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Open access

Alessandro Rossini, Francesca Perticone, Laura Frosio, Marco Schiavo Lena and Roberto Lanzi

Summary

ACTH-secreting pheochromocytoma is a very rare cause of Cushing’s syndrome, with a high morbidity and mortality risk due to both cortisol and catecholamines excess. We report the case of a 45-year-old female patient with a 3 cm, high-density, left adrenal mass, diagnosed as an ACTH-secreting pheochromocytoma. The biochemical sensitivity of the tumor to somatostatin analogues was tested by a 100 μg s.c. octreotide administration, which led to an ACTH and cortisol reduction of 50 and 25% respectively. In addition to alpha and beta blockers, preoperative approach to laparoscopic adrenalectomy included octreotide, a somatostatin analogue, together with ketoconazole, in order to achieve an adequate pre-surgical control of cortisol release. Histopathological assessment confirmed an ACTH-secreting pheochromocytoma expressing type 2 and 5 somatostatin receptors (SSTR-2 and -5).

Learning points:

  • ACTH-secreting pheochromocytomas represent a rare and severe condition, characterized by high morbidity and mortality risk.
  • Surgical removal of the adrenal mass is the gold standard treatment, but adequate medical therapy is required preoperatively to improve the surgical outcome and to avoid major complications.
  • Somatostatin analogs, in addition to other medications, may represent a useful therapeutic option for the presurgical management of selected patients.
  • In this sense, the octreotide challenge test is a useful tool to predict favorable therapeutic response to the treatment.
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

Yasuhiro Oda, Masayuki Yamanouchi, Hiroki Mizuno, Rikako Hiramatsu, Tatsuya Suwabe, Junichi Hoshino, Naoki Sawa, Kenichi Ohashi, Takeshi Fujii and Yoshifumi Ubara

Summary

We report the renal histology of a 66-year-old man with hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and a 30-year history of type 2 diabetes mellitus with proliferative diabetic retinopathy, diabetic neuropathy, and diabetic foot status post toe amputation. Urinary protein excretion was 1.4 g/gCr, serum creatinine level 0.86 mg/dL, estimated glomerular filtration rate 69 mL/min/1.73 m2, and HbA1c 13–15%, despite using insulin. Light microscopy showed global glomerulosclerosis in 37% of the glomeruli, but the remaining glomeruli were intact. Significant polar vasculosis was present, while arteriolar sclerosis was mild. Electron microscopy revealed a thickened glomerular basement membrane, which is compatible with the early stage of diabetic glomerulopathy. The presented case was unique because glomerular changes seen typically in diabetes were not seen in the patient, despite the long-standing history of diabetes and diabetic comorbidities, while prominent polar vasculosis was found. Polar vascular formation helps preserve the glomeruli by allowing hyperosmotic blood bypass the glomeruli; this decreases intraglomerular pressure and minimizes glomerular endothelial damage.

Learning points:

  • A 66-year-old man with a 30-year history of type 2 diabetes mellitus with poor glycemic control underwent renal biopsy, which showed scarce glomerular changes typically seen in diabetic kidney disease and instead revealed significant polar vasculosis.
  • Past studies demonstrated that the increased small vessels around the vascular hilus in diabetic patients originated from the afferent arterioles and drained into the peritubular capillaries.
  • Polar vascular formation may preserve glomerular function by allowing the blood flow to bypass the glomeruli and decreasing the intraglomerular pressure, which minimizes endothelial damage of the glomerular tufts.
Open access

Khaled Aljenaee, Osamah Hakami, Colin Davenport, Gemma Farrell, Tommy Kyaw Tun, Agnieszka Pazderska, Niamh Phelan, Marie-Louise Healy, Seamus Sreenan and John H McDermott

Summary

Measurement of glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) has been utilised in assessing long-term control of blood glucose in patients with diabetes, as well as diagnosing diabetes and identifying patients at increased risk of developing diabetes in the future. HbA1c reflects the level of blood glucose to which the erythrocyte has been exposed during its lifespan, and there are a number of clinical situations affecting the erythrocyte life span in which HbA1c values may be spuriously high or low and therefore not reflective of the true level of glucose control. In the present case series, we describe the particulars of three patients with diabetes who had spuriously low HbA1c levels as a result of dapsone usage. Furthermore, we discuss the limitations of HbA1c testing and the mechanisms by which it may be affected by dapsone in particular.

