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Open access

Tessa Glyn, Beverley Harris and Kate Allen

Summary

We present the case of a 57-year-old lady who had a delayed diagnosis of central hypothyroidism on a background of Grave’s thyrotoxicosis and a partial thyroidectomy. During the twenty years following her partial thyroidectomy, the patient developed a constellation of symptoms and new diagnoses, which were investigated by numerous specialists from various fields, namely rheumatology, renal and respiratory. She developed significantly impaired renal function and raised creatine kinase (CK). She was also referred to a tertiary neurology service for investigation of myositis, which resulted in inconclusive muscle biopsies. Recurrently normal TSH results reassured clinicians that this did not relate to previous thyroid dysfunction. In 2015, she developed increased shortness of breath and was found to have a significant pericardial effusion. The clinical biochemist reviewed this lady’s blood results and elected to add on a free T4 (fT4) and free T3 (fT3), which were found to be <0.4 pmol/L (normal range (NR): 12–22 pmol/L) and 0.3 pmol/L (NR: 3.1–6.8 pmol/L), respectively. She was referred urgently to the endocrine services and commenced on Levothyroxine replacement for profound central hypothyroidism. Her other pituitary hormones and MRI were normal. In the following year, her eGFR and CK normalised, and her myositis symptoms, breathlessness and pericardial effusion resolved. One year following initiation of Levothyroxine, her fT4 and fT3 were in the normal range for the first time. This case highlights the pitfalls of relying purely on TSH for excluding hypothyroidism and the devastating effect the delay in diagnosis had upon this patient.

Learning points:

  • Isolated central hypothyroidism is very rare, but should be considered irrespective of previous thyroid disorders.

  • If clinicians have a strong suspicion that a patient may have hypothyroidism despite normal TSH, they should ensure they measure fT3 and fT4.

  • Laboratories that do not perform fT3 and fT4 routinely should review advice sent to requesting clinicians to include a statement explaining that a normal TSH excludes primary but not secondary hypothyroidism.

  • Thyroid function tests should be performed routinely in patients presenting with renal impairment or a raised CK.

Open access

Andromachi Vryonidou, Stavroula A Paschou, Fotini Dimitropoulou, Panagiotis Anagnostis, Vasiliki Tzavara and Apostolos Katsivas

Summary

We describe a case of a 40-year-old woman who was admitted to the intensive care unit with a rapid onset of dyspnea and orthopnea. She presented progressive weakness, weight loss and secondary amenorrhea during last year, while intermittent fever was present for the last two months. Initial biochemical evaluation showed anemia, hyponatremia and increased C-reactive protein levels. Clinical and echocardiographic evaluation revealed cardiac tamponade, which was treated with pericardiocentesis. Pleural fluid samples were negative for malignancy, tuberculosis or bacterial infection. Hormonal and serologic evaluation led to the diagnosis of autoimmune polyglandular syndrome (APS) type 2 (including primary adrenal insufficiency and autoimmune thyroiditis), possibly coexisting with systemic lupus erythematosus. After symptomatic rheumatologic treatment followed by replacement therapy with hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone, the patient fully recovered. In patients with the combination of polyserositis, cardiac tamponade and persistent hyponatremia, possible coexistence of rheumatologic and autoimmune endocrine disease, mainly adrenal insufficiency, should be considered. Early diagnosis and non-invasive treatment can be life-saving.

Learning points:

  • In patients with the combination of polyserositis, cardiac tamponade and persistent hyponatremia, possible coexistence of rheumatologic and autoimmune endocrine disease, mainly adrenal insufficiency, should be considered.

  • Early diagnosis and non-invasive treatment can be life-saving for these patients.

  • Primary adrenal insufficiency requires lifelong replacement therapy with oral administration of 15–25 mg hydrocortisone in split doses and 50–200 µg fludrocortisone once daily.

Open access

S Hussain, S Keat and S V Gelding

Summary

We describe the case of an African woman who was diagnosed with ketosis-prone diabetes with diabetes-associated autoantibodies, after being admitted for diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) precipitated by her first presentation of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). She had a seven-year history of recurrent gestational diabetes (GDM) not requiring insulin therapy, with return to normoglycaemia after each pregnancy. This might have suggested that she had now developed type 2 diabetes (T2D). However, the diagnosis of SLE prompted testing for an autoimmune aetiology for the diabetes, and she was found to have a very high titre of GAD antibodies. Typical type 1 diabetes (T1D) was thought unlikely due to the long preceding history of GDM. Latent autoimmune diabetes of adults (LADA) was considered, but ruled out as she required insulin therapy from diagnosis. The challenge of identifying the type of diabetes when clinical features overlap the various diabetes categories is discussed. This is the first report of autoimmune ketosis-prone diabetes (KPD) presenting with new onset of SLE.

Learning points:

  • DKA may be the first presentation of a multi-system condition and a precipitating cause should always be sought, particularly in women with a history of GDM or suspected T2D.

  • All women with GDM should undergo repeat glucose tolerance testing postpartum to exclude frank diabetes, even when post-delivery capillary blood glucose (CBG) tests are normal. They should also be advised to continue CBG monitoring during acute illness in case of new onset diabetes.

  • KPD comprises a spectrum of diabetes syndromes that present with DKA, but subsequently have a variable course depending on the presence or absence of beta cell failure and/or diabetes autoantibodies.

  • KPD should be considered in a patient with presumed T2D presenting with DKA, especially if there is a personal or family history of autoimmune diabetes.

  • LADA should be suspected in adults presumed to have T2D, who do not require insulin therapy for at least six months after diagnosis and have anti-GAD antibodies.

  • Patients with autoimmune diabetes have an increased risk of other autoimmune diseases and screening for thyroid, parietal cell, coeliac and antinuclear antibodies should be considered.