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Open access

Anna Tortora, Domenico La Sala and Mario Vitale

Summary

Reduced intestinal absorption of levothyroxine (LT4) is the most common cause of failure to achieve an adequate therapeutic target in hypothyroid patients under replacement therapy. We present the case of a 63-year-old woman with autoimmune hypothyroidism previously well-replaced with tablet LT4 who became unexpectedly no more euthyroid. At presentation, the patient reported the onset of acute gastrointestinal symptoms characterized by nausea, loss of appetite, flatulence, abdominal cramps and diarrhea, associated with increase of thyrotropin levels (TSH: 11 mIU/mL). Suspecting a malabsorption disease, a thyroxine solid-to-liquid formulation switch, at the same daily dose, was adopted to reach an optimal therapeutic target despite the gastrointestinal symptoms persistence. Oral LT4 solution normalized thyroid hormones. Further investigations diagnosed giardiasis, and antibiotic therapy was prescribed. This case report is compatible with a malabsorption syndrome caused by an intestinal parasite (Giardia lamblia). The reduced absorption of levothyroxine was resolved by LT4 oral solution.

Learning points:

  • The failure to adequately control hypothyroidism with oral levothyroxine is a common clinical problem.

  • Before increasing levothyroxine dose in a patient with hypothyroidism previously well-controlled with LT4 tablets but no more in appropriate therapeutic target, we suggest to investigate non adhesion to LT4 therapy, drug or food interference with levothyroxine absorption, intestinal infection, inflammatory intestinal disease, celiac disease, lactose intolerance, short bowel syndrome after intestinal or bariatric surgery, hepatic cirrhosis and congestive heart failure.

  • LT4 oral solution has a better absorptive profile than the tablet. In hypothyroid patients affected by malabsorption syndrome, switch of replacement therapy from tablet to liquid LT4 should be tested before increasing the dose of LT4.

Open access

A Veltroni, G Zambon, S Cingarlini and M V Davì

Summary

Insulin autoimmune syndrome (IAS), a rare cause of autoimmune hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia, is relatively well known in Japan. The incidence in Caucasians is less than one-fifth of that reported in Japanese people, but it is becoming increasingly recognised worldwide in non-Asians as well. Drugs containing sulphydryl groups are known to be associated with the disease in genetically predisposed individuals. Moreover, several recent reports showed a direct association between the onset of IAS and the consumption of dietary supplements containing alpha-lipoic acid (LA). Insulinoma remains the most prevalent cause of hypersulinaemic hypoglycaemia in Caucasians. Consequently, primary investigation in these patients is generally focused on localisation of the pancreatic tumour, often with invasive procedures followed by surgery. We described a case of an Italian woman presenting to us with severe recurrent hypoglycaemia associated with high insulin and C-peptide levels and no evidence of pancreatic lesions at imaging diagnostic procedures. She had taken LA until 2 weeks before hospitalisation. After an evaluation of her drug history, an autoimmune form of hypoglycaemia was suspected and the titre of insulin autoantibodies was found to be markedly elevated. This allowed us to diagnose LA-related IAS, thus preventing any unnecessary surgery and avoiding invasive diagnostic interventions.

Learning points:

  • IAS is a rare cause of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia that typically affects Asian population, but it has been increasingly recognised in Caucasian patients.

  • It should be considered among the differential diagnosis of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia to avoid unnecessary diagnostic investigations and surgery.

  • It should be suspected in the presence of very high serum insulin levels (100–10  000  μU/mL) associated with high C-peptide levels.

  • There is a strong association with administration of drugs containing sulphydryl groups included LA, a dietary supplement commonly used in Western countries to treat peripheral neuropathy.

Open access

D Cappellani, C Sardella, M C Campopiano, A Falorni, P Marchetti and E Macchia

Summary

Insulin autoimmune syndrome (IAS), or Hirata disease, is a rare hypoglycaemic disorder caused by the presence of high titer of insulin autoantibodies (IAA) in patients without previous exposure to exogenous insulin. Even though its pathogenesis is not fully understood, striking evidences link IAS to previous exposure to sulphydryl-containing medications, like alpha-lipoic acid, a widely used nutritional supplement. Although challenging, a careful differential diagnosis from other causes of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia (such as insulinoma) is mandatory, since these conditions require different therapeutic approaches. In the present study, we report a 35-year-old woman originally from Sri Lanka who was referred to our University Hospital on suspicion of occult insulinoma. Her medical history was positive for endometriosis, treated with estroprogestins and alpha-lipoic acid. The latter supplement was begun 2 weeks before the first hypoglycaemic episode. Our tests confirmed the presence of hypoglycaemia associated with high insulin and C-peptide concentrations. When insulin concentrations were compared using different assays, the results were significantly different. Moreover, insulin values significantly decreased after precipitation with polyethylene glycol. An assay for IAA proved positive (530 U/mL). A genetic analysis revealed the presence of HLA-DRB1*04,15, an immunogenetic determinant associated with IAS. On the basis of clinical data we avoided a first-line approach with immunosuppressive treatments, and the patient was advised to modify her diet, with the introduction of frequent low-caloric meals. During follow-up evaluations, glucose levels (registered trough a flash glucose monitoring system) resulted progressively more stable. IAA titer progressively decreased, being undetectable by the fifteenth month, thus indicating the remission of the IAS.

