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Open access

G Leksic, A M Alduk, V Molnar, A Haxhiu, A Haxhiu, A Balasko, N Knezevic, T Dusek and D Kastelan

Summary

Primary aldosteronism (PA) is characterised by aldosterone hypersecretion and represents a common cause of secondary hypertension. During diagnostic evaluation, it is essential to determine the aetiology of PA since the treatment of unilateral and bilateral disease differs significantly. Adrenal vein sampling (AVS) has been implemented as a gold standard test for the diagnosis of PA subtype. However, due to the AVS complexity, costs and limited availability, many patients with PA are being treated based on the computed tomography (CT) findings. In this article, we present two patients with discrepant CT and AVS results, demonstrating that AVS is the only reliable method for localising the source of aldosterone excess.

Learning points:

  • CT is an unreliable method for distinguishing aldosterone-producing adenoma (APA) from bilateral adrenal hyperplasia (BAH).

  • CT can be misleading in defining lateralisation of the aldosterone excess in case of unilateral disease (APA).

  • AVS is the gold standard test for defining the PA subtype.

Open access

A Chinoy, N B Wright, M Bone and R Padidela

Summary

Hypokalaemia at presentation of diabetic ketoacidosis is uncommon as insulin deficiency and metabolic acidosis shifts potassium extracellularly. However, hypokalaemia is a recognised complication of the management of diabetic ketoacidosis as insulin administration and correction of metabolic acidosis shifts potassium intracellularly. We describe the case of a 9-year-old girl with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes mellitus presenting in diabetic ketoacidosis, with severe hypokalaemia at presentation due to severe and prolonged emesis. After commencing management for her diabetic ketoacidosis, her serum sodium and osmolality increased rapidly. However, despite maximal potassium concentrations running through peripheral access, and multiple intravenous potassium ‘corrections’, her hypokalaemia persisted. Seventy two hours after presentation, she became drowsy and confused, with imaging demonstrating central pontine myelinolysis – a rare entity seldom seen in diabetic ketoacidosis management in children despite rapid shifts in serum sodium and osmolality. We review the literature associating central pontine myelinolysis with hypokalaemia and hypothesise as to how the hypokalaemia may have contributed to the development of central pontine myelinolysis. We also recommend an approach to the management of a child in diabetic ketoacidosis with hypokalaemia at presentation.

Learning points:

  • Hypokalaemia is a recognised complication of treatment of paediatric diabetic ketoacidosis that should be aggressively managed to prevent acute complications.

  • Central pontine myelinolysis is rare in children, and usually observed in the presence of rapid correction of hyponatraemia. However, there is observational evidence of an association between hypokalaemia and central pontine myelinolysis, potentially by priming the endothelial cell membrane to injury by lesser fluctuations in osmotic pressure.

  • Consider central pontine myelinolysis as a complication of the management of paediatric diabetic ketoacidosis in the presence of relevant symptoms with profound hypokalaemia and/or fluctuations in serum sodium levels.

  • We have suggested an approach to the management strategies of hypokalaemia in paediatric diabetic ketoacidosis which includes oral potassium supplements if tolerated, minimising the duration and the rate of insulin infusion and increasing the concentration of potassium intravenously (via central line if necessary).

Open access

Himangshu S Bose, Alan M Rice, Brendan Marshall, Fadi Gebrail, David Kupshik and Elizabeth W Perry

Summary

Steroid hormones are essential for the survival of all mammals. In adrenal glands and gonads, cytochrome P450 side chain cleavage enzyme (SCC or CYP11A1), catalyzes conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone. We studied a patient with ambiguous genitalia by the absence of Müllerian ducts and the presence of an incompletely formed vagina, who had extremely high adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and reduced pregnenolone levels with enlarged adrenal glands. The testes revealed seminiferous tubules, stroma, rete testis with interstitial fibrosis and reduced number of germ cells. Electron microscopy showed that the patient’s testicular mitochondrial size was small with little SCC expression within the mitochondria. The mitochondria were not close to the mitochondria-associated ER membrane (MAM), and cells were filled with the microfilaments. Our result revealed that absence of pregnenolone is associated with organelle stress, leading to altered protein organization that likely created steric hindrance in testicular cells.

