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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

Carlos Tavares Bello, Emma van der Poest Clement and Richard Feelders

Summary

Cushing’s syndrome is a rare disease that results from prolonged exposure to supraphysiological levels of glucocorticoids. Severe and rapidly progressive cases are often, but not exclusively, attributable to ectopic ACTH secretion. Extreme hypercortisolism usually has florid metabolic consequences and is associated with an increased infectious and thrombotic risk. The authors report on a case of a 51-year-old male that presented with severe Cushing’s syndrome secondary to an ACTH-secreting pituitary macroadenoma, whose diagnostic workup was affected by concurrent subclinical multifocal pulmonary infectious nodules. The case is noteworthy for the atypically severe presentation of Cushing’s disease, and it should remind the clinician of the possible infectious and thrombotic complications associated with Cushing’s syndrome.

Learning points:

  • Severe Cushing’s syndrome is not always caused by ectopic ACTH secretion.

  • Hypercortisolism is a state of immunosuppression, being associated with an increased risk for opportunistic infections.

  • Infectious pulmonary infiltrates may lead to imaging diagnostic dilemmas when investigating a suspected ectopic ACTH secretion.

  • Cushing’s syndrome carries an increased thromboembolic risk that may even persist after successful surgical management.

  • Antibiotic and venous thromboembolism prophylaxis should be considered in every patient with severe Cushing’s syndrome.

Open access

Ruth Mangupli, Adrian F Daly, Elvia Cuauro, Paul Camperos, Jaime Krivoy and Albert Beckers

Summary

A 20-year-old man with an 8-year history of progressive enlargement of his hands and feet, coarsening facial features, painful joints and thickened, oily skin was referred for investigation of acromegaly. On examination, the subject was of normal height and weight. He had markedly increased skin thickness around the forehead, eyelids and scalp with redundant skin folds. Bilateral painful knee swelling was accompanied by enlargement of the extremities, and his fingers were markedly clubbed. Routine hematological, biochemical and hormonal blood tests, including GH and IGF-1 were normal. The clinical picture suggested primary hypertrophic osteoarthropathy (PHOA) rather than acromegaly and radiological studies were supportive of this, demonstrating increased subperiosteal bone formation and increased bone density and cortical thickening. There was widespread joint disease, with narrowing of joint spaces, whereas the knees demonstrated effusions and calcification. A skull X-ray revealed calvarial hyperostosis and a normal sellar outline. Family history was negative. Genetic studies were performed on peripheral blood leukocyte DNA for mutations in the two genes associated with PHOA, 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase (HPGD; OMIM: 601688) and solute carrier organic anion transporter family member 2A1 (SLCO2A1; OMIM: 601460). The sequence of HPGD was normal, whereas the subject was homozygous for a novel pathological variant in SLCO2A1, c.830delT, that predicted a frameshift and early protein truncation (p.Phe277Serfs*8). PHOA, also known as pachydermoperiostosis, is a rare entity caused by abnormal prostaglandin E2 metabolism, and both HPGD and SLCO2A1 are necessary for normal prostaglandin E2 handling. High prostaglandin levels lead to bone formation and resorption and connective tissue inflammation causing arthropathy, in addition to soft tissue swelling.

Learning points:

  • The differential diagnosis of enlarged extremities, coarsened facial features, skin changes and increased sweating in suspected acromegaly is quite limited and primary hypertrophic osteoarthropathy (PHOA) is one of the few conditions that can mimic acromegaly at presentation.

  • PHOA is not associated with abnormalities in GH and IGF-1 secretion and can be readily differentiated from acromegaly by hormonal testing.

  • Clubbing in the setting of diffuse enlargement of joints and extremities in addition to skin changes should alert the physician to the possibility of PHOA, as clubbing is not a usual feature of acromegaly. Underlying causes of secondary hypertrophic osteoarthroapthy (e.g. bronchial neoplasia) should be considered.

  • PHOA is a very rare condition caused by abnormalities in prostaglandin metabolism and has two known genetic causes (HPGD and SLCO2A1 mutations).

