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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

Peter Novodvorsky, Ziad Hussein, Muhammad Fahad Arshad, Ahmed Iqbal, Malee Fernando, Alia Munir, and Sabapathy P Balasubramanian

Summary

Spontaneous remission of primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) due to necrosis and haemorrhage of parathyroid adenoma, the so-called ‘parathyroid auto-infarction’ is a very rare, but previously described phenomenon. Patients usually undergo parathyroidectomy or remain under close clinical and biochemical surveillance. We report two cases of parathyroid auto-infarction diagnosed in the same tertiary centre; one managed surgically and the other conservatively up to the present time. Case #1 was a 51-year old man with PHPT (adjusted (adj.) calcium: 3.11 mmol/L (reference range (RR): 2.20–2.60 mmol/L), parathyroid hormone (PTH) 26.9 pmol/L (RR: 1.6–6.9 pmol/L) and urine calcium excretion consistent with PHPT) referred for parathyroidectomy. Repeat biochemistry 4 weeks later at the surgical clinic showed normal adj. calcium (2.43 mmol/L) and reduced PTH. Serial ultrasound imaging demonstrated reduction in size of the parathyroid lesion from 33 to 17 mm. Twenty months later, following recurrence of hypercalcaemia, he underwent neck exploration and resection of an enlarged right inferior parathyroid gland. Histology revealed increased fibrosis and haemosiderin deposits in the parathyroid lesion in keeping with auto-infarction. Case #2 was a 54-year-old lady admitted with severe hypercalcaemia (adj. calcium: 4.58 mmol/L, PTH 51.6 pmol/L (RR: 1.6–6.9 pmol/L)) and severe vitamin D deficiency. She was treated with intravenous fluids and pamidronate and 8 days later developed symptomatic hypocalcaemia (1.88 mmol/L) with dramatic decrease of PTH (17.6 pmol/L). MRI of the neck showed a 44 mm large cystic parathyroid lesion. To date, (18 months later), she has remained normocalcaemic.

Learning points:

  • Primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) is characterised by excess parathyroid hormone (PTH) secretion arising mostly from one or more autonomously functioning parathyroid adenomas (up to 85%), diffuse parathyroid hyperplasia (<15%) and in 1–2% of cases from parathyroid carcinoma.
  • PHPT and hypercalcaemia of malignancy, account for the majority of clinical presentations of hypercalcaemia.
  • Spontaneous remission of PHPT due to necrosis, haemorrhage and infarction of parathyroid adenoma, the so-called ‘parathyroid auto-infarction’, ‘auto-parathyroidectomy’ or ‘parathyroid apoplexy’ is a very rare in clinical practice but has been previously reported in the literature.
  • In most cases, patients with parathyroid auto-infarction undergo parathyroidectomy. Those who are managed conservatively need to remain under close clinical and biochemical surveillance long-term as in most cases PHPT recurs, sometimes several years after auto-infarction.
Open access

Michal Barabas, Isabel Huang-Doran, Debbie Pitfield, Hazel Philips, Manoj Goonewardene, Ruth T Casey, and Benjamin G Challis

Summary

A 67-year-old woman presented with a generalised rash associated with weight loss and resting tachycardia. She had a recent diagnosis of diabetes mellitus. Biochemical evaluation revealed elevated levels of circulating glucagon and chromogranin B. Cross-sectional imaging demonstrated a pancreatic lesion and liver metastases, which were octreotide-avid. Biopsy of the liver lesion confirmed a diagnosis of well-differentiated grade 2 pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour, consistent with metastatic glucagonoma. Serial echocardiography commenced 4 years before this diagnosis demonstrated a progressive left ventricular dilatation and dysfunction in the absence of ischaemia, suggestive of glucagonoma-associated dilated cardiomyopathy. Given the severity of the cardiac impairment, surgical management was considered inappropriate and somatostatin analogue therapy was initiated, affecting clinical and biochemical improvement. Serial cross-sectional imaging demonstrated stable disease 2 years after diagnosis. Left ventricular dysfunction persisted, however, despite somatostatin analogue therapy and optimal medical management of cardiac failure. In contrast to previous reports, the case we describe demonstrates that chronic hyperglucagonaemia may lead to irreversible left ventricular compromise. Management of glucagonoma therefore requires careful and serial evaluation of cardiac status.

