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Open access

C Kamath, J Witczak, M A Adlan and L D Premawardhana

Summary

Thymic enlargement (TE) in Graves’ disease (GD) is often diagnosed incidentally when chest imaging is done for unrelated reasons. This is becoming more common as the frequency of chest imaging increases. There are currently no clear guidelines for managing TE in GD. Subject 1 is a 36-year-old female who presented with weight loss, increased thirst and passage of urine and postural symptoms. Investigations confirmed GD, non-PTH-dependent hypercalcaemia and Addison’s disease (AD). CT scans to exclude underlying malignancy showed TE but normal viscera. A diagnosis of hypercalcaemia due to GD and AD was made. Subject 2, a 52-year-old female, was investigated for recurrent chest infections, haemoptysis and weight loss. CT thorax to exclude chest malignancy, showed TE. Planned thoracotomy was postponed when investigations confirmed GD. Subject 3 is a 47-year-old female who presented with breathlessness, chest pain and shakiness. Investigations confirmed T3 toxicosis due to GD. A CT pulmonary angiogram to exclude pulmonary embolism showed TE. The CT appearances in all three subjects were consistent with benign TE. These subjects were given appropriate endocrine treatment only (without biopsy or thymectomy) as CT appearances showed the following appearances of benign TE – arrowhead shape, straight regular margins, absence of calcification and cyst formation and radiodensity equal to surrounding muscle. Furthermore, interval scans confirmed thymic regression of over 60% in 6 months after endocrine control. In subjects with CT appearances consistent with benign TE, a conservative policy with interval CT scans at 6 months after endocrine control will prevent inappropriate surgical intervention.

Learning points:

  • Chest imaging is common in modern clinical practice and incidental anterior mediastinal abnormalities are therefore diagnosed frequently.

  • Thymic enlargement (TE) associated with Graves’ disease (GD) is occasionally seen in view of the above.

  • There is no validated strategy to manage TE in GD at present.

  • However, CT (or MRI) scan features of the thymus may help characterise benign TE, and such subjects do not require thymic biopsy or surgery at presentation.

  • In them, an expectant ‘wait and see’ policy is recommended with GD treatment only, as the thymus will show significant regression 6 months after endocrine control.

Open access

Bidhya Timilsina, Niranjan Tachamo, Prem Raj Parajuli and Ilan Gabriely

Summary

A 74-year-old woman presented with progressive lethargy, confusion, poor appetite and abdominal pain. She was found to have non-PTH-mediated severe hypercalcemia with renal failure and metabolic alkalosis. Extensive workup for hypercalcemia to rule out alternate etiology was unrevealing. Upon further questioning, she was taking excess calcium carbonate (Tums) for her worsening heartburn. She was diagnosed with milk-alkali syndrome (MAS). Her hypercalcemia and alkalosis recovered completely with aggressive hydration along with improvement in her renal function. High index of suspicion should be maintained and history of drug and supplements, especially calcium ingestion, should be routinely asked in patients presenting with hypercalcemia to timely diagnose MAS and prevent unnecessary tests and treatments.

Learning points:

  • Suspect milk-alkali syndrome in patients with hypercalcemia, metabolic alkalosis and renal failure, especially in context of ingestion of excess calcium-containing supplements.

  • Careful history of over-the-counter medications, supplements and diet is crucial to diagnose milk-alkali syndrome.

  • Milk-alkali syndrome may cause severe hypercalcemia in up to 25–30% of cases.

Open access

E Mogas, A Campos-Martorell, M Clemente, L Castaño, A Moreno-Galdó, D Yeste and A Carrascosa

Summary

Two pediatric patients with different causes of hyperparathyroidism are reported. First patient is a 13-year-old male with severe hypercalcemia due to left upper parathyroid gland adenoma. After successful surgery, calcium and phosphate levels normalized, but parathormone levels remained elevated. Further studies revealed a second adenoma in the right gland. The second patient is a 13-year-old female with uncommon hypercalcemia symptoms. Presence of pathogenic calcium-sensing receptor gene (CASR) mutation was found, resulting in diagnosis of symptomatic familial hypocalciuric hypercalcemia. Cinacalcet, a calcium-sensing agent that increases the sensitivity of the CASR, was used in both patients with successful results.

