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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

Maria Tomkins, Roxana Maria Tudor, Diarmuid Smith and Amar Agha

Summary

This case is the first to describe a patient who experienced concomitant agranulocytosis and anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis as an adverse effect of propylthiouracil treatment for Graves’ disease. A 42-year-old female with Graves’ disease presented to the emergency department (ED) with a 2-week history of fevers, night sweats, transient lower limb rash, arthralgia, myalgia and fatigue. She had been taking propylthiouracil for 18 months prior to presentation. On admission, agranulocytosis was evident with a neutrophil count of 0.36 × 109/L and immediately propylthiouracil was stopped. There was no evidence of active infection and the patient was treated with broad-spectrum antibodies and one dose of granulocyte colony-stimulation factor, resulting in a satisfactory response. On further investigation, ANCAs were positive with dual positivity for proteinase 3 and myeloperoxidase. There was no evidence of end-organ damage secondary to vasculitis, and the patient’s constitutional symptoms resolved completely on discontinuation of the drug precluding the need for immunosuppressive therapy.

Learning points:

  • Continued vigilance and patient education regarding the risk of antithyroid drug-induced agranulocytosis is vital throughout the course of treatment.
  • ANCA-associated vasculitis is a rare adverse effect of antithyroid drug use.
  • Timely discontinuation of the offending drug is vital in reducing end-organ damage and the need for immunosuppressive therapy in drug-induced ANCA-associated vasculitis.
  • Similarities in the pathogenesis of agranulocytosis and drug-induced ANCA-associated vasculitis may offer insight into an improved understanding of vasculitis and agranulocytosis.
Open access

Eka Melson, Sidra Amir, Lisa Shepherd, Samina Kauser, Bethan Freestone and Punith Kempegowda

Summary

Although pheochromocytoma classically presents with headaches, palpitations and paroxysmal hypertension, atypical presentations such as cardiomyopathy, stroke and subarachnoid haemorrhage have been infrequently documented. We present in this case report, an uncommon presentation of pheochromocytoma with myocardial infarction with normal coronary arteries (MINOCA). A 79-year-old woman presented with central crushing chest pain radiating to left arm associated with headache, palpitations, sweating and difficulty in breathing. For 2 years, she experienced brief episodes of headache, tinnitus, dizziness, palpitations, and sweating that spontaneously resolved. Clinical examination was unremarkable except for high blood pressure (210/105 mmHg). Her electrocardiogram showed T wave inversions from V1 to V6 and elevated troponins (774 ng/L at baseline and 932 ng/L 3 h from baseline (normal <16 ng/L) in keeping with a diagnosis of non-ST elevated myocardial infarction. Coronary angiography showed normal coronary arteries. Patient was hence treated as myocardial infarction with normal coronaries (MINOCA). Despite appropriate treatment for MINOCA, she continued to experience episodic headaches, palpitations, dizziness and erratic blood pressures (particularly severe hypertension shortly after beta-blocker administration). Further investigations revealed raised urine noradrenaline of 4724 nmol/24 h (<554 nmol/24 h) and urine adrenaline of 92863 nmol/24 h (<77 nmol/24 h). Computerised tomography demonstrated a well-defined rounded mass in right adrenal gland morphological of pheochromocytoma. She underwent laparoscopic right adrenalectomy with histology confirming pheochromocytoma. This case highlights the importance of thorough investigation for the underlying cause for MINOCA. In patients with unexplained erratic blood pressure control, pheochromocytoma should be considered as a differential diagnosis.

Learning points:

  • Pheochromocytoma is rare tumour that often presents with non-specific symptoms.
  • It is important to investigate underlying cause of MINOCA.
  • Thorough history is the key to diagnosis.
Open access

Huilin Koh, Manish Kaushik, Julian Kenrick Loh and Chiaw Ling Chng

Summary

Thyroid storm with multi-organ failure limits the use of conventional treatment. A 44-year-old male presented with thyroid storm and experienced cardiovascular collapse after beta-blocker administration, with resultant fulminant multi-organ failure requiring inotropic support, mechanical ventilation, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) and continuous renal replacement therapy. Hepatic and renal failure precluded the use of conventional thyroid storm treatment and early plasma exchange was instituted. The patient underwent emergency thyroidectomy after four effective exchanges, with subsequent rapid reversal of multi-organ failure. The challenges of institution of plasma exchanges with ongoing ECMO support, dialysis and timing of thyroidectomy are discussed. This case highlights the important role of early therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) as an effective salvage therapy for lowering circulating hormones and stabilization of patients in preparation for emergency thyroidectomy in patients with thyroid storm and fulminant multi-organ failure.

