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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

Frank Gao, Stephen Hall, and Leon A Bach

Summary

Sodium/glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors are novel oral hypoglycaemic agents that are increasingly used in the management of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). They are now recommended as second-line pharmacotherapy (in conjunction with metformin) in patients with type 2 diabetes and established atherosclerotic heart disease, heart failure or chronic kidney disease due to their favourable effects on cardiovascular and renal outcomes. We report a case of a 69-year-old man who developed muscle pain, weakness and wasting after commencing the SGLT2 inhibitor empagliflozin. This persisted for 1 year before he underwent resistance testing, which confirmed muscle weakness. His symptoms resolved within weeks of ceasing empagliflozin, with improvement in muscle strength on clinical assessment and resistance testing and reversal of MRI changes. No other cause of myopathy was identified clinically, on biochemical assessment or imaging, suggesting that empagliflozin was the cause of his myopathy.

Learning points:

  • Empagliflozin, a commonly used SGLT2 inhibitor, was associated with myopathy.
  • A high degree of suspicion is required to diagnose drug-induced myopathy, with a temporal relationship between starting the medication and symptom onset being the main indicator.
  • Recognition of drug-induced myopathy is essential, as discontinuation of the offending drug typically improves symptoms.
Open access

Aishah Ekhzaimy, Afshan Masood, Seham Alzahrani, Waleed Al-Ghamdi, Daad Alotaibi, and Muhammad Mujammami

Summary

Central diabetes insipidus (CDI) and several endocrine disorders previously classified as idiopathic are now considered to be of an autoimmune etiology. Dermatomyositis (DM), a rare autoimmune condition characterized by inflammatory myopathy and skin rashes, is also known to affect the gastrointestinal, pulmonary, and rarely the cardiac systems and the joints. The association of CDI and DM is extremely rare. After an extensive literature search and to the best of our knowledge this is the first reported case in literature, we report the case of a 36-year-old male with a history of CDI, who presented to the hospital’s endocrine outpatient clinic for evaluation of a 3-week history of progressive facial rash accompanied by weakness and aching of the muscles.

Learning points:

  • Accurate biochemical diagnosis should always be followed by etiological investigation.
  • This clinical entity usually constitutes a therapeutic challenge, often requiring a multidisciplinary approach for optimal outcome.
  • Dermatomyositis is an important differential diagnosis in patients presenting with proximal muscle weakness.
  • Associated autoimmune conditions should be considered while evaluating patients with dermatomyositis.
  • Dermatomyositis can relapse at any stage, even following a very long period of remission.
  • Maintenance immunosuppressive therapy should be carefully considered in these patients.
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

Elke Thijs, Katrien Wierckx, Stefaan Vandecasteele, and Annick Van den Bruel

Summary

A 42-year-old man with complaints of muscle soreness and an increased pigmentation of the skin was referred because of a suspicion of adrenal insufficiency. His adrenocorticotropic hormone and cortisol levels indicated a primary adrenal insufficiency (PAI) and treatment with hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone was initiated. An etiological workup, including an assessment for anti-adrenal antibodies, very long-chain fatty acids, 17-OH progesterone levels and catecholamine secretion, showed no abnormalities. 18Fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/CT showed bilateral enlargement of the adrenal glands and bilateral presence of an adrenal nodule, with 18fluorodeoxyglucose accumulation. A positive tuberculin test and positive family history of tuberculosis were found, and tuberculostatic drugs were initiated. During the treatment with the tuberculostatic drugs the patient again developed complaints of adrenal insufficiency, due to insufficient dosage of hydrocortisone because of increased metabolism of hydrocortisone.

Learning points:

  • Shrinkage of the adrenal nodules following tuberculostatic treatment supports adrenal tuberculosis being the common aetiology.
  • The tuberculostatic drug rifampicin is a CYP3A4 inducer, increasing the metabolism of hydrocortisone. Increase the hydrocortisone dosage upon initiation of rifampicin in case of (adrenal) tuberculosis.
  • A notification on the Addison’s emergency pass could be considered to heighten physician’s and patients awareness of hydrocortisone drug interactions.
Open access