Learning points:

  • Hyperparathyroidism is a rare condition in pediatric patients. If not treated, it can cause serious morbidity.

  • Genetic tests searching for CASR or MEN1 gene mutations in pediatric patients with primary hyperparathyroidism should be performed.

  • Cinacalcet has been effective for treating different causes of hyperparathyroidism in our two pediatric patients.

  • Treatment has been well tolerated and no side effects have been detected.

Open access

Cheuk-Lik Wong, Chun-Kit Fok and Vicki Ho-Kee Tam

Summary

We report a case of elderly Chinese lady with neurofibromatosis type-1 presenting with longstanding palpitation, paroxysmal hypertension and osteoporosis. Biochemical testing showed mild hypercalcaemia with non-suppressed parathyroid hormone level suggestive of primary hyperparathyroidism, and mildly elevated urinary fractionated normetanephrine and plasma-free normetanephrine pointing to a catecholamine-secreting pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma. Further scintigraphic investigation revealed evidence of a solitary parathyroid adenoma causing primary hyperparathyroidism and a left pheochromocytoma. Resection of the parathyroid adenoma and pheochromocytoma resulted in normalization of biochemical abnormalities and hypertension. The rare concurrence of primary hyperparathyroidism and pheochromocytoma in neurofibromatosis type-1 is discussed.

Learning points:

  • All NF-1 patients who have symptoms suggestive of a pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma (PPGL), even remotely, should undergo biochemical testing.

  • The initial biochemical tests of choice for PPGL in NF-1 are either plasma-free metanephrines or urinary fractionated metanephrines. Any elevations of metanephrines should be carefully evaluated for the presence of PPGLs in NF-1 patients.

  • Primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) is described in subjects with NF-1. Due to the lack of epidemiological and functional studies, their association is yet to be substantiated. Meanwhile, PHPT may further exacerbate the metabolic bone defect in these patients and should be treated when present according to published guidelines.

  • Coexistence of PPGL and PHPT can occur in subjects with NF-1, mimicking multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2).

Open access

Carine Ghassan Richa, Khadija Jamal Saad, Ali Khaled Chaaban and Mohamad Souheil El Rawas

Summary

The objective of the study is to report a case of acute pancreatitis secondary to hypercalcemia induced by primary hyperparathyroidism in a pregnant woman at the end of the first trimester. The case included a 32-year-old woman who was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis and severe hypercalcemia refractory to many regimens of medical therapy in the first trimester of pregnancy. She was successfully treated with parathyroidectomy in the early second trimester with complete resolution of hypercalcemia and pancreatitis. Neonatal course was unremarkable. To our best knowledge, this is a rare case when primary hyperparathyroidism and its complications are diagnosed in the first trimester of pregnancy. In conclusion, primary hyperparathyroidism is a rare life-threatening condition to the fetus and mother especially when associated with complications such as pancreatitis. Early therapeutic intervention is important to reduce the morbidity and mortality. Parathyroidectomy performed in the second trimester can be the only solution.

Learning points:

  • Learning how to make diagnosis of primary hyperparathyroidism in a woman during the first trimester of pregnancy.

  • Understanding the complications of hypercalcemia and be aware of the high mortality and sequelae in both fetus and mother.

  • Providing the adequate treatment in such complicated cases with coordinated care between endocrinologists and obstetricians to ensure optimal outcomes.

Open access

Nikolaos Asonitis, Eva Kassi, Michalis Kokkinos, Ilias Giovanopoulos, Foteini Petychaki and Helen Gogas

Summary

Hypercalcemia of malignancy is the most common cause of hypercalcemia in hospitalized patients. It is associated with a poor prognosis, since it reflects an advanced cancer stage. Among all cancer in females, breast cancer is the most common malignancy, and it has the highest prevalence of hypercalcemia. Approximately 70% of patients with breast cancer have bone metastases and 10% of them will have hypercalcemia as a complication at some point in the disease. Herein, we report a 69-year-old female patient with metastatic breast cancer, who developed severe hypercalcemia in the course of her disease and was diagnosed with humoral hypercalcemia of malignancy (HHM). Intense hydration along with corticoisteroids and antiresorptive medication (calcitonin, bisphosphonates and denosumab) were administered to the patient. Despite the above treatment, serum calcium levels remain elevated and calcimimetic cinacalcet was added. Upon discontinuation of cinacalcet, calcium levels were raised and returned back to the normal levels following re-initiation of the calcimimetic. Her calcium level restored to normal, and she was discharged with the following medical treatment: denosumab monthly, and cinacalcet at a titrated dose of 90 mg per day. The patient is followed as an outpatient and 11 months later, her calcium level remained within the normal range.

