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Open access

Jai Madhok, Amy Kloosterboer, Chitra Venkatasubramanian, and Frederick G Mihm

Summary

We report the case of a 76-year-old male with a remote history of papillary thyroid cancer who developed severe paroxysmal headaches in the setting of episodic hypertension. Brain imaging revealed multiple lesions, initially of inconclusive etiology, but suspicious for metastatic foci. A search for the primary malignancy revealed an adrenal tumor, and biochemical testing confirmed the diagnosis of a norepinephrine-secreting pheochromocytoma. Serial imaging demonstrated multiple cerebral infarctions of varying ages, evidence of vessel narrowing and irregularities in the anterior and posterior circulations, and hypoperfusion in watershed areas. An exhaustive work-up for other etiologies of stroke including thromboembolic causes or vasculitis was unremarkable. There was resolution of symptoms, absence of new infarctions, and improvement in vessel caliber after adequate alpha-adrenergic receptor blockade for the management of pheochromocytoma. This clinicoradiologic constellation of findings suggested that the etiology of the multiple infarctions was reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS). Pheochromocytoma remains a poorly recognized cause of RCVS. Unexplained multifocal cerebral infarctions in the setting of severe hypertension should prompt the consideration of a vasoactive tumor as the driver of cerebrovascular dysfunction. A missed or delayed diagnosis has the potential for serious neurologic morbidity for an otherwise treatable condition.

Learning points:

  • The constellation of multifocal watershed cerebral infarctions of uncertain etiology in a patient with malignant hypertension should trigger the consideration of undiagnosed catecholamine secreting tumors, such as pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas.

  • Reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome is a serious but reversible cerebrovascular manifestation of pheochromocytomas that may lead to strokes (ischemic and hemorrhagic), seizures, and cerebral edema.

  • Alpha-adrenergic receptor blockade can reverse cerebral vasoconstriction and prevent further cerebral ischemia and infarctions.

  • Early diagnosis of catecholamine secreting tumors has the potential for reducing neurologic morbidity and mortality in patients presenting with cerebrovascular complications.

Open access

Tzy Harn Chua and Wann Jia Loh

Summary

Severe hyponatremia and osmotic demyelination syndrome (ODS) are opposite ends of a spectrum of emergency disorders related to sodium concentrations. Management of severe hyponatremia is challenging because of the difficulty in balancing the risk of overcorrection leading to ODS as well as under-correction causing cerebral oedema, particularly in a patient with chronic hypocortisolism and hypothyroidism. We report a case of a patient with Noonan syndrome and untreated anterior hypopituitarism who presented with symptomatic hyponatremia and developed transient ODS.

Learning points:

  • Patients with severe anterior hypopituitarism with severe hyponatremia are susceptible to the rapid rise of sodium level with a small amount of fluid and hydrocortisone.

  • These patients with chronic anterior hypopituitarism are at high risk of developing ODS and therefore, care should be taken to avoid a rise of more than 4–6 mmol/L per day.

  • Early recognition and rescue desmopressin and i.v. dextrose 5% fluids to reduce serum sodium concentration may be helpful in treating acute ODS.

Open access

Dured Dardari, Alfred Penfornis, and Agnes Hartemann

Summary

We report the onset of acute Charcot neuroarthropathy during pregnancy in two patients with type 1 diabetes using retrospective review of case notes. We describe for the first time the onset of acute Charcot neuroarthropathy during pregnancy in two patients with type 1 diabetes. Pregnancy may promote the onset and worsening of a number of diabetic complications. A link between pregnancy and the onset of acute Charcot neuroarthropathy is demonstrated for the first time in this report.

Learning points:

  • Patients with already diagnosed sensitive neuropathy can develop an active phase of Charcot neuroarthropathy during pregnancy.

  • The rapid correction of hyperglycaemia may induce an active phase of Charcot neuroarthropathy during pregnancy.

Open access

Mariana Barbosa, Sílvia Paredes, Maria João Machado, Rui Almeida, and Olinda Marques

Summary

Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists, currently used in the treatment of advanced prostate cancer, have been described as a rare cause of pituitary apoplexy, a potentially life-threatening clinical condition. We report the case of a 69-year-old man with a known pituitary macroadenoma who was diagnosed with prostate cancer and started treatment with GnRH agonist leuprorelin (other hormones were not tested before treatment). Few minutes after drug administration, the patient presented with acute-onset severe headache, followed by left eye ptosis, diplopia and vomiting. Pituitary MRI revealed tumor enlargement and T1-hyperintense signal, compatible with recent bleeding sellar content. Laboratory endocrine workup was significant for low total testosterone. The patient was managed conservatively with high-dose steroids, and symptoms significantly improved. This case describes a rare phenomenon, pituitary apoplexy induced by GnRH agonist. We review the literature regarding this condition: the pathophysiological mechanism involved is not clearly established and several hypotheses have been proposed. Although uncommon, healthcare professionals and patients should be aware of this complication and recognize the signs, preventing a delay in diagnosis and treatment.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary apoplexy (PA) is a potentially life-threatening complication that can be caused by gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist (GnRHa) administration for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer.

  • This complication is rare but should be taken into account when using GnRHa, particularly in the setting of a known pre-existing pituitary adenoma.

  • PA presents with classic clinical signs and symptoms that should be promptly recognized.

