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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

Carmina Teresa Fuss, Stephanie Burger-Stritt, Silke Horn, Ann-Cathrin Koschker, Kathrin Frey, Almuth Meyer and Stefanie Hahner

Summary

Standard treatment of hypoparathyroidism consists of supplementation of calcium and vitamin D analogues, which does not fully restore calcium homeostasis. In some patients, hypoparathyroidism is refractory to standard treatment with persistent low serum calcium levels and associated clinical complications. Here, we report on three patients (58-year-old male, 52-year-old female, and 48-year-old female) suffering from severe treatment-refractory postsurgical hypoparathyroidism. Two patients had persistent hypocalcemia despite oral treatment with up to 4 µg calcitriol and up to 4 g calcium per day necessitating additional i.v. administration of calcium gluconate 2–3 times per week, whereas the third patient presented with high frequencies of hypocalcemic and treatment-associated hypercalcemic episodes. S.c. administration of rhPTH (1–34) twice daily (40 µg/day) or rhPTH (1–84) (100 µg/day) only temporarily increased serum calcium levels but did not lead to long-term stabilization. In all three cases, treatment with rhPTH (1–34) as continuous s.c. infusion via insulin pump was initiated. Normalization of serum calcium and serum phosphate levels was observed within 1 week at daily 1–34 parathyroid hormone doses of 15 µg to 29.4 µg. Oral vitamin D and calcium treatment could be stopped or reduced and regular i.v. calcium administration was no more necessary. Ongoing efficacy of this treatment has been documented for up to 7 years so far. Therefore, we conclude that hypoparathyroidism that is refractory to both conventional treatment and s.c. parathyroid hormone (single or twice daily) may be successfully treated with continuous parathyroid hormone administration via insulin pump.

Learning points:

  • Standard treatment of hypoparathyroidism still consists of administration of calcium and active vitamin D.
  • Very few patients with hypoparathyroidism also do not respond sufficiently to standard treatment or administration of s.c. parathyroid hormone once or twice daily.
  • In those cases, continuous s.c. administration of parathyroid hormone via insulin pump may represent a successful treatment alternative.
Open access

Mawson Wang, Catherine Cho, Callum Gray, Thora Y Chai, Ruhaida Daud and Matthew Luttrell

Summary

We report the case of a 65-year-old female who presented with symptomatic hypercalcaemia (corrected calcium of 4.57 mmol/L) with confusion, myalgias and abdominal discomfort. She had a concomitant metabolic alkalosis (pH 7.46, HCO3 - 40 mmol/L, pCO2 54.6 mmHg). A history of significant Quick-Eze use (a calcium carbonate based antacid) for abdominal discomfort, for 2 weeks prior to presentation, suggested a diagnosis of milk-alkali syndrome (MAS). Further investigations did not demonstrate malignancy or primary hyperparathyroidism. Following management with i.v. fluid rehydration and a single dose of i.v. bisphosphonate, she developed symptomatic hypocalcaemia requiring oral and parenteral calcium replacement. She was discharged from the hospital with stable biochemistry on follow-up. This case demonstrates the importance of a detailed history in the diagnosis of severe hypercalcaemia, with MAS representing the third most common cause of hypercalcaemia. We discuss its pathophysiology and clinical importance, which can often present with severe hypercalcaemia that can respond precipitously to calcium-lowering therapy.

Learning points:

  • Milk-alkali syndrome is an often unrecognised cause for hypercalcaemia, but is the third most common cause of admission for hypercalcaemia.
  • Calcium ingestion leading to MAS can occur at intakes as low as 1.0–1.5 g per day in those with risk factors.
  • Early recognition of this syndrome can avoid the use of calcium-lowering therapy such as bisphosphonates which can precipitate hypocalcaemia.
Open access

Sara Lomelino-Pinheiro, Bastos Margarida and Adriana de Sousa Lages

Summary

Familial hypomagnesemia with secondary hypocalcemia (FHSH) is a rare autosomal recessive disorder (OMIM# 602014) characterized by profound hypomagnesemia associated with hypocalcemia. It is caused by mutations in the gene encoding transient receptor potential cation channel member 6 (TRPM6). It usually presents with neurological symptoms in the first months of life. We report a case of a neonate presenting with recurrent seizures and severe hypomagnesemia. The genetic testing revealed a novel variant in the TRPM6 gene. The patient has been treated with high-dose magnesium supplementation, remaining asymptomatic and without neurological sequelae until adulthood. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent irreversible neurological damage.

