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Open access

Mauro Boronat

Summary

Isolated, adult-onset central hypothyroidism is very rare, and its diagnosis can be challenging. A 42-year-old patient was referred for evaluation of a 2.8 cm thyroid nodule. She referred symptoms that could be attributed to hypothyroidism and thyroid tests showed low TSH and normal-low levels of free T4. However, evaluation of the remaining pituitary hormones and pituitary MRI were normal, yet a radionuclide scanning revealed that the thyroid nodule was ‘hot’ and the tracer uptake in the remaining thyroid tissue was suppressed. Interpretation of these studies led to a misdiagnosis of subclinical hyperthyroidism and the patient was treated with radioiodine. Soon after treatment, she developed a frank hypothyroidism without appropriate elevation of TSH and the diagnosis of central hypothyroidism was made a posteriori. Long term follow-up revealed a progressive pituitary failure, with subsequent deficiency of ACTH and GH. This case should alert to the possibility of overlooking central hypothyroidism in patients simultaneously bearing primary thyroid diseases able to cause subclinical hyperthyroidism.

Learning points:

  • Although rarely, acquired central hypothyroidism can occur in the absence of other pituitary hormone deficiencies.
  • In these cases, diagnosis is challenging, as symptoms are unspecific and usually mild, and laboratory findings are variable, including low, normal or even slightly elevated TSH levels, along with low or low-normal concentrations of free T4.
  • In cases with low TSH levels, the coexistence of otherwise common disorders able to cause primary thyroid hyperfunction, such as autonomous nodular disease, may lead to a misdiagnosis of subclinical hyperthyroidism.
Open access

Taieb Ach, Perrine Wojewoda, Flora Toullet, Roxane Ducloux and Véronique Avérous

Summary

Multiple endocrine metastases are a rare but possible complication of lung adenocarcinoma (LAC). Pituitary metastasis is a rare condition with poor clinical expression. Diabetes insipidus (DI) is its most common presenting symptom. Here we report an original case of a pituitary stalk (PS) metastasis from LAC presenting as central DI followed by adrenal insufficiency (AI) from bilateral adrenal metastasis, without known evidence of the primary malignancy. A 45-year-old woman whose first clinical manifestations were polyuria and polydipsia was admitted. She was completely asymptomatic with no cough, no weight loss or anorexia. Chest radiography was normal. Brain MRI showed a thick pituitary stalk (PS). DI was confirmed by water restriction test and treated with vasopressin with great clinical results. Explorations for systemic and infectious disease were negative. Few months later, an acute AI led to discovering bilateral adrenal mass on abdominal CT. A suspicious 2.3 cm apical lung nodule was found later. Histopathological adrenal biopsy revealed an LAC. The patient received systemic chemotherapy with hormonal replacement for endocrinological failures by both vasopressin and hydrocortisone. We present this rare case of metastatic PS thickness arising from LAC associated with bilateral adrenal metastasis. Screening of patients with DI and stalk thickness for lung and breast cancer must be considered. Multiple endocrine failures as a diagnostic motive of LAC is a rare but possible circumstance.

Learning points:

  • Adrenal metastasis is a common location in lung adenocarcinoma; however, metastatic involvement of the pituitary stalk remains a rare occurrence, especially as a leading presentation to diagnose lung cancer.
  • The posterior pituitary and the infundibulum are the preferential sites for metastases, as they receive direct arterial blood supply from hypophyseal arteries.
  • Patients diagnosed with diabetes insipidus due to pituitary stalk thickness should be considered as a metastasis, after exclusion of the classical systemic and infectious diseases.
  • The diagnosis of an endocrinological metastatic primary lung adenocarcinoma for patients without respiratory symptoms is often delayed due to a lack of correlation between endocrinological symptoms and lung cancer.
  • The main originality of our case is the concomitant diagnosis of both endocrinological failures, as it was initiated with a diabetes insipidus and followed by an acute adrenal insufficiency.
Open access

Impana Shetty, Sarah Fuller, Margarita Raygada, Maria J Merino, B J Thomas, Brigitte C Widemann, Karlyne M Reilly, Karel Pacak and Jaydira Del Rivero

