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Václav Hána Jr 3rd Department of Internal Medicine, General University Hospital and 1st Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

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Tomáš Brutvan 3rd Department of Internal Medicine, General University Hospital and 1st Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

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Adéla Krausová 3rd Department of Internal Medicine, General University Hospital and 1st Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

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Michal Kršek 3rd Department of Internal Medicine, General University Hospital and 1st Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

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Václav Hána 3rd Department of Internal Medicine, General University Hospital and 1st Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

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Summary

Severe Cushing’s syndrome from an ectopic adrenocorticotropic hormone-producing tumour is rare but often demands rapid diagnostics and treatment of hypercortisolism with its comorbidities. Pharmacotherapy of hypercortisolism by ketoconazole, metyrapone and osilodrostat is currently available. If unsuccessful or insufficient a bilateral adrenalectomy is an option. We present a 28-year-old female with severe Cushing’s syndrome caused by a bronchial metastatic neuroendocrine tumour (NET). Hypercortisolism was efficiently treated by osilodrostat with block–replace and then titration regimen. A once-daily dose was finally used with normalised cortisol levels. Androgen levels measured by liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry were slightly elevated during the treatment but without any symptoms. A simple once-daily use of osilodrostat with titration regimen led to normalised cortisol levels in a severe Cushing’s syndrome patient with an uncurable bronchial NET. Transient hypocortisolism during treatment appeared but was easily treated by hydrocortisone.

Learning points

  • Cushing’s syndrome from an ectopic adrenocorticotropic hormone-producing tumour is rare.

  • Cortisol upregulation is often severe and rapid, though clinical signs are not always fully pronounced.

  • Rapid treatment is a key for preventing and reducing complications such as fractures, thromboembolism, bleeding, hyperglycaemia, and arterial hypertension.

  • The novel potent steroidogenesis inhibitor osilodrostat can be used as first-line treatment for reducing hypercortisolism.

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Rachel Wurth Section on Endocrinology and Genetics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

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Crystal Kamilaris Section on Endocrinology and Genetics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

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Naris Nilubol Surgical Oncology, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA

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Samira M Sadowski Surgical Oncology, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA

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Annabel Berthon Section on Endocrinology and Genetics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

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Martha M Quezado Laboratory of Pathology Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA

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Fabio R Faucz Section on Endocrinology and Genetics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

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Constantine A Stratakis Section on Endocrinology and Genetics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

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Fady Hannah-Shmouni Section on Endocrinology and Genetics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

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Summary

Primary bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia (PBMAH) is a rare cause of ACTH-independent Cushing syndrome (CS). This condition is characterized by glucocorticoid and/or mineralocorticoid excess, and is commonly regulated by aberrant G-protein coupled receptor expression may be subclinical, allowing the disease to progress for years undetected. Inhibin A is a glycoprotein hormone and tumor marker produced by certain endocrine glands including the adrenal cortex, which has not been previously investigated as a potential tumor marker for PBMAH. In the present report, serum inhibin A levels were evaluated in three patients with PBMAH before and after adrenalectomy. In all cases, serum inhibin A was elevated preoperatively and subsequently fell within the normal range after adrenalectomy. Additionally, adrenal tissues stained positive for inhibin A. We conclude that serum inhibin A levels may be a potential tumor marker for PBMAH.

Learning points:

  • PBMAH is a rare cause of CS.

  • PBMAH may have an insidious presentation, allowing the disease to progress for years prior to diagnosis.

  • Inhibin A is a heterodimeric glycoprotein hormone expressed in the gonads and adrenal cortex.

  • Inhibin A serum concentrations are elevated in some patients with PBMAH, suggesting the potential use of this hormone as a tumor marker.

  • Further exploration of serum inhibin A concentration, as it relates to PBMAH disease progression, is warranted to determine if this hormone could serve as an early detection marker and/or predictor of successful surgical treatment.