  • SLCO2A1 gene mutations lead usually to autosomal recessive PHOA; fewer than 50 SLCO2A1 mutations have been described to date and the current case is only the second in a Hispanic patient.

  • Treatment of primary hypertrophic osteoarthropathy is focused on the management of joint pain usually in the form of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug therapy.

Open access

Fergus Keane, Aoife M Egan, Patrick Navin, Francesca Brett and Michael C Dennedy

Summary

Pituitary apoplexy represents an uncommon endocrine emergency with potentially life-threatening consequences. Drug-induced pituitary apoplexy is a rare but important consideration when evaluating patients with this presentation. We describe an unusual case of a patient with a known pituitary macroadenoma presenting with acute-onset third nerve palsy and headache secondary to tumour enlargement and apoplexy. This followed gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GNRH) agonist therapy used to treat metastatic prostate carcinoma. Following acute management, the patient underwent transphenoidal debulking of his pituitary gland with resolution of his third nerve palsy. Subsequent retrospective data interpretation revealed that this had been a secretory gonadotropinoma and GNRH agonist therapy resulted in raised gonadotropins and testosterone. Hence, further management of his prostate carcinoma required GNRH antagonist therapy and external beam radiotherapy. This case demonstrates an uncommon complication of GNRH agonist therapy in the setting of a pituitary macroadenoma. It also highlights the importance of careful, serial data interpretation in patients with pituitary adenomas. Finally, this case presents a unique insight into the challenges of managing a hormonal-dependent prostate cancer in a patient with a secretory pituitary tumour.

Learning points

  • While non-functioning gonadotropinomas represent the most common form of pituitary macroadenoma, functioning gonadotropinomas are exceedingly rare.

  • Acute tumour enlargement, with potential pituitary apoplexy, is a rare but important adverse effect arising from GNRH agonist therapy in the presence of both functioning and non-functioning pituitary gonadotropinomas.

  • GNRH antagonist therapy represents an alternative treatment option for patients with hormonal therapy-requiring prostate cancer, who also have diagnosed with a pituitary gonadotropinoma.

Open access

G K Dimitriadis, K Gopalakrishnan, R Rao, D K Grammatopoulos, H S Randeva, M O Weickert and N Murthy

Summary

We report the case of a 70-year-old previously healthy female who presented acutely to the Accident and Emergency department with left-sided vasomotor symptoms including reduced muscle tone, weakness upon walking and slurred speech. Physical examination confirmed hemiparesis with VIIth nerve palsy and profound hepatomegaly. A random glucose was low at 1.7 mmol/l, which upon correction resolved her symptoms. In hindsight, the patient recalled having had similar episodes periodically over the past 3 months to which she did not give much attention. While hospitalized, she continued having episodes of symptomatic hypoglycaemia during most nights, requiring treatment with i.v. dextrose and/or glucagon. Blood tests including insulin and C-peptide were invariably suppressed, in correlation with low glucose. A Synacthen stimulation test was normal (Cort (0′) 390 nmol/l, Cort (30′) 773 nmol/l). A computed tomography scan showed multiple lobulated masses in the abdomen, liver and pelvis. An ultrasound guided biopsy of one of the pelvic masses was performed. Immunohistochemistry supported the diagnosis of a gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST) positive for CD34 and CD117. A diagnosis of a non islet cell tumour hypoglycaemia (NICTH) secondary to an IGF2 secreting GIST was confirmed with further biochemical investigations (IGF2=96.5 nmol/l; IGF2:IGF1 ratio 18.9, ULN <10). Treatment with growth hormone resolved the patient's hypoglycaemic symptoms and subsequent targeted therapy with Imatinib was successful in controlling disease progression over an 8-year observation period.

Learning points

  • NICTH can be a rare complication of GISTs that may manifest with severe hypoglycaemia and neuroglucopenic symptoms.

  • NICTH can masquerade as other pathologies thus causing diagnostic confusion.

