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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

Ohoud Al Mohareb, Mussa H Al Malki, O Thomas Mueller and Imad Brema

Summary

Resistance to thyroid hormone-beta (RTHbeta) is a rare inherited syndrome characterized by variable reduced tissue responsiveness to the intracellular action of triiodothyronine (T3), the active form of the thyroid hormone. The presentation of RTHbeta is quite variable and mutations in the thyroid hormone receptor beta (THR-B) gene have been detected in up to 90% of patients. The proband was a 34-year-old Jordanian male who presented with intermittent palpitations. His thyroid function tests (TFTs) showed a discordant profile with high free T4 (FT4) at 45.7 pmol/L (normal: 12–22), high free T3 (FT3) at 11.8 pmol/L (normal: 3.1–6.8) and inappropriately normal TSH at 3.19 mIU/L (normal: 0.27–4.2). Work up has confirmed normal alpha subunit of TSH of 0.1 ng/mL (normal <0.5) and pituitary MRI showed no evidence of a pituitary adenoma; however, there was an interesting coincidental finding of partially empty sella. RTHbeta was suspected and genetic testing confirmed a known mutation in the THR-B gene, where a heterozygous A to G base change substitutes valine for methionine at codon 310. Screening the immediate family revealed that the eldest son (5 years old) also has discordant thyroid function profile consistent with RTHbeta and genetic testing confirmed the same M310V mutation that his father harbored. Moreover, the 5-year-old son had hyperactivity, impulsivity and aggressive behavior consistent with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This case demonstrates an unusual co-existence of RTHbeta and partially empty sella in the same patient which, to our knowledge, has not been reported before.

Learning points:

  • We report the coincidental occurrence of RTHbeta and a partially empty sella in the same patient that has not been previously reported.
  • TFTs should be done in all children who present with symptoms suggestive of ADHD as RTHbeta is a common finding in these children.
  • The management of children with ADHD and RTHbeta could be challenging for both pediatricians and parents and the administration of T3 with close monitoring may be helpful in some cases.
  • Incidental pituitary abnormalities do exist in patients with RTHbeta, although extremely rare, and should be evaluated thoroughly and separately.