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Sofia Pilar Ildefonso-Najarro Division of Endocrinology, Guillermo Almenara Irigoyen National Hospital, Lima, Peru

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Esteban Alberto Plasencia-Dueñas Division of Endocrinology, Guillermo Almenara Irigoyen National Hospital, Lima, Peru

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Cesar Joel Benites-Moya National University of Trujillo, School of Medicine, Trujillo, Peru

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Jose Carrion-Rojas Metabolism and Reproduction Unit, Division of Endocrinology, Guillermo Almenara Irigoyen National Hospital, Lima, Peru

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Marcio Jose Concepción-Zavaleta Division of Endocrinology, Guillermo Almenara Irigoyen National Hospital, Lima, Peru

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Summary

Cushing’s syndrome is an endocrine disorder that causes anovulatory infertility secondary to hypercortisolism; therefore, pregnancy rarely occurs during its course. We present the case of a 24-year-old, 16-week pregnant female with a 10-month history of unintentional weight gain, dorsal gibbus, nonpruritic comedones, hirsutism and hair loss. Initial biochemical, hormonal and ultrasound investigations revealed hypokalemia, increased nocturnal cortisolemia and a right adrenal mass. The patient had persistent high blood pressure, hyperglycemia and hypercortisolemia. She was initially treated with antihypertensive medications and insulin therapy. Endogenous Cushing’s syndrome was confirmed by an abdominal MRI that demonstrated a right adrenal adenoma. The patient underwent right laparoscopic adrenalectomy and anatomopathological examination revealed an adrenal adenoma with areas of oncocytic changes. Finally, antihypertensive medication was progressively reduced and glycemic control and hypokalemia reversal were achieved. Long-term therapy consisted of low-dose daily prednisone. During follow-up, despite favorable outcomes regarding the patient’s Cushing’s syndrome, stillbirth was confirmed at 28 weeks of pregnancy. We discuss the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of Cushing’s syndrome to prevent severe maternal and fetal complications.

Learning points:

  • Pregnancy can occur, though rarely, during the course of Cushing’s syndrome.

  • Pregnancy is a transient physiological state of hypercortisolism and it must be differentiated from Cushing’s syndrome based on clinical manifestations and laboratory tests.

  • The diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome during pregnancy may be challenging, particularly in the second and third trimesters because of the changes in the maternal hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.

  • Pregnancy during the course of Cushing’s syndrome is associated with severe maternal and fetal complications; therefore, its early diagnosis and treatment is critical.

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Diana Catarino Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Department, Centro Hospitalar e Universitário de Coimbra EPE, Coimbra, Portugal

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Cristina Ribeiro Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Department, Centro Hospitalar e Universitário de Coimbra EPE, Coimbra, Portugal

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Leonor Gomes Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Department, Centro Hospitalar e Universitário de Coimbra EPE, Coimbra, Portugal

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Isabel Paiva Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Department, Centro Hospitalar e Universitário de Coimbra EPE, Coimbra, Portugal

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Summary

Pituitary infections, particularly with fungus, are rare disorders that usually occur in immunocompromised patients. Cushing’s syndrome predisposes patients to infectious diseases due to their immunosuppression status. We report the case of a 55-year-old woman, working as a poultry farmer, who developed intense headache, palpebral ptosis, anisocoria, prostration and psychomotor agitation 9 months after initial diabetes mellitus diagnosis. Cranioencephalic CT scan showed a pituitary lesion with bleeding, suggesting pituitary apoplexy. Patient underwent transsphenoidal surgery and the neuropathologic study indicated a corticotroph adenoma with apoplexy and fungal infection. Patient had no preoperative Cushing’s syndrome diagnosis. She was evaluated by a multidisciplinary team who decided not to administer anti-fungal treatment. The reported case shows a rare association between a corticotroph adenoma and a pituitary fungal infection. The possible contributing factors were hypercortisolism, uncontrolled diabetes and professional activity. Transsphenoidal surgery is advocated in these infections; however, anti-fungal therapy is still controversial.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary infections are rare disorders caused by bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections.

  • Pituitary fungal infections usually occur in immunocompromised patients.

  • Cushing’s syndrome, as immunosuppression factor, predisposes patients to infectious diseases, including fungal infections.

  • Diagnosis of pituitary fungal infection is often achieved during histopathological investigation.

  • Treatment with systemic anti-fungal drugs is controversial.

  • Endocrine evaluation is recommended at the time of initial presentation of pituitary manifestations.

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Shamaila Zaman Hammersmith Hospital, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK

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Bijal Patel Hammersmith Hospital, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK

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Paul Glynne The Physicians’ Clinic, London, UK

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Mark Vanderpump The Physicians’ Clinic, London, UK

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Ali Alsafi Hammersmith Hospital, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK

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Sairah Khan Hammersmith Hospital, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK

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Rashpal Flora Hammersmith Hospital, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK

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Fausto Palazzo Hammersmith Hospital, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK

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Florian Wernig Hammersmith Hospital, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK

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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.

