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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

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

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

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

Valeria de Miguel, Andrea Paissan, Patricio García Marchiñena, Alberto Jurado, Mariana Isola, José Alfie and Patricia Fainstein-Day

Summary

We present the case of a 25-year-old male with a history of neurofibromatosis type 1 and bilateral pheochromocytoma 4 years after kidney transplantation that was successfully treated with simultaneous bilateral posterior retroperitoneoscopic adrenalectomy.

Learning points:

  • Hypertensive patients with NF1 should always be screened for pheochromocytoma.
  • Pheochromocytoma is rarely associated with transplantation, but it must be ruled out in patients with genetic susceptibility.
  • Posterior retroperitoneoscopic adrenalectomy (PRA) allows more direct access to the adrenal glands, especially in patients with previous abdominal surgeries.
Open access

Pedro Marques, Nicola Tufton, Satya Bhattacharya, Mark Caulfield and Scott A Akker

Summary

Mineralocorticoid hypertension is most often caused by autonomous overproduction of aldosterone, but excess of other mineralocorticoid precursors can lead to a similar presentation. 11-Deoxycorticosterone (DOC) excess, which can occur in 11-β hydroxylase or 17-α hydroxylase deficiencies, in DOC-producing adrenocortical tumours or in patients taking 11-β hydroxylase inhibitors, may cause mineralocorticoid hypertension. We report a 35-year-old woman who in the third trimester of pregnancy was found to have a large adrenal mass on routine obstetric ultrasound. On referral to our unit, persistent hypertension and long-standing hypokalaemia was noted, despite good compliance with multiple antihypertensives. Ten years earlier, she had hypertension noted in pregnancy which had persisted after delivery. A MRI scan confirmed the presence of a 12 cm adrenal mass and biochemistry revealed high levels of DOC and low/normal renin, aldosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone, with normal catecholamine levels. The patient was treated with antihypertensives until obstetric delivery, following which she underwent an adrenalectomy. Histology confirmed a large adrenal cortical neoplasm of uncertain malignant potential. Postoperatively, blood pressure and serum potassium normalised, and the antihypertensive medication was stopped. Over 10 years of follow-up, she remains asymptomatic with normal DOC measurements. This case should alert clinicians to the possibility of a diagnosis of a DOC-producing adrenal tumours in patients with adrenal nodules and apparent mineralocorticoid hypertension in the presence of low or normal levels of aldosterone. The associated diagnostic and management challenges are discussed.

Learning points:

  • Hypermineralocorticoidism is characterised by hypertension, volume expansion and hypokalaemic alkalosis and is most commonly due to overproduction of aldosterone. However, excess of other mineralocorticoid products, such as DOC, lead to the same syndrome but with normal or low aldosterone levels.
  • The differential diagnosis of resistant hypertension with low renin and low/normal aldosterone includes congenital adrenal hyperplasia, syndrome of apparent mineralocorticoid excess, Cushing’s syndrome, Liddle’s syndrome and 11-deoxycorticosterone-producing tumours.
  • DOC is one intermediate product in the mineralocorticoid synthesis with weaker activity than aldosterone. However, marked DOC excess seen in 11-β hydroxylase or 17-α hydroxylase deficiencies in DOC-producing adrenocortical tumours or in patients taking 11-β hydroxylase inhibitors, may cause mineralocorticoid hypertension.
  • Excessive production of DOC in adrenocortical tumours has been attributed to reduced activity of the enzymes 11-β hydroxylase and 17-α hydroxylase and increased activity of 21-α hydroxylase.
  • The diagnosis of DOC-producing adrenal tumours is challenging because of its rarity and poor availability of DOC laboratory assays.
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

Michal Barabas, Isabel Huang-Doran, Debbie Pitfield, Hazel Philips, Manoj Goonewardene, Ruth T Casey and Benjamin G Challis