Learning points:

  • Hypercalcemia of malignancy is the most common cause of hypercalcemia in hospitalized patients.

  • Breast cancer has the highest prevalence of hypercalcemia.

  • The cornerstone of therapy remains the intense hydration and intravenous bisphosphonates (preferably zoledronic acid).

  • In case of persistent hypercalcemia of malignancy, the administration of calcimimetic cinacalcet could be an additional effective therapeutic option.

Open access

Maryam Heidarpour, Mehdi Karami, Pegah Hedayat and Ashraf Aminorroaya

Summary

Primary hyperparathyroidism revealed by thoracic spine brown tumor and peptic ulcer bleeding is rare. We presented a case of 33-year-old male patient who was admitted with paraplegia. Thoracic spine magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed extradural lesion at T4 level. He underwent surgical decompression in T4. According to histopathologic finding and elevated serum parathormone (PTH) and hypercalcemia (total serum calcium 12.1 mg/dL), the diagnosis of brown tumor was down. Ultrasonography of his neck showed a well-defined lesion of 26 × 14 × 6 mm. The day after surgery, he experienced 2 episodes of melena. Bedside upper gastrointestinal endoscopy showed gastric peptic ulcer with visible vessel. Treatment with intragastric local instillation of epinephrine and argon plasma coagulation was done to stop bleeding. After stabilization of the patient, parathyroidectomy was performed. Histologic study showed the parathyroid adenoma without any manifestation of malignancy. At discharge, serum calcium was normal (8.6 mg/dL). On 40th day of discharge, standing and walking status was normal.

Learning points:

  • Thoracic spine involvement is a very rare presentation of primary hyperparathyroidism.

  • The issue of whether primary hyperparathyroidism increases the risk of peptic ulcer disease remains controversial. However, gastrointestinal involvement has been reported in association with classic severe primary hyperparathyroidism.

  • The treatment of brown tumor varies from case to case.

Open access

Reiner Jumpertz von Schwartzenberg, Ulf Elbelt, Manfred Ventz, Knut Mai, Tina Kienitz, Lukas Maurer, Thomas Rose, Jens C Rückert, Christian J Strasburger and Joachim Spranger

Parathyroid carcinoma is a rare disease leading to severe hypercalcemia due to hyperparathyroidism. Surgery is the primary treatment option. A more progressive form of the disease is characterized by parathyrotoxicosis, and subsequent hypercalcemia is the most common cause of death. We report a case presenting with severe hypercalcemia due to parathyrotoxicosis from parathyroid carcinoma treated for the first time using the monoclonal antibody denosumab as a rescue therapy and present long-term follow-up data. The 71-year-old patient presented with severe hypercalcemia due to metastatic parathyroid carcinoma. Despite undergoing treatment with bisphosphonates, cinacalcet hydrochloride, and forced diuresis, the patient`s condition deteriorated rapidly due to resistant hypercalcemia. Surgery performed because of spinal metastasis and forced diuresis lowered calcium levels, albeit they remained in the hypercalcemic range and significantly increased when forced diuresis was stopped. Considering a palliative situation to overcome hypercalcemia, we decided to administer denosumab, a monoclonal antibody that binds to the receptor activator of nuclear factor-kappa B ligand. After a single subcutaneous administration of 60 mg denosumab, calcium levels normalized within one day. Subsequent denosumab injections led to permanent control of serum calcium for more than 2 years despite rising parathyroid hormone levels and repeated surgeries. Together with recent cases in the literature supporting our observation, we believe that denosumab is relevant for future trials and represents an effective tool to control hypercalcemia in patients with advanced stages of parathyroid cancer.

Learning points

  • Severe hypercalcemia is the most common cause of death in patients with parathyroid carcinoma.