Summary

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is an aggressive cancer that originates in the cortex of the adrenal gland and generally has a poor prognosis. ACC is rare but can be more commonly seen in those with cancer predisposition syndromes (e.g. Li-Fraumeni and Lynch Syndrome). The diagnosis of ACC is sometimes uncertain and it requires the use of precise molecular pathology; the differential diagnosis includes pheochromocytoma, adrenal adenoma, renal carcinoma, or hepatocellular carcinoma. We describe a case of a 57-year-old woman with Lynch Syndrome and metastatic ACC who was initially diagnosed as having pheochromocytoma. The tumor was first identified at 51 years of age by ultrasound followed by a CT scan. She underwent a left adrenalectomy, and the histopathology identified pheochromocytoma. Two years later, she had tumor recurrence with imaging studies showing multiple lung nodules. Following a wedge resection by video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS), histopathology was read as metastatic pheochromocytoma at one institution and metastatic ACC at another institution. She later presented to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) where the diagnosis of ACC was confirmed. Following her ACC diagnosis, she was treated with mitotane and pembrolizumab which were stopped due to side effects and progression of disease. She is currently receiving etoposide, doxorubicin, and cisplatin (EDP). This case highlights the importance of using a multi-disciplinary approach in patient care. Thorough evaluation of the tumor’s pathology and analysis of the patient’s genetic profile are necessary to obtain the correct diagnosis for the patient and can significantly influence the course of treatment.

Learning points:

  • Making the diagnosis of ACC can be difficult as the differential diagnosis includes pheochromocytoma, adrenal adenoma, renal carcinoma, or hepatocellular carcinoma.
  • Patients with Lynch Syndrome should undergo surveillance for ACC as there is evidence of an association between Lynch Syndrome and ACC.
  • Conducting a complete tumor immunoprofile and obtaining a second opinion is very important in cases of suspected ACC in order to confirm the proper diagnosis.
  • A multi-disciplinary approach including genetic testing and a thorough evaluation of the tumor’s pathology is imperative to ensuring that the patient receives an accurate diagnosis and the appropriate treatment.
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

Isabella Lupi, Alessandro Brancatella, Mirco Cosottini, Nicola Viola, Giulia Lanzolla, Daniele Sgrò, Giulia Di Dalmazi, Francesco Latrofa, Patrizio Caturegli and Claudio Marcocci

Summary

Programmed cell death protein 1/programmed cell death protein ligand 1 (PD-1/PD-L1) and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4/B7 (CTLA-4/B7) pathways are key regulators in T-cell activation and tolerance. Nivolumab, pembrolizumab (PD-1 inhibitors), atezolizumab (PD-L1 inhibitor) and ipilimumab (CTLA-4 inhibitor) are monoclonal antibodies approved for treatment of several advanced cancers. Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs)-related hypophysitis is described more frequently in patients treated with anti-CTLA-4; however, recent studies reported an increasing prevalence of anti-PD-1/PD-L1-induced hypophysitis which also exhibits slightly different clinical features. We report our experience on hypophysitis induced by anti-PD-1/anti-PD-L1 treatment. We present four cases, diagnosed in the past 12 months, of hypophysitis occurring in two patients receiving anti-PD-1, in one patient receiving anti-PD-1 and anti-CTLA-4 combined therapy and in one patient receiving anti-PD-L1. In this case series, timing, clinical presentation and association with other immune-related adverse events appeared to be extremely variable; central hypoadrenalism and hyponatremia were constantly detected although sellar magnetic resonance imaging did not reveal specific signs of pituitary inflammation. These differences highlight the complexity of ICI-related hypophysitis and the existence of different mechanisms of action leading to heterogeneity of clinical presentation in patients receiving immunotherapy.

Learning points:

  • PD-1/PD-L1 blockade can induce hypophysitis with a different clinical presentation when compared to CTLA-4 blockade.
  • Diagnosis of PD-1/PD-L1 induced hypophysitis is mainly made on clinical grounds and sellar MRI does not show radiological abnormalities.
  • Hyponatremia due to acute secondary adrenal insufficiency is often the principal sign of PD-1/PD-L1-induced hypophysitis and can be masked by other symptoms due to oncologic disease.
  • PD-1/PD-L1-induced hypophysitis can present as an isolated manifestation of irAEs or be in association with other autoimmune diseases
Open access