Learning points:

  • Various conditions and medications can result in falsely low HbA1c.
  • Dapsone can lead to falsely low HbA1c by inducing haemolysis and by forming methaemoglobin.
  • Capillary glucose measurement, urine glucose measurements and fructosamine levels should be used as alternatives to HbA1c for monitoring glycaemic control if it was falsely low or high.
Open access

Punith Kempegowda, Lauren Quinn, Lisa Shepherd, Samina Kauser, Briony Johnson, Alex Lawson and Andrew Bates

Summary

A 62-year-old Asian British female presented with increasing tiredness. She had multiple co-morbidities and was prescribed steroid inhalers for asthma. She had also received short courses of oral prednisolone for acute asthma exacerbations in the last 2 years. Unfortunately, the frequency and dose of steroids for asthma was unclear from history. Her type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) control had deteriorated over a short period of time (HbA1c: 48–85 mmol/mol). Blood tests revealed undetectable cortisol and ACTH (<28 mmol/L, <5.0 ng/L). Renin, electrolytes and thyroid function were within normal limits. A diagnosis of secondary adrenal insufficiency, likely due to long-term steroid inhaler and recurrent short courses of oral steroids for asthma exacerbations was made. Patient was commenced on hydrocortisone 10 mg, 5 mg and 5 mg regimen. Steroid inhaler was discontinued following consultation with respiratory physicians. Despite discontinuation of inhaled steroids, patient continued not to mount a response to Synacthen®. Upon further detailed history, patient admitted taking a ‘herbal’ preparation for chronic osteoarthritic knee pain. Toxicology analysis showed presence of dexamethasone, ciprofloxacin, paracetamol, diclofenac, ibuprofen and cimetidine in the herbal medication. Patient was advised to discontinue her herbal preparation. We believe the cause of secondary adrenal insufficiency in our patient was the herbal remedy containing dexamethasone, explaining persistent adrenal suppression despite discontinuation of all prescribed steroids, further possibly contributing to obesity, hypertension and suboptimal control of DM. In conclusion, a comprehensive drug history including herbal and over-the-counter preparations should be elucidated. Investigation for the presence of steroids in these preparations should be considered when patients persist to have secondary adrenal insufficiency despite discontinuation of prescribed steroid medications.

Learning points:

  • The likelihood of complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) in medication-induced secondary adrenal insufficiency should be considered in any patient presenting with potential symptoms of adrenal insufficiency.
  • If the contents of CAM preparation cannot be ascertained, toxicology screening should be considered.
  • Patients should be advised to stop taking CAM preparation when it contains steroids and hydrocortisone replacement therapy commenced, with periodic reassessment of adrenal function, and then if indicated weaned accordingly.
  • Patients should be informed about the contents of CAM therapies, so they can make a truly informed choice regarding the risks and benefits.
  • This case also highlights a need to increase regulatory processes over CAM therapies, given their propensity to contain a number of undisclosed medications and potent steroids.
Open access

Marcela Rodríguez Flores, Ruth Carmina Cruz Soto, Verónica Vázquez Velázquez, Reina Ruth Soriano Cortés, Carlos Aguilar Salinas and Eduardo García García

Summary

In patients with gastric bypass (GB), high glucose variability (GV) and hypoglycemia have been demonstrated, which could impact the metabolic status and eating behavior. We describe the glucose patterns determined through continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) in two patients with >5 years follow-up after GB and significant weight recovery, who reported hypoglycemic symptoms that interfered with daily activities, and their response to a nutritional and psycho-educative prescription. Case 1: A 40-year-old woman without pre-surgical type 2 diabetes (T2DM) and normal HbA1c, in whom CGM showed high GV and hypoglycemic episodes that did not correlate with the time of hypoglycemic symptoms. Her GV reduced after prescription of a diet with low glycemic index and modification of meal patterns. Case 2: A 48-year-old male with pre-surgical diagnosis of T2DM and current normal HbA1c, reported skipping meals. The CGM showed high GV, 15% of time in hypoglycemia and hyperglycemic spikes. After prescription of a low glycemic index diet, his GV increased and time in hypoglycemia decreased. Through the detailed self-monitoring needed for CGM, we discovered severe anxiety symptoms, consumption of simple carbohydrates and lack of meal structure. He was referred for more intensive psychological counseling. In conclusion, CGM can detect disorders in glucose homeostasis derived both from the mechanisms of bariatric surgery, as well as the patient’s behaviors and mental health, improving decision-making during follow-up.