Learning points:

  • Testes revealed seminiferous tubules, stroma, rete testis with interstitial fibrosis and reduced number of germ cells;

  • Testicular mitochondrial size was small with little SCC expression within the mitochondria;

  • Absence of pregnenolone is associated with organelle stress.

Open access

Pedro Marques, Nicola Tufton, Satya Bhattacharya, Mark Caulfield and Scott A Akker

Summary

Mineralocorticoid hypertension is most often caused by autonomous overproduction of aldosterone, but excess of other mineralocorticoid precursors can lead to a similar presentation. 11-Deoxycorticosterone (DOC) excess, which can occur in 11-β hydroxylase or 17-α hydroxylase deficiencies, in DOC-producing adrenocortical tumours or in patients taking 11-β hydroxylase inhibitors, may cause mineralocorticoid hypertension. We report a 35-year-old woman who in the third trimester of pregnancy was found to have a large adrenal mass on routine obstetric ultrasound. On referral to our unit, persistent hypertension and long-standing hypokalaemia was noted, despite good compliance with multiple antihypertensives. Ten years earlier, she had hypertension noted in pregnancy which had persisted after delivery. A MRI scan confirmed the presence of a 12 cm adrenal mass and biochemistry revealed high levels of DOC and low/normal renin, aldosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone, with normal catecholamine levels. The patient was treated with antihypertensives until obstetric delivery, following which she underwent an adrenalectomy. Histology confirmed a large adrenal cortical neoplasm of uncertain malignant potential. Postoperatively, blood pressure and serum potassium normalised, and the antihypertensive medication was stopped. Over 10 years of follow-up, she remains asymptomatic with normal DOC measurements. This case should alert clinicians to the possibility of a diagnosis of a DOC-producing adrenal tumours in patients with adrenal nodules and apparent mineralocorticoid hypertension in the presence of low or normal levels of aldosterone. The associated diagnostic and management challenges are discussed.

Learning points:

  • Hypermineralocorticoidism is characterised by hypertension, volume expansion and hypokalaemic alkalosis and is most commonly due to overproduction of aldosterone. However, excess of other mineralocorticoid products, such as DOC, lead to the same syndrome but with normal or low aldosterone levels.

  • The differential diagnosis of resistant hypertension with low renin and low/normal aldosterone includes congenital adrenal hyperplasia, syndrome of apparent mineralocorticoid excess, Cushing’s syndrome, Liddle’s syndrome and 11-deoxycorticosterone-producing tumours.

  • DOC is one intermediate product in the mineralocorticoid synthesis with weaker activity than aldosterone. However, marked DOC excess seen in 11-β hydroxylase or 17-α hydroxylase deficiencies in DOC-producing adrenocortical tumours or in patients taking 11-β hydroxylase inhibitors, may cause mineralocorticoid hypertension.

  • Excessive production of DOC in adrenocortical tumours has been attributed to reduced activity of the enzymes 11-β hydroxylase and 17-α hydroxylase and increased activity of 21-α hydroxylase.

  • The diagnosis of DOC-producing adrenal tumours is challenging because of its rarity and poor availability of DOC laboratory assays.

Open access

Ilan Rahmani Tzvi-Ran, Judith Olchowski, Merav Fraenkel, Asher Bashiri and Leonid Barski

Summary

A previously healthy 24-year-old female underwent an emergent caesarean section without a major bleeding described. During the first post-operative days (POD) she complained of fatigue, headache and a failure to lactate with no specific and conclusive findings on head CT. On the following days, fever rose with a suspicion of an obstetric surgery-related infection, again with no evidence to support the diagnosis. On POD5 a new-onset hyponatremia was documented. The urine analysis suggested SIADH, and following a treatment failure, further investigation was performed and demonstrated both central hypothyroidism and adrenal insufficiency. The patient was immediately treated with hydrocortisone followed by levothyroxine with a rapid resolution of symptoms and hyponatremia. Further laboratory investigation demonstrated anterior hypopituitarism. The main differential diagnosis was Sheehan’s syndrome vs lymphocytic hypophysitis. Brain MRI was performed as soon as it was available and findings consistent with Sheehan’s syndrome confirmed the diagnosis. Lifelong hormonal replacement therapy was initiated. Further complaints on polyuria and polydipsia have led to a water deprivation testing and the diagnosis of partial central insipidus and appropriate treatment with DDAVP.