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Alessandro Rossini Endocrinology and Diabetes Unit, ASST Papa Giovanni XXIII, Bergamo, Italy

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Francesca Perticone Endocrine Unit, Department of Internal Medicine

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Laura Frosio Endocrine Unit, Department of Internal Medicine

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Marco Schiavo Lena Department of Pathology, San Raffaele Hospital, Milan, Italy

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Roberto Lanzi Endocrine Unit, Department of Internal Medicine

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Summary

ACTH-secreting pheochromocytoma is a very rare cause of Cushing’s syndrome, with a high morbidity and mortality risk due to both cortisol and catecholamines excess. We report the case of a 45-year-old female patient with a 3 cm, high-density, left adrenal mass, diagnosed as an ACTH-secreting pheochromocytoma. The biochemical sensitivity of the tumor to somatostatin analogues was tested by a 100 μg s.c. octreotide administration, which led to an ACTH and cortisol reduction of 50 and 25% respectively. In addition to alpha and beta blockers, preoperative approach to laparoscopic adrenalectomy included octreotide, a somatostatin analogue, together with ketoconazole, in order to achieve an adequate pre-surgical control of cortisol release. Histopathological assessment confirmed an ACTH-secreting pheochromocytoma expressing type 2 and 5 somatostatin receptors (SSTR-2 and -5).

Learning points:

  • ACTH-secreting pheochromocytomas represent a rare and severe condition, characterized by high morbidity and mortality risk.

  • Surgical removal of the adrenal mass is the gold standard treatment, but adequate medical therapy is required preoperatively to improve the surgical outcome and to avoid major complications.

  • Somatostatin analogs, in addition to other medications, may represent a useful therapeutic option for the presurgical management of selected patients.

  • In this sense, the octreotide challenge test is a useful tool to predict favorable therapeutic response to the treatment.

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Katta Sai Department of Internal Medicine, Saint Vincent Hospital at Worcester Medical Center, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA

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Amos Lal Department of Internal Medicine, Saint Vincent Hospital at Worcester Medical Center, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA

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Jhansi Lakshmi Maradana Department of Internal Medicine, Saint Vincent Hospital at Worcester Medical Center, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA

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Pruthvi Raj Velamala Department of Internal Medicine, Saint Vincent Hospital at Worcester Medical Center, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA

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Trivedi Nitin Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, Saint Vincent Hospital at Worcester Medical Center, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA

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Summary

Mifepristone is a promising option for the management of hypercortisolism associated with hyperglycemia. However, its use may result in serious electrolyte imbalances, especially during dose escalation. In our patient with adrenocorticotropic hormone-independent macro-nodular adrenal hyperplasia, unilateral adrenalectomy resulted in biochemical and clinical improvement, but subclinical hypercortisolism persisted following adrenalectomy. She was started on mifepristone. Unfortunately, she missed her follow-up appointments following dosage escalation and required hospitalization at an intensive care level for severe refractory hypokalemia.

Learning points:

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Sharmin Jahan Department of Endocrinology, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), Dhaka, Bangladesh

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M A Hasanat Department of Endocrinology, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), Dhaka, Bangladesh

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Tahseen Mahmood Department of Endocrinology, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), Dhaka, Bangladesh

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Shahed Morshed Department of Endocrinology, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), Dhaka, Bangladesh

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Raziul Haq Department of Neurosurgery, Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH), Dhaka, Bangladesh

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Md Fariduddin Department of Endocrinology, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), Dhaka, Bangladesh

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Summary

Silent corticotroph adenoma (SCA) is an unusual type of nonfunctioning pituitary adenoma (NFA) that is silent both clinically and biochemically and can only be recognized by positive immunostaining for ACTH. Under rare circumstances, it can transform into hormonally active disease presenting with severe Cushing syndrome. It might often produce diagnostic dilemma with difficult management issue if not thoroughly investigated and subtyped accordingly following surgery. Here, we present a 21-year-old male who initially underwent pituitary adenomectomy for presumed NFA with compressive symptoms. However, he developed recurrent and invasive macroadenoma with severe clinical as well as biochemical hypercortisolism during post-surgical follow-up. Repeat pituitary surgery was carried out urgently as there was significant optic chiasmal compression. Immunohistochemical analysis of the tumor tissue obtained on repeat surgery proved it to be an aggressive corticotroph adenoma. Though not cured, he showed marked clinical and biochemical improvement in the immediate postoperative period. Anticipating recurrence from the residual tumor, we referred him for cyber knife radio surgery.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary NFA commonly present with compressive symptoms such as headache and blurred vision.

  • Post-surgical development of Cushing syndrome in such a case could be either drug induced or endogenous.