Learning points:

  • In rare cases, glucagonoma may present with cardiac failure as the dominant feature. Significant cardiac impairment may occur in the absence of other features of glucagonoma syndrome due to subclinical chronic hyperglucagonaemia.
  • A diagnosis of glucagonoma should be considered in patients with non-ischaemic cardiomyopathy, particularly those with other features of glucagonoma syndrome.
  • Cardiac impairment due to glucagonoma may not respond to somatostatin analogue therapy, even in the context of biochemical improvement.
  • All patients with a new diagnosis of glucagonoma should be assessed clinically for evidence of cardiac failure and, if present, a baseline transthoracic echocardiogram should be performed. In the presence of cardiac impairment these patients should be managed by an experienced cardiologist.
Open access

Christopher Muir, Anthony Dodds, and Katherine Samaras

Summary

Diamond–Blackfan anaemia (DBA) is a rare cause of bone marrow failure. The incidence of malignancy and endocrine complications are increased in DBA, relative to other inherited bone marrow failure syndromes. We describe an adult woman with DBA who developed osteoporosis and avascular necrosis (AVN) of both distal femora. Such endocrine complications are not uncommon in DBA, but under-appreciated, especially in adulthood. Further, rectal adenocarcinoma was diagnosed at age 32 years, requiring hemi-colectomy and adjuvant chemotherapy. Elevated cancer risk may warrant disease-specific screening guidelines. Genetic predictors of extra-haematopoetic complications in DBA are yet to be established.

Learning points:

  • Endocrine complications are common in DBA.
  • Clinical vigilance is required in managing bone health of DBA patients treated with glucocorticoids.
  • There is currently no reliable way to predict which patients will develop complications of therapy or premature malignancy related to DBA.
  • Complaints of bone or joint pain should prompt screening with targeted magnetic resonance imaging. Osteoporosis screening should be performed routinely.
Open access

Ana Marina Moreira and Poli Mara Spritzer

Summary

Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) is the condition of intermittent or permanent gonadal insufficiency that occurs in women before the age of 40. We describe three cases of POI referred to the outpatient endocrinology clinic of a university hospital. The three patients met diagnostic criteria for POI and were managed by specific approaches tailored to individualized goals. In the first case, the main concern was fertility and the reproductive prognosis. The second patient was a carrier of a common genetic cause of POI: premutation of the FMR1 gene. The third case was a patient diagnosed with a POI and established osteoporosis, a common complication of estrogen deprivation. This study reports the treatment and follow-up of these cases, with an emphasis on relevant aspects of individualized management, alongside a brief literature review.

Learning points

  • A diagnosis of POI should be considered in patients presenting with amenorrhea or irregular menses and high serum follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels before age 40 years.
  • Patients with POI without an established cause, especially in familial cases, should be tested for FMR1 mutations.
  • Estrogen/progestin replacement therapy is indicated since diagnosis until at least the estimated age of menopause, and is the cornerstone for maintaining the good health of breast and urogenital tract and for primary or secondary osteoporosis prevention in POI.
  • Fertility should be managed through an individualized approach based on patient possibilities, such as egg or embryo donation and ovarian cryopreservation; pregnancy can occur spontaneously in a minority of cases.
  • Women with POI should be carefully monitored for cardiovascular risk factors.

Open access

Clement Olukayode Aransiola and Arinola Ipadeola

Summary

Paget's disease is a chronic and progressive disorder of bone characterized by focal areas of excessive osteoclastic resorption accompanied by a secondary increase in the osteoblastic activity. Paget's disease of bone (PBD) is a rare endocrine disease especially among Africans and Asians. Hence the detection of a case in a middle-aged Nigerian is of interest. We present the case of a 62-year-old Nigerian man in apparent good health who was found to have a markedly elevated serum total alkaline phosphatase (ALP) of 1179 U/l (reference range, 40–115 U/l) 4 years ago during a routine medical check-up in the USA. He had no history suggestive of PDB and also had no known family history of bone disease. Examination findings were not remarkable except for a relatively large head. A repeat ALP in our centre was 902 U/l (reference range, 40–120 U/l). Cranial CT scan showed diffuse cranial vault thickening consistent with Paget's disease which was confirmed by Tc-99m hydroxymethylene diphosphonate. He was placed on 40 mg alendronate tablets daily for 6 months. The patient has remained asymptomatic and has been in continuing biochemical remission during the 3-year follow-up period. The most recent ALP result is 88 U/l (reference range, 30–132 U/l) in April 2015.

Learning points

  • Serum total alkaline phosphatase remains a sensitive marker of bone turnover and an isolated increase above the upper limit of normal warrants more intense scrutiny in form of investigations targeted at excluding PD.
  • Paget's disease is very rare but can occur in the Africans as seen in this Nigerian man and most patients are asymptomatic.
  • Asymptomatic patients can benefit from treatment if disease is active, polyostotic or the lesions are located in bones with future risk of complications such as long bones, vertebrae and skull.
  • Bisphosphonates are still the mainstay of treatment and alendronate is a useful therapeutic option for treatment.