  • The monoclonal antibody denosumab rapidly lowered severely elevated serum calcium levels due to parathyrotoxicosis.

  • Denosumab was effective in the long-term treatment of hypercalcemia despite progression of parathyroid carcinoma.

Open access

Angela S Lee and Stephen M Twigg

Summary

Adrenal insufficiency is a rare cause of hypercalcaemia and should be considered when more common causes such as primary hyperparathyroidism and malignancy are excluded. Opioid therapy as a cause of adrenal insufficiency is a possibly under-recognised endocrinopathy with potentially life-threatening adverse effects. We report on a case of opioid-induced secondary adrenal insufficiency presenting as hypercalcaemia. The patient was a 25-year-old man who developed hypercalcaemia during the recovery stage after a period of critical illness. Systematic investigation of his hypercalcaemia found it to be due to secondary adrenal insufficiency, developing as a consequence of methadone opioid analgesia. Treatment with i.v. saline and subsequent glucocorticoid replacement led to resolution of the hypercalcaemia. The hypoadrenalism resolved when opioids were subsequently weaned and ceased. These two interacting endocrinopathies of opioid-induced adrenal insufficiency and consequent hypercalcaemia highlight the importance of maintaining awareness of the potentially serious adverse clinical outcomes which can occur as a result of opioids, particularly considering that symptoms of hypoadrenalism can overlap with those of concomitant illness. Treatment with hydration and glucocorticoid replacement is effective in promptly resolving the hypercalcaemia due to hypoadrenalism. Hypoadrenalism due to prescribed and recreational opioids may be more common than is currently recognised.

Learning points

  • Opioid therapy can cause clinically significant secondary adrenal insufficiency, and this may be more common than is currently recognised.

  • Adrenal insufficiency is reversible after discontinuation of the opioid therapy.

  • Hypercalcaemia can occur as a consequence of adrenal insufficiency, and may be the presenting feature.

  • Treatment of hypercalcaemia due to adrenal insufficiency involves i.v. saline and glucocorticoid replacement.

Open access

Arshpreet Kaur and Stephen J Winters

Summary

Drugs that inhibit the sodium-glucose co-transporter-2 (SGLT2) are an exciting novel, insulin-independent treatment for diabetes that block glucose reabsorption from the proximal tubules of the kidney, leading to increased glucose excretion and lower blood glucose levels. Inhibition of SGLT2 activity also reduces sodium reabsorption, which together with glycosuria produces a mild diuretic effect with the potential for dehydration and hyperkalemia. We report on a 60-year-old man with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes treated with insulin, glimepiride, metformin and canagliflozin, who was admitted with altered mental status after a syncopal episode. He had a 1-week history of ingestion of Tums for heartburn followed by poor appetite and lethargy. Laboratory work-up showed acute kidney injury, diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), and parathyroid hormone-independent severe hypercalcemia of 17.4 mg/dl. DKA resolved with insulin treatment, and saline hydration led to improvement in hypercalcemia and renal function over 48 h, but was accompanied by a rapid increase in the serum sodium concentration from 129 to 162 mmol/l despite changing fluids to 0.45% saline. Urine studies were consistent with osmotic diuresis. Hypernatremia was slowly corrected with hypotonic fluids, with improvement in his mental status over the next 2 days. This is the first report of hypercalcemia associated with the use of a SLGT2 inhibitor. Although the exact mechanism is unknown, canagliflozin may predispose to hypercalcemia in patients ingesting excessive calcium because of dehydration from osmotic diuresis, with reduced calcium excretion and possible increased intestinal calcium absorption. Saline therapy and osmotic diuresis may lead to hypernatremia from electrolyte-free water loss.

Learning points

  • Canagliflozin, an SGLT2 inhibitor, may cause hypercalcemia in susceptible patients.

  • Although the exact mechanisms are unknown, dehydration from osmotic diuresis and increased intestinal calcium absorption play a role.

  • Close monitoring of serum calcium levels is recommended in patients treated with SGLT2 inhibitors who are elderly, have established hypercalcemia, or take oral calcium supplements.

  • Saline therapy and osmotic diuresis may lead to hypernatremia from electrolyte-free water loss in susceptible patients.