  • Patients should be instructed to seek medical care if suspicious symptoms occur.

  • Healthcare professionals should be aware of this complication, enabling its early recognition, adequate treatment and favorable outcome.

Open access

Carmina Teresa Fuss, Stephanie Burger-Stritt, Silke Horn, Ann-Cathrin Koschker, Kathrin Frey, Almuth Meyer, and Stefanie Hahner

Summary

Standard treatment of hypoparathyroidism consists of supplementation of calcium and vitamin D analogues, which does not fully restore calcium homeostasis. In some patients, hypoparathyroidism is refractory to standard treatment with persistent low serum calcium levels and associated clinical complications. Here, we report on three patients (58-year-old male, 52-year-old female, and 48-year-old female) suffering from severe treatment-refractory postsurgical hypoparathyroidism. Two patients had persistent hypocalcemia despite oral treatment with up to 4 µg calcitriol and up to 4 g calcium per day necessitating additional i.v. administration of calcium gluconate 2–3 times per week, whereas the third patient presented with high frequencies of hypocalcemic and treatment-associated hypercalcemic episodes. S.c. administration of rhPTH (1–34) twice daily (40 µg/day) or rhPTH (1–84) (100 µg/day) only temporarily increased serum calcium levels but did not lead to long-term stabilization. In all three cases, treatment with rhPTH (1–34) as continuous s.c. infusion via insulin pump was initiated. Normalization of serum calcium and serum phosphate levels was observed within 1 week at daily 1–34 parathyroid hormone doses of 15 µg to 29.4 µg. Oral vitamin D and calcium treatment could be stopped or reduced and regular i.v. calcium administration was no more necessary. Ongoing efficacy of this treatment has been documented for up to 7 years so far. Therefore, we conclude that hypoparathyroidism that is refractory to both conventional treatment and s.c. parathyroid hormone (single or twice daily) may be successfully treated with continuous parathyroid hormone administration via insulin pump.

Learning points:

  • Standard treatment of hypoparathyroidism still consists of administration of calcium and active vitamin D.

  • Very few patients with hypoparathyroidism also do not respond sufficiently to standard treatment or administration of s.c. parathyroid hormone once or twice daily.

  • In those cases, continuous s.c. administration of parathyroid hormone via insulin pump may represent a successful treatment alternative.

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

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

Anna Popławska-Kita, Marta Wielogórska, Łukasz Poplawski, Katarzyna Siewko, Agnieszka Adamska, Piotr Szumowski, Piotr Myśliwiec, Janusz Myśliwiec, Joanna Reszeć, Grzegorz Kamiński, Janusz Dzięcioł, Dorota Tobiaszewska, Małgorzata Szelachowska, and Adam Jacek Krętowski

Summary

Papillary thyroid gland carcinoma is the most common type of malignancy of the endocrine system. Metastases to the pituitary gland have been described as a complication of papillary thyroid cancer in few reported cases since 1965. We report the case of a 68-year-old female patient with a well-differentiated form of thyroid gland cancer. Despite it being the most common malignant cancer of the endocrine system, with its papillary form being one of the two most frequently diagnosed thyroid cancers, the case we present is extremely rare. Sudden cardiac arrest during ventricular fibrillation occurred during hospitalization. Autopsy of the patient revealed papillary carcinoma of the thyroid, follicular variant, with metastasis to the sella turcica, and concomitant sarcoidosis of heart, lung, and mediastinal and hilar lymph nodes. Not only does atypical metastasis make our patient’s case most remarkable, but also the postmortem diagnosis of sarcoidosis makes her case particularly unusual.

Learning points:

  • The goal of presenting this case is to raise awareness of the clinical heterogeneity of papillary cancer and promote early diagnosis of unexpected metastasis and coexisting diseases to improve clinical outcomes.

  • Clinicians must be skeptical. They should not fall into the trap of diagnostic momentum or accept diagnostic labels at face value. Regardless of the potential mechanisms, clinicians should be aware of the possibility of the coexistence of thyroid cancer and sarcoidosis as a differential diagnosis of lymphadenopathy.

  • This case highlights the importance of the diagnostic and therapeutic planning process and raises awareness of the fact that one uncommon disease could be masked by another extremely rare disorder.

Open access

Kaja Grønning, Archana Sharma, Maria Adele Mastroianni, Bo Daniel Karlsson, Eystein S Husebye, Kristian Løvås, and Ingrid Nermoen

Summary

Primary adrenal lymphoma (PAL) is a rare cause of adrenal insufficiency. More than 90% is of B-cell origin. The condition is bilateral in up to 75% of cases, with adrenal insufficiency in two of three patients. We report two cases of adrenal insufficiency presenting at the age of 70 and 79 years, respectively. Both patients had negative 21-hydroxylase antibodies with bilateral adrenal lesions on CT. Biopsy showed B-cell lymphoma. One of the patients experienced intermittent disease regression on replacement dosage of glucocorticoids.

Learning points:

  • Primary adrenal lymphoma (PAL) is a rare cause of adrenal insufficiency.

  • Bilateral adrenal masses of unknown origin or in individuals with suspected extra-adrenal malignancy should be biopsied quickly when pheochromocytoma is excluded biochemically.

  • Steroid treatment before biopsy may affect diagnosis.

  • Adrenal insufficiency with negative 21-hydroxylase antibodies should be evaluated radiologically.

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