A Veltroni, G Zambon, S Cingarlini and M V Davì

Summary

Insulin autoimmune syndrome (IAS), a rare cause of autoimmune hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia, is relatively well known in Japan. The incidence in Caucasians is less than one-fifth of that reported in Japanese people, but it is becoming increasingly recognised worldwide in non-Asians as well. Drugs containing sulphydryl groups are known to be associated with the disease in genetically predisposed individuals. Moreover, several recent reports showed a direct association between the onset of IAS and the consumption of dietary supplements containing alpha-lipoic acid (LA). Insulinoma remains the most prevalent cause of hypersulinaemic hypoglycaemia in Caucasians. Consequently, primary investigation in these patients is generally focused on localisation of the pancreatic tumour, often with invasive procedures followed by surgery. We described a case of an Italian woman presenting to us with severe recurrent hypoglycaemia associated with high insulin and C-peptide levels and no evidence of pancreatic lesions at imaging diagnostic procedures. She had taken LA until 2 weeks before hospitalisation. After an evaluation of her drug history, an autoimmune form of hypoglycaemia was suspected and the titre of insulin autoantibodies was found to be markedly elevated. This allowed us to diagnose LA-related IAS, thus preventing any unnecessary surgery and avoiding invasive diagnostic interventions.

Learning points:

  • IAS is a rare cause of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia that typically affects Asian population, but it has been increasingly recognised in Caucasian patients.
  • It should be considered among the differential diagnosis of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia to avoid unnecessary diagnostic investigations and surgery.
  • It should be suspected in the presence of very high serum insulin levels (100–10  000  μU/mL) associated with high C-peptide levels.
  • There is a strong association with administration of drugs containing sulphydryl groups included LA, a dietary supplement commonly used in Western countries to treat peripheral neuropathy.
Open access

D Cappellani, C Sardella, M C Campopiano, A Falorni, P Marchetti and E Macchia

Summary

Insulin autoimmune syndrome (IAS), or Hirata disease, is a rare hypoglycaemic disorder caused by the presence of high titer of insulin autoantibodies (IAA) in patients without previous exposure to exogenous insulin. Even though its pathogenesis is not fully understood, striking evidences link IAS to previous exposure to sulphydryl-containing medications, like alpha-lipoic acid, a widely used nutritional supplement. Although challenging, a careful differential diagnosis from other causes of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia (such as insulinoma) is mandatory, since these conditions require different therapeutic approaches. In the present study, we report a 35-year-old woman originally from Sri Lanka who was referred to our University Hospital on suspicion of occult insulinoma. Her medical history was positive for endometriosis, treated with estroprogestins and alpha-lipoic acid. The latter supplement was begun 2 weeks before the first hypoglycaemic episode. Our tests confirmed the presence of hypoglycaemia associated with high insulin and C-peptide concentrations. When insulin concentrations were compared using different assays, the results were significantly different. Moreover, insulin values significantly decreased after precipitation with polyethylene glycol. An assay for IAA proved positive (530 U/mL). A genetic analysis revealed the presence of HLA-DRB1*04,15, an immunogenetic determinant associated with IAS. On the basis of clinical data we avoided a first-line approach with immunosuppressive treatments, and the patient was advised to modify her diet, with the introduction of frequent low-caloric meals. During follow-up evaluations, glucose levels (registered trough a flash glucose monitoring system) resulted progressively more stable. IAA titer progressively decreased, being undetectable by the fifteenth month, thus indicating the remission of the IAS.

Learning points:

  • Insulin autoimmune syndrome (IAS) is a rare cause of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia, whose prevalence is higher in East Asian populations due to the higher prevalence of specific immunogenetic determinants. Nevertheless, an increasing number of IAS cases is being reported worldwide, due to the wide diffusion of medications such as alpha-lipoic acid.
  • Differential diagnosis of IAS from other causes of hyperinsulinemic hypoglycaemia is challenging. Even though many tests can be suggestive of IAS, the gold standard remains the detection of IAAs, despite that dedicated commercial kits are not widely available.
  • The therapeutic approach to IAS is problematic. As a matter of fact IAS is often a self-remitting disease, but sometimes needs aggressive immunosuppression. The benefits and risks of any therapeutic choice should be carefully weighted and tailored on the single patient.
Open access

