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Open access

Mike Lin, Venessa Tsang, Janice Brewer, Roderick Clifton-Bligh and Matti L Gild

Summary

Lymphocytic hypophysitis is a rare neuroendocrine disease characterised by an autoimmune inflammatory disorder of the pituitary gland. We report a 50-year-old woman who presented with headaches and bilateral sixth cranial nerve palsies. MRI of the pituitary revealed extensive fibrosis involving the sellar and extending into both cavernous sinuses causing bilateral occlusion of the internal carotid arteries (ICA). Transphenoidal biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of infiltrative fibrotic lymphocytic hypophysitis. Symptoms resolved with high dose of oral steroids but relapsed on tapering, requiring several treatments of i.v. pulse steroids over 8 months. Rituximab combined with mycophenolate mofetil was required to achieve long-term symptom relief. Serial MRI pituitary imaging showed stabilisation of her disease without reduction in sellar mass or regression of ICA occlusion. The patient’s brain remained perfused solely by her posterior circulation. This case demonstrates an unusual presentation of a rare disease and highlights a successful steroid-sparing regimen in a refractory setting.

Learning points:

  • Lymphocytic hypophysitis is a rare inflammatory disorder of the pituitary gland. In exceptional cases, there is infiltration of the cavernous sinus with subsequent occlusion of the internal carotid arteries.
  • First-line treatment of lymphocytic hypophysitis is high-dose glucocorticoids. Relapse after tapering or discontinuation is common and its use is limited by long-term adverse effects.
  • There is a paucity of data for treatment of refractory lymphocytic hypophysitis. Goals of treatment should include improvement in symptoms, correction of hormonal insufficiencies, reduction in lesion size and prevention of recurrence.
  • Steroid-sparing immunosuppressive drugs such as rituximab and mycophenolate mofetil have been successful in case reports. This therapeutic combination represents a viable alternative treatment for refractory disease.
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

Diana Catarino, Cristina Ribeiro, Leonor Gomes and Isabel Paiva

Summary

Pituitary infections, particularly with fungus, are rare disorders that usually occur in immunocompromised patients. Cushing’s syndrome predisposes patients to infectious diseases due to their immunosuppression status. We report the case of a 55-year-old woman, working as a poultry farmer, who developed intense headache, palpebral ptosis, anisocoria, prostration and psychomotor agitation 9 months after initial diabetes mellitus diagnosis. Cranioencephalic CT scan showed a pituitary lesion with bleeding, suggesting pituitary apoplexy. Patient underwent transsphenoidal surgery and the neuropathologic study indicated a corticotroph adenoma with apoplexy and fungal infection. Patient had no preoperative Cushing’s syndrome diagnosis. She was evaluated by a multidisciplinary team who decided not to administer anti-fungal treatment. The reported case shows a rare association between a corticotroph adenoma and a pituitary fungal infection. The possible contributing factors were hypercortisolism, uncontrolled diabetes and professional activity. Transsphenoidal surgery is advocated in these infections; however, anti-fungal therapy is still controversial.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary infections are rare disorders caused by bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections.
  • Pituitary fungal infections usually occur in immunocompromised patients.
  • Cushing’s syndrome, as immunosuppression factor, predisposes patients to infectious diseases, including fungal infections.
  • Diagnosis of pituitary fungal infection is often achieved during histopathological investigation.
  • Treatment with systemic anti-fungal drugs is controversial.
  • Endocrine evaluation is recommended at the time of initial presentation of pituitary manifestations.
Open access

Satyanarayana V Sagi, Hareesh Joshi, Emily Whiles, Mondy Hikmat, Vijith R Puthi, Jane MacDougall, Sarah L Spiden, Gavin Fuller, Soo-Mi Park and Samson O Oyibo

Summary

Hypogonadotropic hypogonadism is characterised by insufficient secretion of pituitary gonadotropins resulting in delayed puberty, anovulation and azoospermia. When hypogonadotropic hypogonadism occurs in the absence of structural or functional lesions of the hypothalamic or pituitary gland, the hypogonadism is defined as idiopathic hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (IHH). This is a rare genetic disorder caused by a defect in the secretion of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GNRH) by the hypothalamus or a defect in the action of GNRH on the pituitary gland. Up to 50% of IHH cases have identifiable pathogenic variants in the currently known genes. Pathogenic variants in the GNRHR gene encoding the GNRH receptor are a relatively common cause of normosmic IHH, but reports of pathogenic variants in GNRH1 encoding GNRH are exceedingly rare. We present a case of two siblings born to consanguineous parents who were found to have normosmic idiopathic hypogonadotropic hypogonadism due to homozygosity of a novel loss-of function variant in GNRH1. Case 1 is a male who presented at the age of 17 years with delayed puberty and under-virilised genitalia. Case 2 is a female who presented at the age of 16 years with delayed puberty and primary amenorrhea.

Learning points:

  • IHH is a genetically heterogeneous disorder which can be caused by pathogenic variants affecting proteins involved in the pulsatile gonadotropin-releasing hormone release, action, or both.
  • Currently known genetic defects account for up to 50% of all IHH cases.
  • GNRH1 pathogenic variants are a rare cause of normosmic IHH.
  • IHH is associated with a wide spectrum of clinical manifestations.
  • IHH can be challenging to diagnose, particularly when attempting to differentiate it from constitutional delay of puberty.
  • Early diagnosis and gonadotrophin therapy can prevent negative physical sequelae and mitigate psychological distress with the restoration of puberty and fertility in affected individuals.
Open access

Nicholas J Theis, Toby Calvert, Peter McIntyre, Stephen P Robertson and Benjamin J Wheeler

Summary

Cantu syndrome, or hypertrichotic osteochondrodysplasia, is a rare, autosomal dominant genetically heterogeneous disorder. It is characterized by hypertrichosis, cardiac and skeletal anomalies and distinctive coarse facial features. We report a case where slowed growth velocity at 13 years led to identification of multiple pituitary hormone deficiencies. This adds to other reports of pituitary abnormalities in this condition and supports inclusion of endocrine monitoring in the clinical surveillance of patients with Cantu syndrome.