Learning points:

  • Administration of beta-blockers in thyroid storm presenting with congestive cardiac failure may precipitate cardiovascular collapse due to inhibition of thyroid-induced hyperadrenergic compensation which maintains cardiac output.
  • TPE can be an effective bridging therapy to emergency total thyroidectomy when conventional thyroid storm treatment is contraindicated.
  • End-organ support using ECMO and CRRT can be combined with TPE effectively in the management of critically ill cases of thyroid storm.
  • The effectiveness of plasma exchange in lowering thyroid hormones appears to wane after 44–48 h of therapy in this case, highlighting the importance early thyroidectomy.
Open access

Vasileios Chortis, Christine J H May, Kassiani Skordilis, John Ayuk, Wiebke Arlt and Rachel K Crowley

Summary

Context

Adrenal incidentalomas (AI) represent an increasingly common problem in modern endocrine practice. The diagnostic approach to AIs can be challenging and occasionally reveals surprising features. Here we describe two rare cases of complex adrenal lesions consisting of phaeochromocytomas with synchronous metastases from extra-adrenal primaries.

Case descriptions

Patient 1 – a 65-year-old gentleman with a newly diagnosed malignant melanoma was found to harbour an adrenal lesion with suspicious radiographic characteristics. Percutaneous adrenal biopsy was consistent with adrenocortical adenoma. After excision of the skin melanoma and regional lymphatic metastases, he was followed up without imaging. Three years later, he presented with abdominal discomfort and enlargement of his adrenal lesion, associated with high plasma metanephrines. Adrenalectomy revealed a mixed tumour consisting of a large phaeochromocytoma with an embedded melanoma metastasis in its core. Patient 2 – a 63-year-old lady with a history of NF-1-related phaeochromocytoma 20 years ago and previous breast cancer presented with a new adrenal lesion on the contralateral side. Plasma normetanephrine was markedly elevated. Elective adrenalectomy revealed an adrenal tumour consisting of chromaffin cells intermixed with breast carcinoma cells.

Conclusions

Adrenal incidentalomas require careful evaluation to exclude metastatic disease, especially in the context of a history of previous malignancy. Adrenal biopsy provides limited and potentially misleading information. Phaeochromocytomas are highly vascularised tumours that may function as a sieve, extracting and retaining irregularly shaped cancer cells, thereby yielding adrenal masses with intriguing dual pathology.

Learning points:

  • Adrenal incidentalomas require careful evaluation focused on exclusion of underlying hormone excess and malignant pathology.
  • Adrenal biopsy can be misleading and should only be considered in select cases.
  • Phaeochromocytomas harbouring intratumoural metastases from other, extra-adrenal primary malignancies represent rare pathological entities that highlight the complexities that can be presented by adrenal tumours.
Open access

Carolina Shalini Singarayar, Foo Siew Hui, Nicholas Cheong and Goay Swee En

Summary

Thyrotoxicosis is associated with cardiac dysfunction; more commonly, left ventricular dysfunction. However, in recent years, there have been more cases reported on right ventricular dysfunction, often associated with pulmonary hypertension in patients with thyrotoxicosis. Three cases of thyrotoxicosis associated with right ventricular dysfunction were presented. A total of 25 other cases of thyrotoxicosis associated with right ventricular dysfunction published from 1994 to 2017 were reviewed along with the present 3 cases. The mean age was 45 years. Most (82%) of the cases were newly diagnosed thyrotoxicosis. There was a preponderance of female gender (71%) and Graves’ disease (86%) as the underlying aetiology. Common presenting features included dyspnoea, fatigue and ankle oedema. Atrial fibrillation was reported in 50% of the cases. The echocardiography for almost all cases revealed dilated right atrial and or ventricular chambers with elevated pulmonary artery pressure. The abnormal echocardiographic parameters were resolved in most cases after rendering the patients euthyroid. Right ventricular dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension are not well-recognized complications of thyrotoxicosis. They are life-threatening conditions that can be reversed with early recognition and treatment of thyrotoxicosis. Signs and symptoms of right ventricular dysfunction should be sought in all patients with newly diagnosed thyrotoxicosis, and prompt restoration of euthyroidism is warranted in affected patients before the development of overt right heart failure.

Learning points:

  • Thyrotoxicosis is associated with right ventricular dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension apart from left ventricular dysfunction described in typical thyrotoxic cardiomyopathy.
  • Symptoms and signs of right ventricular dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension should be sought in all patients with newly diagnosed thyrotoxicosis.
  • Thyrotoxicosis should be considered in all cases of right ventricular dysfunction or pulmonary hypertension not readily explained by other causes.
  • Prompt restoration of euthyroidism is warranted in patients with thyrotoxicosis complicated by right ventricular dysfunction with or without pulmonary hypertension to allow timely resolution of the abnormal cardiac parameters before development of overt right heart failure.
Open access

Catherine Alguire, Jessica Chbat, Isabelle Forest, Ariane Godbout and Isabelle Bourdeau