Summary

A 67-year-old woman presented with a generalised rash associated with weight loss and resting tachycardia. She had a recent diagnosis of diabetes mellitus. Biochemical evaluation revealed elevated levels of circulating glucagon and chromogranin B. Cross-sectional imaging demonstrated a pancreatic lesion and liver metastases, which were octreotide-avid. Biopsy of the liver lesion confirmed a diagnosis of well-differentiated grade 2 pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour, consistent with metastatic glucagonoma. Serial echocardiography commenced 4 years before this diagnosis demonstrated a progressive left ventricular dilatation and dysfunction in the absence of ischaemia, suggestive of glucagonoma-associated dilated cardiomyopathy. Given the severity of the cardiac impairment, surgical management was considered inappropriate and somatostatin analogue therapy was initiated, affecting clinical and biochemical improvement. Serial cross-sectional imaging demonstrated stable disease 2 years after diagnosis. Left ventricular dysfunction persisted, however, despite somatostatin analogue therapy and optimal medical management of cardiac failure. In contrast to previous reports, the case we describe demonstrates that chronic hyperglucagonaemia may lead to irreversible left ventricular compromise. Management of glucagonoma therefore requires careful and serial evaluation of cardiac status.

Learning points:

  • In rare cases, glucagonoma may present with cardiac failure as the dominant feature. Significant cardiac impairment may occur in the absence of other features of glucagonoma syndrome due to subclinical chronic hyperglucagonaemia.
  • A diagnosis of glucagonoma should be considered in patients with non-ischaemic cardiomyopathy, particularly those with other features of glucagonoma syndrome.
  • Cardiac impairment due to glucagonoma may not respond to somatostatin analogue therapy, even in the context of biochemical improvement.
  • All patients with a new diagnosis of glucagonoma should be assessed clinically for evidence of cardiac failure and, if present, a baseline transthoracic echocardiogram should be performed. In the presence of cardiac impairment these patients should be managed by an experienced cardiologist.
Open access

Ohoud Al Mohareb, Mussa H Al Malki, O Thomas Mueller and Imad Brema

Summary

Resistance to thyroid hormone-beta (RTHbeta) is a rare inherited syndrome characterized by variable reduced tissue responsiveness to the intracellular action of triiodothyronine (T3), the active form of the thyroid hormone. The presentation of RTHbeta is quite variable and mutations in the thyroid hormone receptor beta (THR-B) gene have been detected in up to 90% of patients. The proband was a 34-year-old Jordanian male who presented with intermittent palpitations. His thyroid function tests (TFTs) showed a discordant profile with high free T4 (FT4) at 45.7 pmol/L (normal: 12–22), high free T3 (FT3) at 11.8 pmol/L (normal: 3.1–6.8) and inappropriately normal TSH at 3.19 mIU/L (normal: 0.27–4.2). Work up has confirmed normal alpha subunit of TSH of 0.1 ng/mL (normal <0.5) and pituitary MRI showed no evidence of a pituitary adenoma; however, there was an interesting coincidental finding of partially empty sella. RTHbeta was suspected and genetic testing confirmed a known mutation in the THR-B gene, where a heterozygous A to G base change substitutes valine for methionine at codon 310. Screening the immediate family revealed that the eldest son (5 years old) also has discordant thyroid function profile consistent with RTHbeta and genetic testing confirmed the same M310V mutation that his father harbored. Moreover, the 5-year-old son had hyperactivity, impulsivity and aggressive behavior consistent with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This case demonstrates an unusual co-existence of RTHbeta and partially empty sella in the same patient which, to our knowledge, has not been reported before.

Learning points:

  • We report the coincidental occurrence of RTHbeta and a partially empty sella in the same patient that has not been previously reported.
  • TFTs should be done in all children who present with symptoms suggestive of ADHD as RTHbeta is a common finding in these children.
  • The management of children with ADHD and RTHbeta could be challenging for both pediatricians and parents and the administration of T3 with close monitoring may be helpful in some cases.
  • Incidental pituitary abnormalities do exist in patients with RTHbeta, although extremely rare, and should be evaluated thoroughly and separately.