  • Histological confirmation of GIST induced NICTH and exclusion of other conditions causing hypoglycaemia is essential.

  • Mutational analysis of GISTs should be carried out in all cases as it guides treatment decision.

  • Tailored management of hypoglycaemia, in this case using growth hormone and targeted cyto-reductive therapy, minimizes the risk of possible life-threatening complications.

Open access

Stephanie Teasdale, Fahid Hashem, Sarah Olson, Benjamin Ong and Warrick J Inder

Summary

A case of recurrent pituitary apoplexy is described in a 72-year-old man who initially presented with haemorrhage in a non-functioning pituitary adenoma. Five years later, he re-presented with a severe pituitary haemorrhage in an enlarging sellar mass invading both cavernous sinuses causing epistaxis and bilateral ocular paresis. Subsequent histology was consistent with a sellar malignant spindle and round cell neoplasm. Multiple pituitary tumours have previously been reported to coexist in the same individual, but to our knowledge this is the only case where two pathologically distinct pituitary neoplasms have sequentially arisen in a single patient. This case is also notable with respect to the progressive ocular paresis, including bilateral abducens nerve palsies, and the presentation with epistaxis.

Learning points

  • Ocular paresis in pituitary apoplexy can result from tumour infiltration of nerves, or by indirect compression via increased intrasellar pressure.

  • Epistaxis is a very rare presentation of a pituitary lesion.

  • Epistaxis more commonly occurs following trans-sphenoidal surgery, and can be delayed.

Open access

J K Prague, C L Ward, O G Mustafa, B C Whitelaw, A King, N W Thomas and J Gilbert

Summary

Therapeutic shrinkage of prolactinomas with dopamine agonists achieves clinical benefit but can expose fistulae that have arisen as a result of bony erosion of the sella floor and anterior skull base by the invasive tumour, resulting in the potential development of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) rhinorrhoea, meningitis, and rarely pneumocephalus. Onset of symptoms is typically within 4 months of commencing therapy. The management is typically surgical repair via an endoscopic transnasal transsphenoidal approach. A 23-year-old man presented to the Emergency Department with acute left limb weakness and intermittent headaches. Visual fields were full to confrontation. Immediate computed tomography and subsequent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), demonstrated a 5 cm lobular/cystic mass invading the right cavernous sinus, displacing and compressing the midbrain, with destruction of the bony sella. He was referred to the regional pituitary multidisciplinary team (MDT). Serum prolactin was 159 455 mIU/l (7514.37 ng/ml) (normal ranges 100–410 mIU/l (4.72–19.34 ng/ml)). Cabergoline was commenced causing dramatic reduction in tumour size and resolution of neurological symptoms. Further dose titrations were required as the prolactin level plateaued and significant residual tumour remained. After 13 months of treatment, he developed continuous daily rhinorrhea, and on presenting to his general practitioner was referred to an otolaryngologist. When next seen in the routine regional pituitary clinic six-months later he was admitted for urgent surgical repair. Histology confirmed a prolactinoma with a low proliferation index of 2% (Ki-67 antibody). In view of partial cabergoline resistance he completed a course of conventional radiotherapy. Nine months after treatment the serum prolactin had fallen to 621 mIU/l, and 12 months after an MRI showed reduced tumour volume.

Learning points

  • CSF rhinorrhoea occurred 13 months after the initiation of cabergoline, suggesting a need for vigilance throughout therapy.

  • Dedicated bony imaging should be reviewed early in the patient pathway to assess the potential risk of CSF rhinorrhoea after initiation of dopamine agonist therapy.

  • There was a significant delay before this complication was brought to the attention of the regional pituitary MDT, with associated risk whilst left untreated. This demonstrates a need for patients and healthcare professionals to be educated about early recognition and management of this complication to facilitate timely and appropriate referral to the MDT for specialist advice and management. We changed our nurse-led patient education programme as a result of this case.

  • Having developed partial cabergoline resistance and CSF rhinorrhoea, an excellent therapeutic response was achieved with conventional radiotherapy after limited surgery.