Summary

Pheochromocytoma is a rare tumor of the adrenal gland. It often presents with the classic triad of headache, palpitations and generalized sweating. Although not described as a typical symptom of pheochromocytoma, anxiety is the fourth most common symptom reported by patients suffering of pheochromocytoma. We report the case of a 64 year old man who had severe anxiety and panic disorder as presenting symptoms of pheochromocytoma. After 13 years of psychiatric follow-up, the patient was diagnosed with malignant pheochromocytoma. After surgical resection of his pheochromocytoma and his hepatic metastases, the major panic attacks completely disappeared, the anxiety symptoms improved significantly and the psychiatric medications were stopped except for a very low maintenance dose of venlafaxine. We found in our cohort of 160 patients with pheochromocytoma 2 others cases of apparently benign tumors with severe anxiety that resolved after pheochromocytoma resection. These cases highlight that pheochromocytoma should be included in the differential diagnosis of refractory anxiety disorder.

Learning points:

  • Anxiety and panic disorder may be the main presenting symptoms of pheochromocytoma.
  • The diagnosis of pheochromocytoma should be excluded in cases of long-term panic disorder refractory to medications since the anxiety may be secondary to a catecholamine-secreting tumor.
  • Surgical treatment of pheochromocytoma leads to significant improvement of anxiety disorders.
Open access

Cheuk-Lik Wong, Chun-Kit Fok and Vicki Ho-Kee Tam

Summary

We report a case of elderly Chinese lady with neurofibromatosis type-1 presenting with longstanding palpitation, paroxysmal hypertension and osteoporosis. Biochemical testing showed mild hypercalcaemia with non-suppressed parathyroid hormone level suggestive of primary hyperparathyroidism, and mildly elevated urinary fractionated normetanephrine and plasma-free normetanephrine pointing to a catecholamine-secreting pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma. Further scintigraphic investigation revealed evidence of a solitary parathyroid adenoma causing primary hyperparathyroidism and a left pheochromocytoma. Resection of the parathyroid adenoma and pheochromocytoma resulted in normalization of biochemical abnormalities and hypertension. The rare concurrence of primary hyperparathyroidism and pheochromocytoma in neurofibromatosis type-1 is discussed.

Learning points:

  • All NF-1 patients who have symptoms suggestive of a pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma (PPGL), even remotely, should undergo biochemical testing.
  • The initial biochemical tests of choice for PPGL in NF-1 are either plasma-free metanephrines or urinary fractionated metanephrines. Any elevations of metanephrines should be carefully evaluated for the presence of PPGLs in NF-1 patients.
  • Primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) is described in subjects with NF-1. Due to the lack of epidemiological and functional studies, their association is yet to be substantiated. Meanwhile, PHPT may further exacerbate the metabolic bone defect in these patients and should be treated when present according to published guidelines.
  • Coexistence of PPGL and PHPT can occur in subjects with NF-1, mimicking multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2).
Open access

V Larouche and M Tamilia

Summary

Enteroviruses, including coxsackieviruses and Echovirus, are well known pathogens responsible for the development of thyroiditis. We describe the case of a 49-year-old woman with no personal or family history of thyroid disease who presented to the emergency room with a two-week history of daily fevers up to 39°C, a sore throat, occasional palpitations and diaphoresis, decreased appetite and an unintentional 10 kg weight loss over the same time course Physical examination revealed mild tachycardia, an intention tremor and a normal-sized, nontender thyroid gland without palpable nodules. The remainder of the physical examination was unremarkable and without stigmata of Graves’ disease. Her initial blood tests revealed overt thyrotoxicosis, elevated liver enzymes, an elevated C-reactive protein, a negative monospot and a positive CMV IgM antibody. Thyroid sonography revealed areas of hypoechogenicity and relatively low vascularity. Fine-needle biopsy showed a lymphocytic infiltrate. The patient was treated symptomatically with propranolol. On follow-up, the patient became euthyroid, and her liver enzymes normalised. Previous cases of CMV-induced thyroiditis occurred in immunosuppressed patients. This is the first reported case of a CMV-mononucleosis-induced thyroiditis in an immunocompetent adult patient and serves as a reminder that viral illnesses are a common cause of thyroiditis with abnormal liver enzymes.

Learning points:

  • The differential diagnosis of thyrotoxicosis with abnormal liver enzymes includes severe hyperthyroidism and thyroid storm caused by Graves’ disease as well as the thyrotoxic phase of a thyroiditis, usually caused by a virus such as coxsackievirus or, in this case, cytomegalovirus.
  • Cytomegalovirus appears to be a recently recognized causal agent for thyroiditis, both in immunosuppressed and immunocompetent patients.
  • Careful follow-up of thyroid function tests in patients with thyroiditis allows clinicians to determine if patients’ thyroid hormone secretion normalizes or if they remain hypothyroid.