Learning points:

  • Loss-of-function mutations of TRPM6 are associated with FHSH.
  • FHSH should be considered in any child with refractory hypocalcemic seizures, especially in cases with serum magnesium levels as low as 0.2 mM.
  • Normocalcemia and relief of clinical symptoms can be assured by administration of high doses of magnesium.
  • Untreated, the disorder may be fatal or may result in irreversible neurological damage.
Open access

S Hamidi, S Mottard, M J Berthiaume, J Doyon, M J Bégin and L Bondaz

Summary

Brown tumors (BTs) are expansile osteolytic lesions complicating severe primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT). Clinical, radiological and histological features of BTs share many similarities with other giant cell-containing lesions of the bone, which can make their diagnosis challenging. We report the case of a 32-year-old man in whom an aggressive osteolytic lesion of the iliac crest was initially diagnosed as a giant cell tumor by biopsy. The patient was scheduled for surgical curettage, with a course of neoadjuvant denosumab. Routine biochemical workup prior to denosumab administration incidentally revealed high serum calcium levels. The patient was diagnosed with PHPT and a parathyroid adenoma was identified. In light of these findings, histological slices of the iliac lesion were reviewed and diagnosis of a BT was confirmed. Follow-up CT-scans performed 2 and 7 months after parathyroidectomy showed regression and re-ossification of the bone lesion. The aim of this case report is to underline the importance of distinguishing BTs from other giant cell-containing lesions of the bone and to highlight the relevance of measuring serum calcium as part of the initial evaluation of osteolytic bone lesions. This can have a major impact on patients’ management and can prevent unnecessary invasive surgical interventions.

Learning points:

  • Although rare, brown tumors should always be considered in the differential diagnosis of osteolytic giant cell-containing bone lesions.
  • Among giant cell-containing lesions of the bone, the main differential diagnoses of brown tumors are giant cell tumors and aneurysmal bone cysts.
  • Clinical, radiological and histological characteristics can be non-discriminating between brown tumors and giant cell tumors. One of the best ways to distinguish these two diagnoses appears to be through biochemical workup.
  • Differentiating brown tumors from giant cell tumors and aneurysmal bone cysts is crucial in order to ensure better patient care and prevent unnecessary morbid surgical interventions.
Open access

Aisha A Tepede, James Welch, Maya Lee, Adel Mandl, Sunita K Agarwal, Naris Nilubol, Dhaval Patel, Craig Cochran, William F Simonds, Lee S Weinstein, Abhishek Jha, Corina Millo, Karel Pacak and Jenny E Blau

Summary

Pheochromocytoma (PHEO) in multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) is extremely rare. The incidence is reported as less than 2%. We report a case of a 76-year-old male with familial MEN1 who was found to have unilateral PHEO. Although the patient was normotensive and asymptomatic, routine screening imaging with CT demonstrated bilateral adrenal masses. The left adrenal mass grew from 2.5 to 3.9 cm over 4 years with attenuation values of 9 Hounsfield units (HU) pre-contrast and 15 HU post-contrast washout. Laboratory evaluation demonstrated an adrenergic biochemical phenotype. Both 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (18F-FDG) PET/CT and 123I-metaiodobenzylguanidine (123I-mIBG) scintigraphy demonstrated bilateral adrenal uptake. In contrast, 18F-fluorodihydroxyphenylalanine (18F-FDOPA) PET/CT demonstrated unilateral left adrenal uptake (28.7 standardized uptake value (SUV)) and physiologic right adrenal uptake. The patient underwent an uneventful left adrenalectomy with pathology consistent for PHEO. Post-operatively, he had biochemical normalization. A review of the literature suggests that adrenal tumors >2 cm may be at higher risk for pheochromocytoma in patients with MEN1. Despite a lack of symptoms related to catecholamine excess, enlarging adrenal nodules should be biochemically screened for PHEO. 18F-FDOPA PET/CT may be beneficial for localization in these patients.

Learning points:

  • 18F-FDOPA PET/CT is a beneficial imaging modality for identifying pheochromocytoma in MEN1 patients.
  • Adrenal adenomas should undergo routine biochemical workup for PHEO in MEN1 and can have serious peri-operative complications if not recognized, given that MEN1 patients undergo frequent surgical interventions.
  • MEN1 is implicated in the tumorigenesis of PHEO in this patient.
Open access

Florence Gunawan, Elizabeth George and Mark Kotowicz

Summary

Denosumab is a fully human MAB that acts as a potent anti-resorptive by inhibiting activation of osteoclasts by inhibiting the receptor activator of nuclear factor-kappa B (RANK) ligand. Hypocalcaemia has been reported as one of the serious adverse sequelae of use of denosumab. We present a case of refractory hypocalcaemia following administration of a single dose of denosumab in a patient with metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer. The patient’s serum calcium and vitamin D concentrations and renal function were normal prior to denosumab administration. Serum alkaline phosphatase (ALP) level was however elevated pre-morbidly consistent with known bone metastases. The patient was treated with high-dose oral and IV calcium without any appreciable response in serum calcium. During his 30-day hospital admission, he demonstrated disease progression with development of new liver metastases and bone marrow involvement. Normocalcaemia was not achieved despite 1 month of aggressive therapy. Given the patient was asymptomatic and prognosis guarded, he was eventually discharged for ongoing supportive care under the palliative care team.

