ disease is associated with tachydysrythmia, cardiac ischaemia and cardiomyopathy – all uncommon in young adults without previous cardiac disease. We present three young individuals who developed cardiac complications after periods of uncontrolled Graves’ disease. Subject 1: A 34-year-old female had severe thyrotoxic symptoms for weeks. Investigations showed fT4: 98.4 (11–25 pmol/L), fT3: 46.9 (3.1–6.8 pmol/L), TSH <0.01 (0.27–4.2 mU/L) and thyrotrophin receptor antibody (TRAb): 34.8 (<0.9 U//l). She had appropriate treatment but several weeks later she became breathless despite improving thyroid function. Echocardiography showed a pericardial effusion of 2.9 cm. She responded well to steroids and NSAIDs but developed active severe Graves’ orbitopathy after early total thyroidectomy. Subject 2: A 28-year-old male developed thyrotoxic symptoms (fT4: 38 pmol/L, fT3: 13.9 pmol/L, TSH <0.01 (for over 6 months) and TRAb: 9.3 U/L). One month after starting carbimazole, he developed acute heart failure (HF) due to severe dilated cardiomyopathy – EF 10–15%. He partially recovered after treatment – EF 28% and had early radioiodine treatment. Subject 3: A 42-year-old woman who had been thyrotoxic for several months (fT4: 54.3; fT3 >46.1; TSH <0.01; TRAb: 4.5) developed atrial fibrillation (AF) and heart failure. Echocardiography showed cardiomegaly – EF 29%. She maintains sinus rhythm following early total thyroidectomy (EF 50%). Significant cardiac complications may occur in previously fit young adults, who have had uncontrolled Graves’ disease for weeks to months. Cardiac function recovers in the majority, but early definitive treatment should be discussed to avoid Graves’ disease relapse and further cardiac decompensation.

Learning points:

  • Cardiac complications of Graves’ disease are uncommon in young adults without previous cardiac disease.
  • These complications may however occur if Graves’ disease had been poorly controlled for several weeks or months prior to presentation.
  • Persistent symptoms after adequate control should alert clinicians to the possibility of cardiac disease.
  • Specific treatment of Graves’ disease and appropriate cardiac intervention results in complete recovery in the majority and carries a good prognosis.
  • Early definitive treatment should be offered to them to prevent cardiac decompensation at times of further relapse.
Open access

Skand Shekhar, Sriram Gubbi, Georgios Z Papadakis, Naris Nilubol, and Fady Hannah-Shmouni

Summary

Adrenococortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare cancer, occurring at the rate of one case in two million person years. Cushing syndrome or a mixed picture of excess androgen and glucocorticoid production are the most common presentations of ACC. Other uncommon presentations include abdominal pain and adrenal incidentalomas. In the present report, a 71-year-old male presented with abdominal pain and was eventually diagnosed with ACC. He was found to have pulmonary thromboembolism following an investigation for hypoxemia, with the tumor thrombus extending upto the right atrium. This interesting case represents the unique presentation of a rare tumor, which if detected late or left untreated is associated with poor outcomes, highlighting the need for a low index of suspicion for ACC when similar presentations are encountered in clinical practice.

Learning points:

  • ACC is a rare but aggressive tumor.
  • ACC commonly presents with rapid onset of hypercortisolism, combined hyperandrogenism and hypercortisolism, or uncommonly with compressive symptoms.
  • Clinicians should have a low index of suspicion for ACC in patients presenting with rapid onset of symptoms related to hypercortisolism and/or hyperandrogenism.
  • Venous thromboembolism and extension of the tumor thrombus to the right side of the heart is a very rare but serious complication of ACC that clinicans should be wary of.
  • The increased risk of venous thromboembolism in ACC could be explained by direct tumor invasion, tumor thrombi or hypercoagulability secondary to hypercortisolism.
  • Early diagnosis and prompt treatment can improve the long-term survival of patients with ACC.
Open access

Katta Sai, Amos Lal, Jhansi Lakshmi Maradana, Pruthvi Raj Velamala, and Trivedi Nitin

Summary

Mifepristone is a promising option for the management of hypercortisolism associated with hyperglycemia. However, its use may result in serious electrolyte imbalances, especially during dose escalation. In our patient with adrenocorticotropic hormone-independent macro-nodular adrenal hyperplasia, unilateral adrenalectomy resulted in biochemical and clinical improvement, but subclinical hypercortisolism persisted following adrenalectomy. She was started on mifepristone. Unfortunately, she missed her follow-up appointments following dosage escalation and required hospitalization at an intensive care level for severe refractory hypokalemia.

