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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

Thien Vinh Luong, Lars Rejnmark, Anne Kirstine Arveschoug, Peter Iversen, and Lars Rolighed

Multiple endocrine neoplasia 1 (MEN1) is a rare genetic syndrome characterized by the manifestation of tumors in endocrine glands most often in the parathyroid gland (PG). Treatment may involve several parathyroidectomies (PTX), especially in young patients, which increases the risk of postoperative complications. We present a 16-year-old patient with a family history of MEN1 syndrome. The patient started to show biochemical signs of hyperparathyroidism (HPT) and hypercalcemia at the age of 10. One and a half years later a PTX was successfully performed with removal of the two left PGs. However, a rise in plasma parathyroid hormone and ionized calcium was observed 4 years later. Preoperative noninvasive imaging with 99mTc-sestamibi scintigraphy showed no definitive parathyroid adenoma. A 11C-methionine position emission tomography combined with MRI (MET-PET/MRI) was then performed and detected a focus posterior to the lower part of the right thyroid lobe. Intraoperative angiography with fluorescence and indocyanine green dye was used to assess the vascularization of the remaining PGs. The lower right PG was removed. The patient was discharged with normalized biochemical values and without postoperative complications. Recurrence of primary HPT is frequent in MEN1 patients which often necessitates repeated operations. Our case report showed that the use of advanced noninvasive preoperative imaging techniques and intraoperative fluorescent imaging are valuable tools and should be taken into consideration in selected cases to avoid postoperative complications. To our knowledge, this is the first case where MET-PET/MRI has been used to detect parathyroid pathology.

Learning points:

  • MEN1 patients will develop parathyroid disease, which eventually will lead to surgical treatment with removal of the pathological glands.
  • Preoperatively usage of MRI combined with PET tracers such as 11C-methionine and 18F-Fluorocholine are able to detect parathyroid pathology with a higher sensitivity than conventional imaging.
  • Techniques using intraoperatively angiography with fluorescence and florescent dyes allow surgeons to verify the vascularization of each parathyroid gland.
  • Optimization of noninvasive preoperative imaging techniques and intraoperative fluorescent imaging are valuable tools and should be taken into consideration when performing PTX consecutively in the same patient to avoid postoperative complications.
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.