C Kamath, J Witczak, M A Adlan, and L D Premawardhana

Summary

Thymic enlargement (TE) in Graves’ disease (GD) is often diagnosed incidentally when chest imaging is done for unrelated reasons. This is becoming more common as the frequency of chest imaging increases. There are currently no clear guidelines for managing TE in GD. Subject 1 is a 36-year-old female who presented with weight loss, increased thirst and passage of urine and postural symptoms. Investigations confirmed GD, non-PTH-dependent hypercalcaemia and Addison’s disease (AD). CT scans to exclude underlying malignancy showed TE but normal viscera. A diagnosis of hypercalcaemia due to GD and AD was made. Subject 2, a 52-year-old female, was investigated for recurrent chest infections, haemoptysis and weight loss. CT thorax to exclude chest malignancy, showed TE. Planned thoracotomy was postponed when investigations confirmed GD. Subject 3 is a 47-year-old female who presented with breathlessness, chest pain and shakiness. Investigations confirmed T3 toxicosis due to GD. A CT pulmonary angiogram to exclude pulmonary embolism showed TE. The CT appearances in all three subjects were consistent with benign TE. These subjects were given appropriate endocrine treatment only (without biopsy or thymectomy) as CT appearances showed the following appearances of benign TE – arrowhead shape, straight regular margins, absence of calcification and cyst formation and radiodensity equal to surrounding muscle. Furthermore, interval scans confirmed thymic regression of over 60% in 6 months after endocrine control. In subjects with CT appearances consistent with benign TE, a conservative policy with interval CT scans at 6 months after endocrine control will prevent inappropriate surgical intervention.

Learning points:

  • Chest imaging is common in modern clinical practice and incidental anterior mediastinal abnormalities are therefore diagnosed frequently.
  • Thymic enlargement (TE) associated with Graves’ disease (GD) is occasionally seen in view of the above.
  • There is no validated strategy to manage TE in GD at present.
  • However, CT (or MRI) scan features of the thymus may help characterise benign TE, and such subjects do not require thymic biopsy or surgery at presentation.
  • In them, an expectant ‘wait and see’ policy is recommended with GD treatment only, as the thymus will show significant regression 6 months after endocrine control.
Open access

Kate Laycock, Abhijit Chaudhuri, Charlotte Fuller, Zahra Khatami, Frederick Nkonge, and Nemanja Stojanovic

Summary

Hashimoto’s encephalopathy (HE) is rarely reported with only a few hundred cases published. Diagnosis is made in patients with an appropriate clinical picture and high antithyroperoxidase (anti-TPO) antibodies after infectious, toxic and metabolic causes of encephalopathy have been excluded. There is little objective data on the neurocognitive impairment in patients with HE and their improvement with treatment. We present the case of a 28-year-old woman with HE. Approach to management was novel as objective neuropsychological assessment was used to assess her clinical condition and response to treatment. Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) as the first-line treatment instead of steroids. She responded well. The case illustrates that a different approach is required for the diagnosis and treatment of HE. A new diagnostic criteria is proposed that includes neurocognitive assessment, serum and CSF antibodies, an abnormal EEG and exclusion of other causes of encephalopathy. Furthermore, treatment should be tailored to the patient.

Learning points:

  • Neurocognitive assessment should be carried out to assess the extent of brain involvement in suspected Hashimoto’s encephalopathy pre- and post- treatment.
  • Treatment of Hashimoto’s encephalopathy should be tailored to the patient.
  • Unifying diagnostic criteria for Hashimoto’s encephalopathy must be established.
Open access

Florence Gunawan, Elizabeth George, and Adam Roberts

Summary

Immune checkpoint inhibitors are the mainstay of treatment for advanced melanoma, and their use is being increasingly implicated in the development of autoimmune endocrinopathies. We present a case of a 52-year-old man with metastatic melanoma on combination nivolumab and ipilumimab therapy who developed concurrent hypophysitis, type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) and diabetes insipidus. He presented prior to third cycle of combination treatment with a headache, myalgias and fatigue. Biochemistry and MRI pituitary confirmed anterior pituitary dysfunction with a TSH: 0.02 mU/L (0.5–5.5 mU/L), fT4: 5.2 pmol/L (11–22 pmol/L), fT3: 4.0 pmol/L (3.2–6.4 pmol/L), cortisol (12:00 h): <9 nmol/L (74–286 nmol/L), FSH: 0.7 IU/L (1.5–9.7 IU/L), LH: <0.1 IU/L (1.8–9.2 IU/L), PRL: 1 mIU/L (90–400 mIU/L), SHBG: 34 nmol/L (19–764 nmol/L) and total testosterone: <0.4 nmol/L (9.9–27.8 nmol/L). High-dose dexamethasone (8 mg) was administered followed by hydrocortisone, thyroxine and topical testosterone replacement. Two weeks post administration of the third cycle, he became unwell with lethargy, weight loss and nocturia. Central diabetes insipidus was diagnosed on the basis of symptoms and sodium of 149 mmol/L (135–145 mmol/L). Desmopressin nasal spray was instituted with symptom resolution and normalization of serum sodium. Three weeks later, he presented again polyuric and polydipsic. His capillary glucose was 20.8 mmol/L (ketones of 2.4 mmol), low C-peptide 0.05 nmol/L (0.4–1.5 nmol/L) and HbA1c of 7.7%. T1DM was suspected, and he was commenced on an insulin infusion with rapid symptom resolution. Insulin antibodies glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), insulin antibody-2 (IA-2) and zinc transporter-8 (ZnT8) were negative. A follow-up MRI pituitary revealed findings consistent with recovering autoimmune hypophysitis. Immunotherapy was discontinued based on the extent of these autoimmune endocrinopathies.