Diana Oliveira, Mara Ventura, Miguel Melo, Sandra Paiva and Francisco Carrilho

Summary

Addison’s disease (AD) is the most common endocrine manifestation of antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), but it remains a very rare complication of the syndrome. It is caused by adrenal venous thrombosis and consequent hemorrhagic infarction or by spontaneous (without thrombosis) adrenal hemorrhage, usually occurring after surgery or anticoagulant therapy. We present a clinical case of a 36-year-old female patient with a previous diagnosis of APS. She presented with multiple thrombotic events, including spontaneous abortions. During evaluation by the third episode of abortion, a CT imaging revealed an adrenal hematoma, but the patient was discharged without further investigation. A few weeks later, she presented in the emergency department with manifestations suggestive of adrenal insufficiency. Based on that assumption, she started therapy with glucocorticoids, with significant clinical improvement. After stabilization, additional investigation confirmed AD and excluded other etiologies; she also started mineralocorticoid replacement. This case illustrates a rare complication of APS that, if misdiagnosed, may be life threatening. A high index of suspicion is necessary for its diagnosis, and prompt treatment is crucial to reduce the morbidity and mortality potentially associated.

Learning points:

  • AD is a rare but life-threatening complication of APS.
  • It is important to look for AD in patients with APS and a suggestive clinical scenario.
  • APS must be excluded in patients with primary adrenal insufficiency and adrenal imaging revealing thrombosis/hemorrhage.
  • Glucocorticoid therapy should be promptly initiated when AD is suspected.
  • Mineralocorticoid replacement must be started when there is confirmed aldosterone deficiency.
  • Hypertension is a common feature of APS; in patients with APS and AD, replacement therapy with glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids may jeopardize hypertension management.
Open access

Marco Russo, Ilenia Marturano, Romilda Masucci, Melania Caruso, Maria Concetta Fornito, Dario Tumino, Martina Tavarelli, Sebastiano Squatrito and Gabriella Pellegriti

Summary

Struma ovarii is a rare ovarian teratoma characterized by the presence of thyroid tissue as the major component. Malignant transformation of the thyroidal component (malignant struma ovarii) has been reported in approximately 5% of struma ovarii. The management and follow-up of this unusual disease remain controversial. We report the case of a woman with a history of autoimmune thyroiditis and a previous resection of a benign struma ovarii that underwent hystero-annexiectomy for malignant struma ovarii with multiple papillary thyroid cancer foci and peritoneal involvement. Total thyroidectomy and subsequent radioiodine treatment lead to complete disease remission after 104 months of follow-up. The diagnosis and natural progression of malignant struma ovarii are difficult to discern, and relapses can occur several years after diagnosis. A multidisciplinary approach is mandatory; after surgical excision of malignant struma, thyroidectomy in combination with 131I therapy should be considered after risk stratification in accordance with a standard approach in differentiated thyroid cancer patients.

Learning points

  • Malignant struma ovarii is a rare disease; diagnosis is difficult and management is not well defined.
  • Predominant sites of metastasis are adjacent pelvic structures.
  • Thyroidectomy and 131I therapy should be considered after risk stratification in accordance with standard approaches in DTC patients.

Open access

S A S Aftab, N Reddy, N L Owen, R Pollitt, A Harte, P G McTernan, G Tripathi and T M Barber

Summary

A 19-year-old woman was diagnosed with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI). She had sustained numerous low-trauma fractures throughout her childhood, including a recent pelvic fracture (superior and inferior ramus) following a low-impact fall. She had the classical blue sclerae, and dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) bone scanning confirmed low bone mass for her age in the lumbar spine (Z-score was −2.6). However, despite these classical clinical features, the diagnosis of OI had not been entertained throughout the whole of her childhood. Sequencing of her genomic DNA revealed that she was heterozygous for the c.3880_3883dup mutation in exon 50 of the COL1A1 gene. This mutation is predicted to result in a frameshift at p.Thr1295, and truncating stop codon 3 amino acids downstream. To our knowledge, this mutation has not previously been reported in OI.

Learning points

  • OI is a rare but important genetic metabolic bone and connective tissue disorder that manifests a diverse clinical phenotype that includes recurrent low-impact fractures.
  • Most mutations that underlie OI occur within exon 50 of the COL1A1 gene (coding for protein constituents of type 1 pro-collagen).
  • The diagnosis of OI is easily missed in its mild form. Early diagnosis is important, and there is a need for improved awareness of OI among health care professionals.
  • OI is a diagnosis of exclusion, although the key diagnostic criterion is through genetic testing for mutations within the COL1A1 gene.
  • Effective management of OI should be instituted through a multidisciplinary team approach that includes a bone specialist (usually an endocrinologist or rheumatologist), a geneticist, an audiometrist and a genetic counsellor. Physiotherapy and orthopaedic surgery may also be required.