Learning points:

  • Sheehan’s syndrome can occur, though rarely, without an obvious major post-partum hemorrhage.

  • The syndrome may resemble lymphocytic hypophysitis clinically and imaging studies may be crucial in order to differentiate both conditions.

  • Hypopituitarism presentation may be variable and depends on the specific hormone deficit.

  • Euvolemic hyponatremia workup must include thyroid function test and 08:00 AM cortisol levels.

Open access

Lima Lawrence, Peng Zhang, Humberto Choi, Usman Ahmad, Valeria Arrossi, Andrei Purysko and Vinni Makin

Summary

Ectopic adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) production leading to ectopic ACTH syndrome accounts for a small proportion of all Cushing’s syndrome (CS) cases. Thymic neuroendocrine tumors are rare neoplasms that may secrete ACTH leading to rapid development of hypercortisolism causing electrolyte and metabolic abnormalities, uncontrolled hypertension and an increased risk for opportunistic infections. We present a unique case of a patient who presented with a mediastinal mass, revealed to be an ACTH-secreting thymic neuroendocrine tumor (NET) causing ectopic CS. As the diagnosis of CS from ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS) remains challenging, we emphasize the necessity for high clinical suspicion in the appropriate setting, concordance between biochemical, imaging and pathology findings, along with continued vigilant monitoring for recurrence after definitive treatment.

Learning points:

  • Functional thymic neuroendocrine tumors are exceedingly rare.

  • Ectopic Cushing’s syndrome secondary to thymic neuroendocrine tumors secreting ACTH present with features of hypercortisolism including electrolyte and metabolic abnormalities, uncontrolled hypertension and hyperglycemia, and opportunistic infections.

  • The ability to undergo surgery and completeness of resection are the strongest prognostic factors for improved overall survival; however, the recurrence rate remains high.

  • A high degree of initial clinical suspicion followed by vigilant monitoring is required for patients with this challenging disease.

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

Sebastian Hörber, Sarah Hudak, Martin Kächele, Dietrich Overkamp, Andreas Fritsche, Hans-Ulrich Häring, Andreas Peter and Martin Heni

Summary

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a life-threatening complication of diabetes mellitus. It usually occurs in patients with type 1 diabetes where it is typically associated with only moderately increased blood glucose. Here, we report the case of a 52-year-old female patient who was admitted to the emergency unit with severely altered mental status but stable vital signs. Laboratory results on admission revealed very high blood glucose (1687 mg/dL/93.6 mmol/L) and severe acidosis (pH <7) with proof of ketone bodies in serum and urine. Past history revealed a paranoid schizophrenia diagnosed 10 years ago and for which the patient was treated with risperidone for many years. Acute treatment with intravenous fluids, intravenous insulin infusion and sodium bicarbonate improved the symptoms. Further laboratory investigations confirmed diagnosis of autoimmune type 1 diabetes. After normalization of blood glucose levels, the patient could soon be discharged with a subcutaneous insulin therapy.

Learning points:

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis as first manifestation of type 1 diabetes can occur with markedly elevated blood glucose concentrations in elder patients.

  • Atypical antipsychotics are associated with hyperglycemia and an increased risk of new-onset diabetes.

  • First report of risperidone-associated diabetic ketoacidosis in new-onset type 1 diabetes.

  • Patients treated with atypical antipsychotics require special care and regular laboratory examinations to detect hyperglycemia and diabetic ketoacidosis.

  • In cases when the diagnosis is in doubt, blood gas analysis as well as determination of C-peptide and islet autoantibodies can help to establish the definite diabetes type.