Learning points:

Open access

Yuri Tanaka, Taisuke Uchida, Hideki Yamaguchi, Yohei Kudo, Tadato Yonekawa, and Masamitsu Nakazato

Summary

We report the case of a 48-year-old man with thyroid storm associated with fulminant hepatitis and elevated levels of soluble interleukin-2 receptor (sIL-2R). Fatigue, low-grade fever, shortness of breath, and weight loss developed over several months. The patient was admitted to the hospital because of tachycardia-induced heart failure and liver dysfunction. Graves’ disease with heart failure was diagnosed. He was treated with methimazole, inorganic iodide, and a β-blocker. On the day after admission, he became unconscious with a high fever and was transferred to the intensive care unit. Cardiogenic shock with atrial flutter was treated with intra-aortic balloon pumping and cardioversion. Hyperthyroidism decreased over 10 days, but hepatic failure developed. He was diagnosed with thyroid storm accompanied by fulminant hepatitis. Laboratory investigations revealed elevated levels of sIL-2R (9770 U/mL). The fulminant hepatitis was refractory to plasma exchange and plasma filtration with dialysis, and no donors for liver transplantation were available. He died of hemoperitoneum and gastrointestinal hemorrhage due to fulminant hepatitis 62 days after admission. Elevated circulating levels of sIL-2R might be a marker of poor prognosis in thyroid storm with fulminant hepatitis.

Learning points:

  • The prognosis of thyroid storm when fulminant hepatitis occurs is poor.
  • Liver transplantation is the preferred treatment for fulminant hepatitis induced by thyroid storm refractory to plasma exchange.
  • Elevated levels of soluble interleukin-2 receptor might be a marker of poor prognosis in patients with thyroid storm.
Open access

Hui Yi Ng, Divya Namboodiri, Diana Learoyd, Andrew Davidson, Bernard Champion, and Veronica Preda

Summary

Co-secreting thyrotropin/growth hormone (GH) pituitary adenomas are rare; their clinical presentation and long-term management are challenging. There is also a paucity of long-term data. Due to the cell of origin, these can behave as aggressive tumours. We report a case of a pituitary plurihormonal pit-1-derived macroadenoma, with overt clinical hyperthyroidism and minimal GH excess symptoms. The diagnosis was confirmed by pathology showing elevated thyroid and GH axes with failure of physiological GH suppression, elevated pituitary glycoprotein hormone alpha subunit (αGSU) and macroadenoma on imaging. Pre-operatively the patient was rendered euthyroid with carbimazole and underwent successful transphenoidal adenomectomy (TSA) with surgical cure. Histopathology displayed an elevated Ki-67 of 5.2%, necessitating long-term follow-up.

Learning points:

  • Thyrotropinomas are rare and likely under-diagnosed due to under-recognition of secondary hyperthyroidism.
  • Thyrotropinomas and other plurihormonal pit-1-derived adenomas are more aggressive adenomas according to WHO guidelines.
  • Co-secretion occurs in 30% of thyrotropinomas, requiring diligent investigation and long-term follow-up of complications.
Open access

Daphne Yau, Maria Salomon-Estebanez, Amish Chinoy, John Grainger, Ross J Craigie, Raja Padidela, Mars Skae, Mark J Dunne, Philip G Murray, and Indraneel Banerjee