  • In the presence of recurrent pituitary tumor, ACTH-dependent Cushing syndrome indicates CD.

  • Rarely a SCA presenting initially as NFA can transform into an active corticotroph adenoma.

  • Immunohistochemical marker for ACTH in the resected tumor confirms the diagnosis.

Open access
Wei Yang Division of Endocrinology, Department of Internal Medicine

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David Pham Department of Radiology, University of California Davis School of Medicine, Sacramento, California, USA

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Aren T Vierra Division of Endocrinology, Department of Internal Medicine

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Sarah Azam Division of Endocrinology, Department of Internal Medicine

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Dorina Gui Department of Pathology, University of California Davis School of Medicine, Sacramento, California, USA

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John C Yoon Division of Endocrinology, Department of Internal Medicine

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Summary

Ectopic ACTH-secreting pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors are rare and account for less than 5% of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome cases. We describe an unusual case of metastatic bronchial carcinoid tumor in a young woman presenting with unprovoked pulmonary emboli, which initially prevented the detection of the primary tumor on imaging. The source of ectopic ACTH was ultimately localized by a Gallium-DOTATATE scan, which demonstrated increased tracer uptake in a right middle lobe lung nodule and multiple liver nodules. The histological diagnosis was established based on a core biopsy of a hepatic lesion and the patient was started on a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist and a somatostatin analog. This case illustrates that hypercogulability can further aggravate the diagnostic challenges in ectopic ACTH syndrome. We discuss the literature on the current diagnosis and management strategies for ectopic ACTH syndrome.

Learning points:

  • In a young patient with concurrent hypokalemia and uncontrolled hypertension on multiple antihypertensive agents, secondary causes of hypertension should be evaluated.

  • Patients with Cushing’s syndrome can develop an acquired hypercoagulable state leading to spontaneous and postoperative venous thromboembolism.

  • Pulmonary emboli may complicate the imaging of the bronchial carcinoid tumor in ectopic ACTH syndrome.

  • Imaging with Gallium-68 DOTATATE PET/CT scan has the highest sensitivity and specificity in detecting ectopic ACTH-secreting tumors.

  • A combination of various noninvasive biochemical tests can enhance the diagnostic accuracy in differentiating Cushing’s disease from ectopic ACTH syndrome provided they have concordant results. Bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling remains the gold standard.

Open access
Teresa M Canteros Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nuclear Medicine, Hospital Italinao de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina

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Valeria De Miguel Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nuclear Medicine, Hospital Italinao de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina

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Patricia Fainstein-Day Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nuclear Medicine, Hospital Italinao de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina

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Summary

Severe Cushing syndrome (SCS) is considered an emergency that requires immediate treatment to lower serum cortisol levels. Fluconazole may be considered an alternative treatment in Cushing syndrome when ketoconazole is not tolerated or unavailable. We report a 39-year-old woman with a history of partial pancreaticoduodenectomy due to a periampullary neuroendocrine tumor with locoregional extension. Three years after surgery, she developed liver metastases and was started on 120 mg of lanreotide/month, despite which, liver metastases progressed in the following 6 months. The patient showed extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, delirium, moon face, hirsutism and severe proximal weakness. Laboratory tests showed anemia, hyperglycemia and severe hypokalemia. 24-h urinary free cortisol: 2152 nmol/day (reference range (RR): <276), morning serum cortisol 4883.4 nmol/L (RR: 138–690), ACTH 127.3 pmol/L (RR: 2.2–10). She was diagnosed with ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS). On admission, she presented with acute upper gastrointestinal tract bleeding and hemodynamic instability. Intravenous fluconazole 400 mg/day was started. After 48 h, her mental state improved and morning cortisol decreased by 25%. The dose was titrated to 600 mg/day which resulted in a 55% decrease in cortisol levels in 1 week, but then had to be decreased to 400 mg/day because transaminase levels increased over 3 times the upper normal level. After 18 days of treatment, hemodynamic stability, lower cortisol levels and better overall clinical status enabled successful bilateral adrenalectomy. This case report shows that intravenous fluconazole effectively decreased cortisol levels in SCS due to EAS.

Learning points:

  • Severe Cushing syndrome can be effectively treated with fluconazole to achieve a significant improvement of hypercortisolism prior to bilateral adrenalectomy.

  • Intravenous fluconazole is an alternative treatment when ketoconazole is not tolerated and etomidate is not available.

  • Fluconazole is well tolerated with mild side effects. Hepatotoxicity is usually mild and resolves after drug discontinuation.

Open access