Learning points:

  • Denosumab is a potent anti-resorptive therapy and hypocalcaemia is one of the known adverse effects.
  • Serum calcium and vitamin D concentrations must be replete prior to administration of denosumab to reduce the risk of hypocalcaemia.
  • Denosumab has been proven to be more effective than zoledronic acid in preventing skeletal-related adverse effects in patients with metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer.
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:

  • Mifepristone, a potent antagonist of glucocorticoid receptors, has a high risk of adrenal insufficiency, despite high cortisol levels.
  • Mifepristone is associated with hypokalemia due to spill-over effect of cortisol on unopposed mineralocorticoid receptors.
  • Given the lack of a biochemical parameter to assess improvement, the dosing of mifepristone is based on clinical progress.
  • Patients on mifepristone require anticipation of toxicity, especially when the dose is escalated.
  • The half-life of mifepristone is 85 h, requiring prolonged monitoring for toxicity, even after the medication is held.
Open access

Joanna Prokop, João Estorninho, Sara Marote, Teresa Sabino, Aida Botelho de Sousa, Eduardo Silva and Ana Agapito

Summary

POEMS syndrome (Polyneuropathy, Organomegaly, Endocrinopathy, Monoclonal protein and Skin changes) is a rare multisystemic disease. Clinical presentation is variable, the only mandatory criteria being polyneuropathy and monoclonal gammapathy in association with one major and one minor criterion. Primary adrenal insufficiency is rarely reported. We describe a case of a 33-year-old patient, in whom the presenting symptoms were mandibular mass, chronic sensory-motor peripheral polyneuropathy and adrenal insufficiency. The laboratory evaluation revealed thrombocytosis, severe hyperkalemia with normal renal function, normal protein electrophoresis and negative serum immunofixation for monoclonal protein. Endocrinologic laboratory work-up confirmed Addison’s disease and revealed subclinical primary hypothyroidism. Thoracic abdominal CT showed hepatosplenomegaly, multiple sclerotic lesions in thoracic vertebra and ribs. The histopathologic examination of the mandibular mass was nondiagnostic. Bone marrow biopsy revealed plasma cell dyscrasia and confirmed POEMS syndrome. Axillary lymphadenopathy biopsy: Castleman’s disease. Gluco-mineralocorticoid substitution and levothyroxine therapy were started with clinical improvement. Autologous hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) was planned, cyclophosphamide induction was started. Meanwhile the patient suffered two ischemic strokes which resulted in aphasia and hemiparesis. Cerebral angiography revealed vascular lesions compatible with vasculitis and stenosis of two cerebral arteries. The patient deceased 14 months after the diagnosis. The young age at presentation, multiplicity of manifestations and difficulties in investigation along with the absence of serum monoclonal protein made the diagnosis challenging. We report this case to highlight the need to consider POEMS syndrome in differential diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy in association with endocrine abnormalities even in young patients.

Learning points:

  • POEMS syndrome is considered a ‘low tumor burden disease’ and the monoclonal protein in 15% of cases is not found by immunofixation.
  • Neuropathy is the dominant characteristic of POEMS syndrome and it is peripheral, ascending, symmetric and affecting both sensation and motor function.
  • Endocrinopathies are a frequent feature of POEMS syndrome, but the cause is unknown.
  • The most common endocrinopathies are hypogonadism, primary hypothyroidism and abnormalities in glucose metabolism.
  • There is no standard therapy; however, patients with disseminated bone marrow involvement are treated with chemotherapy with or without HCT.
Open access

Mona Abouzaid, Ahmed Al-Sharefi, Satish Artham, Ibrahim Masri, Ajay Kotagiri and Ashwin Joshi

Summary

An 82-year-old male with a proven diagnosis of primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) was found to have bilateral changes in the fundi during a routine eye examination which were consistent with SC. In this report, we discuss the link between SC and PHPT and question the need for prospective observational studies to establish the true association between these conditions. Though screening PHPT patients for SC might not be justified/warranted given the benign course of the latter, patients with SC need to be assessed for PHPT, as the former may be the first clue to an underlying treatable systemic disease.

Learning points:

  • Sclerochoroidal calcifications (SCs), though rare and harmless, could be associated with an underlying systemic disease, such as primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT).
  • Biochemical screening for hypercalcaemia is a simple, cheap and widely available tool that could facilitate an identification of undiagnosed PHPT in patients with SC.
  • A joint care by endocrinologists and ophthalmologists is warranted for those patients, as thorough investigations and long-term follow-up plans are crucial.