Summary

Congenital hyperinsulinism (CHI) is an important cause of severe hypoglycaemia in infancy. To correct hypoglycaemia, high concentrations of dextrose are often required through a central venous catheter (CVC) with consequent risk of thrombosis. We describe a series of six cases of CHI due to varying aetiologies from our centre requiring CVC for the management of hypoglycaemia, who developed thrombosis in association with CVC. We subsequently analysed the incidence and risk factors for CVC-associated thrombosis, as well as the outcomes of enoxaparin prophylaxis. The six cases occurred over a 3-year period; we identified an additional 27 patients with CHI who required CVC insertion during this period (n = 33 total), and a separate cohort of patients with CHI and CVC who received enoxaparin prophylaxis (n = 7). The incidence of CVC-associated thrombosis was 18% (6/33) over the 3 years, a rate of 4.2 thromboses/1000 CVC days. There was no difference in the frequency of genetic mutations or focal CHI in those that developed thromboses. However, compound heterozygous/homozygous potassium ATP channel mutations correlated with thrombosis (R 2 = 0.40, P = 0.001). No difference was observed in CVC duration, high concentration dextrose or glucagon infused through the CVC. In patients receiving enoxaparin prophylaxis, none developed thrombosis or bleeding complications. The characteristics of these patients did not differ significantly from those with thrombosis not on prophylaxis. We therefore conclude that CVC-associated thrombosis can occur in a significant proportion (18%) of patients with CHI, particularly in severe CHI, for which anticoagulant prophylaxis may be indicated.

Learning points:

  • CVC insertion is one of the most significant risk factors for thrombosis in the paediatric population.
  • Risk factors for CVC-associated thrombosis include increased duration of CVC placement, malpositioning and infusion of blood products.
  • To our knowledge, this is the first study to evaluate CVC-associated thrombosis in patients with congenital hyperinsulinism (CHI).
  • The incidence of CVC-associated thrombosis development is significant (18%) in CHI patients and higher compared to other neonates with CVC. CHI severity may be a risk factor for thrombosis development.
  • Although effective prophylaxis for CVC-associated thrombosis in infancy is yet to be established, our preliminary experience suggests the safety and efficacy of enoxoaparin prophylaxis in this population and requires on-going evaluation.
Open access

Ana Gonçalves Ferreira, Tiago Nunes da Silva, Sofia Alegria, Maria Carlos Cordeiro, and Jorge Portugal

Summary

Pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma (PPGL) are neuroendocrine tumors that can secrete catecholamines. The authors describe a challenging case who presented as stress cardiomyopathy and myocardial infarction (MI). A 76-year-old man, with a medical history of Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, dyslipidaemia and a previous inferior MI in 2001, presented to the emergency department due to chest pain, headaches and vomiting. He also reported worsening blood glucose levels and increasing constipation over the preceding weeks. BP was 185/89 mmHg (no other relevant findings). EKG had ST segment depression in leads V2-V6, T troponin was 600 ng/L (<14) and the echocardiogram showed left ventricular hypokinesia with mildly compromised systolic function. Nevertheless, he rapidly progressed to severe biventricular dysfunction. Coronary angiogram showed a 90% anterior descendent coronary artery occlusion (already present in 2001), which was treated with angioplasty/stenting. In the following days, a very labile BP profile and unexplained sinus tachycardia episodes were observed. Because of sustained severe constipation, the patient underwent an abdominal CT that revealed a retroperitoneal, heterogeneous, hypervascular mass on the right (62 × 35 mm), most likely a paraganglioma. Urinary metanephrines were increased several fold. 68Ga-DOTANOC PET-CT scan showed increased uptake in the abdominal mass (no evidence of disease elsewhere). He was started on a calcium-channel blocker and alpha blockade and underwent surgery with no major complications. Eight months after surgery, the patient has no evidence of disease. Genetic testing was negative for known germline mutations. This was a challenging diagnosis, but it was essential for adequate cardiovascular stabilization and to reduce further morbidity.

Learning points:

  • PPGL frequently produces catecholamines and can manifest with several cardiovascular syndromes, including stress cardiomyopathy and myocardial infarction.
  • Even in the presence of coronary artery disease (CAD), PPGL should be suspected if signs or symptoms attributed to catecholamine excess are present (in this case, high blood pressure, worsening hyperglycaemia and constipation).
  • Establishing the correct diagnosis is important for adequate treatment choice.
  • Inodilators and mechanical support might be preferable options (if available) for cardiovascular stabilization prior to alpha blockade and surgery.
  • Laboratory interference should be suspected irrespective of metanephrine levels, especially in the context of treated Parkinson’s disease.