Open access

Philip D Oddie, Benjamin B Albert, Paul L Hofman, Craig Jefferies, Stephen Laughton and Philippa J Carter

Summary

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) during childhood is a rare malignant tumor that frequently results in glucocorticoid and/or androgen excess. When there are signs of microscopic or macroscopic residual disease, adjuvant therapy is recommended with mitotane, an adrenolytic and cytotoxic drug. In addition to the anticipated side effect of adrenal insufficiency, mitotane is known to cause gynecomastia and hypothyroidism in adults. It has never been reported to cause precocious puberty. A 4-year-old girl presented with a 6-week history of virilization and elevated androgen levels and 1-year advancement in bone age. Imaging revealed a right adrenal mass, which was subsequently surgically excised. Histology revealed ACC with multiple unfavorable features, including high mitotic index, capsular invasion and atypical mitoses. Adjuvant chemotherapy was started with mitotane, cisplatin, etoposide and doxorubicin. She experienced severe gastrointestinal side effects and symptomatic adrenal insufficiency, which occurred despite physiological-dose corticosteroid replacement. She also developed hypothyroidism that responded to treatment with levothyroxine and peripheral precocious puberty (PPP) with progressive breast development and rapidly advancing bone age. Five months after discontinuing mitotane, her adrenal insufficiency persisted and she developed secondary central precocious puberty (CPP). This case demonstrates the diverse endocrine complications associated with mitotane therapy, which contrast with the presentation of ACC itself. It also provides the first evidence that the known estrogenic effect of mitotane can manifest as PPP.

Learning points:

  • Adrenocortical carcinoma is an important differential diagnosis for virilization in young children

  • Mitotane is a chemotherapeutic agent that is used to treat adrenocortical carcinoma and causes adrenal necrosis

  • Mitotane is an endocrine disruptor. In addition to the intended effect of adrenal insufficiency, it can cause hypothyroidism, with gynecomastia also reported in adults.

  • Patients taking mitotane require very high doses of hydrocortisone replacement therapy because mitotane interferes with steroid metabolism. This effect persists after mitotane therapy is completed

  • In our case, mitotane caused peripheral precocious puberty, possibly through its estrogenic effect.

Open access

Su Ann Tee, Earn Hui Gan, Mohamad Zaher Kanaan, David Ashley Price, Tim Hoare and Simon H S Pearce

Summary

Primary adrenal insufficiency secondary to syphilis is extremely rare, with only five cases being reported in the literature. We report a case of adrenal insufficiency as a manifestation of Treponema pallidum infection (tertiary syphilis). A 69-year-old, previously fit and well Caucasian male was found to have adrenal insufficiency after being admitted with weight loss, anorexia and postural dizziness resulting in a fall. Biochemical testing showed hyponatraemia, hyperkalaemia, and an inadequate response to Synacthen testing, with a peak cortisol level of 302 nmol/L after administration of 250 µg Synacthen. Abdominal imaging revealed bilateral adrenal hyperplasia with inguinal and retroperitoneal lymphadenopathy. He was started on hydrocortisone replacement; however, it was not until he re-attended ophthalmology with a red eye and visual loss 1 month later, that further work-up revealed the diagnosis of tertiary syphilis. Following a course of penicillin, repeat imaging 5 months later showed resolution of the abnormal radiological appearances. However, adrenal function has not recovered and 3 years following initial presentation, the patient remains on both glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid replacement. In conclusion, this case highlights the importance of considering syphilis as a potential differential diagnosis in patients presenting with adrenal insufficiency and bilateral adrenal masses, given the recent re-emergence of this condition. The relative ease of treating infectious causes of adrenal lesions makes accurate and timely diagnosis crucial.

Learning points:

  • Infectious causes, including syphilis, should be excluded before considering adrenalectomy or biopsy for any patient presenting with an adrenal mass.

  • It is important to perform a full infection screen including tests for human immunodeficiency virus, other blood-borne viruses and concurrent sexually transmitted diseases in patients presenting with bilateral adrenal hyperplasia with primary adrenal insufficiency.

  • Awareness of syphilis as a potential differential diagnosis is important, as it not only has a wide range of clinical presentations, but its prevalence has been increasing in recent times.