Learning points:

  • Cantu syndrome is a rare genetic disorder caused by pathogenic variants in the ABCC9 and KCNJ8 genes, which result in gain of function of the SUR2 or Kir6.1 subunits of widely expressed KATP channels.
  • The main manifestations of the syndrome are varied, but most commonly include hypertrichosis, macrosomia, macrocephaly, coarse ‘acromegaloid’ facies, and a range of cardiac defects.
  • Anterior pituitary dysfunction may be implicated in this disorder, and we propose that routine screening should be included in the clinical and biochemical surveillance of patients with Cantu syndrome.
Open access

Karen Decaestecker, Veerle Wijtvliet, Peter Coremans and Nike Van Doninck

Summary

ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism is caused by an ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS) in 20% of cases. We report a rare cause of EAS in a 41-year-old woman, presenting with clinical features of Cushing’s syndrome which developed over several months. Biochemical tests revealed hypokalemic metabolic alkalosis and high morning cortisol and ACTH levels. Further testing, including 24-hour urine analysis, late-night saliva and low-dose dexamethasone suppression test, confirmed hypercortisolism. An MRI of the pituitary gland was normal. Inferior petrosal sinus sampling (IPSS) revealed inconsistent results, with a raised basal gradient but no rise after CRH stimulation. Additional PET-CT showed intense metabolic activity in the left nasal vault. Biopsy of this lesion revealed an unsuspected cause of Cushing’s syndrome: an olfactory neuroblastoma (ONB) with positive immunostaining for ACTH. Our patient underwent transnasal resection of the tumour mass, followed by adjuvant radiotherapy. Normalisation of cortisol and ACTH levels was seen immediately after surgery. Hydrocortisone substitution was started to prevent withdrawal symptoms. As the hypothalamic–pituitary–axis slowly recovered, daily hydrocortisone doses were tapered and stopped 4 months after surgery. Clinical Cushing’s stigmata improved gradually.

Learning points:

  • Ectopic ACTH syndrome can originate from tumours outside the thoracoabdominal region, like the sinonasal cavity.
  • The diagnostic accuracy of IPSS is not 100%: both false positives and false negatives may occur and might be due to a sinonasal tumour with ectopic ACTH secretion.
  • Olfactory neuroblastoma (syn. esthesioneuroblastoma), named because of its sensory (olfactory) and neuroectodermal origin in the upper nasal cavity, is a rare malignant neoplasm. It should not be confused with neuroblastoma, a tumour of the sympathetic nervous system typically occurring in children.
  • If one criticises MRI of the pituitary gland because of ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism, one should take a close look at the sinonasal field as well.
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

Misaki Aoshima, Koji Nagayama, Kei Takeshita, Hiroshi Ajima, Sakurako Orikasa, Ayana Iwazaki, Hiroaki Takatori and Yutaka Oki

Summary

Patients treated with immunosuppressive drugs, especially methotrexate (MTX), rarely develop lymphoproliferative disorders (LPDs), known as MTX-related LPD (MTX–LPD). The primary site of MTX–LPD is often extranodal. This is the first reported case of MTX–LPD in the pituitary. A 65-year-old woman was admitted to our hospital with symptoms of oculomotor nerve palsy and multiple subcutaneous nodules. She had been treated with MTX for 11 years for rheumatoid arthritis. Computed tomography showed multiple masses in the orbit, sinuses, lung fields, anterior mediastinum, kidney, and subcutaneous tissue. Brain magnetic resonance imaging revealed a sellar mass. She was diagnosed with hypopituitarism and central diabetes insipidus based on endocrine examination. Although pituitary biopsy could not be performed, we concluded that the pituitary lesion was from MTX–LPD, similar to the lesions in the sinuses, anterior mediastinum, and subcutaneous tissue, which showed polymorphic LPD on biopsy. MTX was discontinued, and methylprednisolone was administered to improve the neurologic symptoms. After several weeks, there was marked improvement of all lesions, including the pituitary lesion, but the pituitary function did not improve. When pituitary lesions are caused by MTX–LPD, the possibility of anterior hypopituitarism and central diabetes insipidus needs to be considered. Further studies are needed to investigate the effectiveness of early diagnosis and treatment of MTX–LPD in restoring pituitary dysfunction.

Learning points

  • Pituitary lesions from MTX–LPD may cause hypopituitarism and central diabetes insipidus.
  • Pituitary metastasis of malignant lymphoma and primary pituitary lymphoma, which have the same tissue types with MTX–LPD, have poor prognosis, but the lesions of MTX–LPD can regress only after MTX discontinuation.
  • In cases of pituitary lesions alone, a diagnosis of MTX–LPD may be difficult, unless pituitary biopsy is performed. This possibility should be considered in patients treated with immunosuppressive drugs.
  • Pituitary hypofunction and diabetes insipidus may persist, even after regression of the lesions on imaging due to MTX discontinuation.