Learning points:

  • High glycemic variability is frequent in patients operated with gastric bypass.
  • Diverse eating patterns, such as prolonged fasting and simple carbohydrate ingestion, and mental health disorders, including anxiety, can promote and be confused with worsened hypoglycemia.
  • CGM requires a detailed record of food ingested that can be accompanied by associated factors (circumstances, eating patterns, emotional symptoms). This allows the detection of particular behaviors and amount of dietary simple carbohydrates to guide recommendations provided within clinical care of these patients.
Open access

Wei Yang, David Pham, Aren T Vierra, Sarah Azam, Dorina Gui and John C Yoon

Summary

Ectopic ACTH-secreting pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors are rare and account for less than 5% of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome cases. We describe an unusual case of metastatic bronchial carcinoid tumor in a young woman presenting with unprovoked pulmonary emboli, which initially prevented the detection of the primary tumor on imaging. The source of ectopic ACTH was ultimately localized by a Gallium-DOTATATE scan, which demonstrated increased tracer uptake in a right middle lobe lung nodule and multiple liver nodules. The histological diagnosis was established based on a core biopsy of a hepatic lesion and the patient was started on a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist and a somatostatin analog. This case illustrates that hypercogulability can further aggravate the diagnostic challenges in ectopic ACTH syndrome. We discuss the literature on the current diagnosis and management strategies for ectopic ACTH syndrome.

Learning points:

  • In a young patient with concurrent hypokalemia and uncontrolled hypertension on multiple antihypertensive agents, secondary causes of hypertension should be evaluated.
  • Patients with Cushing’s syndrome can develop an acquired hypercoagulable state leading to spontaneous and postoperative venous thromboembolism.
  • Pulmonary emboli may complicate the imaging of the bronchial carcinoid tumor in ectopic ACTH syndrome.
  • Imaging with Gallium-68 DOTATATE PET/CT scan has the highest sensitivity and specificity in detecting ectopic ACTH-secreting tumors.
  • A combination of various noninvasive biochemical tests can enhance the diagnostic accuracy in differentiating Cushing’s disease from ectopic ACTH syndrome provided they have concordant results. Bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling remains the gold standard.
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.
Open access

Michelle Maher, Mohammed Faraz Rafey, Helena Griffin, Katie Cunningham and Francis M Finucane

Summary

A 45-year-old man with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes (T2DM) (HbA1c 87 mmol/mol) despite 100 units of insulin per day and severe obesity (BMI 40.2 kg/m2) was referred for bariatric intervention. He declined bariatric surgery or GLP1 agonist therapy. Initially, his glycaemic control improved with dietary modification and better adherence to insulin therapy, but he gained weight. We started a low-energy liquid diet, with 2.2 L of semi-skimmed milk (equivalent to 1012 kcal) per day for 8 weeks (along with micronutrient, salt and fibre supplementation) followed by 16 weeks of phased reintroduction of a normal diet. His insulin was stopped within a week of starting this programme, and over 6 months, he lost 20.6 kg and his HbA1c normalised. However, 1 year later, despite further weight loss, his HbA1c deteriorated dramatically, requiring introduction of linagliptin and canagliflozin, with good response. Five years after initial presentation, his BMI remains elevated but improved at 35.5 kg/m2 and his glycaemic control is excellent with a HbA1c of 50 mmol/mol and he is off insulin therapy. Whether semi-skimmed milk is a safe, effective substrate for carefully selected patients with severe obesity complicated by T2DM remains to be determined. Such patients would need frequent monitoring by an experienced multidisciplinary team.

Learning points:

  • Meal replacement programmes are an emerging therapeutic strategy to allow severely obese type 2 diabetes patients to achieve clinically impactful weight loss.
  • Using semi-skimmed milk as a meal replacement substrate might be less costly than commercially available programmes, but is likely to require intensive multidisciplinary bariatric clinical follow-up.
  • For severely obese adults with poor diabetes control who decline bariatric surgery or GLP1 agonist therapy, a milk-based meal replacement programme may be an option.
  • Milk-based meal replacement in patients with insulin requiring type 2 diabetes causes rapid and profound reductions in insulin requirements, so rigorous monitoring of glucose levels by patients and their clinicians is necessary.
  • In carefully selected and adequately monitored patients, the response to oral antidiabetic medications may help to differentiate between absolute and relative insulin deficiency.
Open access

H Joshi, M Hikmat, A P Devadass, S O Oyibo and S V Sagi

Summary

IgG4-related disease (IgG4-RD) is an immune-mediated fibro-inflammatory condition which can affect various organs including the pituitary gland. The true annual incidence of this condition remains widely unknown. In addition, it is unclear whether IgG4 antibodies are causative or the end result of a trigger. With no specific biomarkers available, the diagnosis of IgG4-related hypophysitis remains a challenge. Additionally, there is a wide differential diagnosis. We report a case of biopsy-proven IgG4-related hypophysitis in a young man with type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Learning points:

  • IgG4-related hypophysitis is part of a spectrum of IgG4-related diseases.
  • Clinical manifestations result from anterior pituitary hormone deficiencies with or without diabetes insipidus, which can be temporary or permanent.
  • A combination of clinical, radiological, serological and histological evidence with careful interpretation is required to make the diagnosis.
  • Tissue biopsy remains the gold standard investigation.
  • Disease monitoring and long-term management of this condition is a challenge as relapses occur frequently.