Learning points:

  • The most effective regime for treatment of metastatic melanoma is combination immunotherapy with nivolumab and ipilumimab, and this therapy is associated with a high incidence of autoimmune endocrinopathies.
  • Given the high prevalence of immune-related adverse events, the threshold for functional testing should be low.
  • Traditional antibody testing may not be reliable to identify early-onset endocrinopathy.
  • Routine screening pathways have yet to be adequately validated through clinical trials.
Open access

Tessa Glyn, Beverley Harris, and Kate Allen

Summary

We present the case of a 57-year-old lady who had a delayed diagnosis of central hypothyroidism on a background of Grave’s thyrotoxicosis and a partial thyroidectomy. During the twenty years following her partial thyroidectomy, the patient developed a constellation of symptoms and new diagnoses, which were investigated by numerous specialists from various fields, namely rheumatology, renal and respiratory. She developed significantly impaired renal function and raised creatine kinase (CK). She was also referred to a tertiary neurology service for investigation of myositis, which resulted in inconclusive muscle biopsies. Recurrently normal TSH results reassured clinicians that this did not relate to previous thyroid dysfunction. In 2015, she developed increased shortness of breath and was found to have a significant pericardial effusion. The clinical biochemist reviewed this lady’s blood results and elected to add on a free T4 (fT4) and free T3 (fT3), which were found to be <0.4 pmol/L (normal range (NR): 12–22 pmol/L) and 0.3 pmol/L (NR: 3.1–6.8 pmol/L), respectively. She was referred urgently to the endocrine services and commenced on Levothyroxine replacement for profound central hypothyroidism. Her other pituitary hormones and MRI were normal. In the following year, her eGFR and CK normalised, and her myositis symptoms, breathlessness and pericardial effusion resolved. One year following initiation of Levothyroxine, her fT4 and fT3 were in the normal range for the first time. This case highlights the pitfalls of relying purely on TSH for excluding hypothyroidism and the devastating effect the delay in diagnosis had upon this patient.

Learning points:

  • Isolated central hypothyroidism is very rare, but should be considered irrespective of previous thyroid disorders.
  • If clinicians have a strong suspicion that a patient may have hypothyroidism despite normal TSH, they should ensure they measure fT3 and fT4.
  • Laboratories that do not perform fT3 and fT4 routinely should review advice sent to requesting clinicians to include a statement explaining that a normal TSH excludes primary but not secondary hypothyroidism.
  • Thyroid function tests should be performed routinely in patients presenting with renal impairment or a raised CK.
Open access

Alexandra Rose Pain, Josh Pomroy, and Andrea Benjamin

Summary

Hamman’s syndrome (spontaneous subcutaneous emphysema and pneumomediastinum) is a rare complication of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), with a multifactorial etiology. Awareness of this syndrome is important: it is likely underdiagnosed as the main symptom of shortness of breath is often attributed to Kussmaul’s breathing and the findings on chest radiograph can be subtle and easily missed. It is also important to be aware of and consider Boerhaave’s syndrome as a differential diagnosis, a more serious condition with a 40% mortality rate when diagnosis is delayed. We present a case of pneumomediastinum, pneumopericardium, epidural emphysema and subcutaneous emphysema complicating DKA in an eighteen-year-old patient. We hope that increasing awareness of Hamman’s syndrome, and how to distinguish it from Boerhaave’s syndrome, will lead to better recognition and management of these syndromes in patients with diabetic ketoacidosis.

Learning points:

  • Hamman’s syndrome (spontaneous subcutaneous emphysema and pneumomediastinum) is a rare complication of DKA.
  • Presentation may be with chest or neck pain and shortness of breath, and signs are subcutaneous emphysema and Hamman’s sign – a precordial crunching or popping sound during systole.
  • Boerhaave’s syndrome should be considered as a differential diagnosis, especially in cases with severe vomiting.
  • The diagnosis of pneumomediastinum is made on chest radiograph, but a CT thorax with water-soluble oral contrast looking for contrast leak may be required if there is high clinical suspicion of Boerrhave’s syndrome.
  • Hamman’s syndrome has an excellent prognosis, self-resolving with the correction of the ketoacidosis in all published cases in the literature.