Learning points:

  • Insulin autoimmune syndrome (IAS) is a rare cause of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia, whose prevalence is higher in East Asian populations due to the higher prevalence of specific immunogenetic determinants. Nevertheless, an increasing number of IAS cases is being reported worldwide, due to the wide diffusion of medications such as alpha-lipoic acid.

  • Differential diagnosis of IAS from other causes of hyperinsulinemic hypoglycaemia is challenging. Even though many tests can be suggestive of IAS, the gold standard remains the detection of IAAs, despite that dedicated commercial kits are not widely available.

  • The therapeutic approach to IAS is problematic. As a matter of fact IAS is often a self-remitting disease, but sometimes needs aggressive immunosuppression. The benefits and risks of any therapeutic choice should be carefully weighted and tailored on the single patient.

Open access

Ilaria Teobaldi, Vincenzo Stoico, Fabrizia Perrone, Massimiliano Bruti, Enzo Bonora and Alessandro Mantovani

Summary

Honey has been used as a wound dressing for hundreds of years by ancient civilizations, but only recently it has acquired scientific interest because of its relevant biological properties. In the last decade, indeed, several trials and observational studies have reported that, compared to conventional treatment (e.g. antiseptics, polyurethane film, paraffin gauze, soframycin-impregnated gauze), honey dressings seem to be better in healing time of different types of wounds, including diabetic foot ulcers. However, to date, information about a potential favorable biological effect of honey dressings on diabetic ulcers with exposed tendon are still scarce. Notably, foot or leg ulcers with exposed tendon are serious complications in patients with type 2 diabetes, as they are associated with an increased risk of adverse outcome. Therefore, the use of effective and safe treatments to bring these lesions to timely healing is very important in clinical practice. We herein report the case of a Caucasian adult patient with type 2 diabetes presenting a chronic right posterior lower limb ulcer (Texas University Classification (TUC) 2D) with tendon exposure that was successfully treated with honey dressings (glucose oxidase (GOX) positive with peroxide activity) in addition to systemic antibiotic therapy, surgical toilette and skin graft. In our case, the use of honey dressing for treating exposed tendon tissue probably allowed the timely wound healing. Although further studies are required, such treatment may constitute part of the comprehensive management of diabetic wounds, including those with tendon exposure, and should be considered by clinicians in clinical practice.

Learning points:

  • Honey has been used as a wound dressing for hundreds of years, but only recently it has acquired scientific interest for its biological properties.

  • Several studies have documented that, compared to conventional dressings, honey seems to be better in healing time of different types of wounds, including diabetic foot ulcers.

  • Our case report is the first to highlight the importance to use honey dressings also for the treatment of ulcers with tendon exposure in patients with type 2 diabetes, suggesting that this kind of dressing should be considered by clinicians in clinical practice.

Open access

Benedetta Zampetti, Giorgia Simonetti, Roberto Attanasio, Antonio Silvani and Renato Cozzi

Summary

We describe the 20-year course of a 63-year-old male with a macroprolactinoma that acquired resistance to treatment and aggressive behavior after a 4-year successful treatment with cabergoline. He was submitted to multiple surgical resections by a skilled surgeon, fractionated radiotherapy and was eventually treated with temozolomide. After a first 6-month standard cycle, a relapse occurred and he was treated again successfully.

Learning points:

  • Prolactinomas are the most frequent type of pituitary adenoma.

  • They usually have a benign course.

  • In most cases dopamine-agonist drugs, mainly cabergoline, are first-line (and usually only) treatment.

  • Occasionally prolactinomas can have or acquire resistance to treatment and/or aggressive behavior.

  • Temozolomide (TMZ), an oral alkylating drug, can be effective in such aggressive tumors.

  • Multimodal treatment (surgery, radiation, cabergoline and TMZ) is warranted in aggressive pituitary tumors.

  • We describe here successful rechallenge with TMZ after relapse occurring 18 months after a first TMZ cycle.

Open access

Benedetta Zampetti, Roberto Attanasio and Renato Cozzi

Summary

A 69-year-old male was admitted for severe hyponatremia disclosed after an accidental fall. He was anticoagulated from 2 months after the implantation of a biologic aortic valve prosthesis. The work-up disclosed adrenal failure and MRI showed bilateral adrenal hemorrhage. Clinical picture and lab parameters normalized quickly after the appropriate replacement treatment. Anticoagulation excess should be added to the list of drugs potentially causing hyponatremia.

Learning points:

  • Hyponatremia requires a complete and timely workup in order to start an appropriate treatment for the improvement of clinical conditions.

  • History is crucial: a detailed list of drugs potentially causing hyponatremia should be collected. Anticoagulants should be added to the list, mostly in the event of excessive anticoagulation.

  • Intra-adrenal hemorrhage is a rare cause of hyponatremia and adrenal failure.

  • The ACTH test is still the gold standard for the diagnosis of hypoadrenalism.

Open access

Daniela Regazzo, Marina Paola Gardiman, Marily Theodoropoulou, Carla Scaroni, Gianluca Occhi and Filippo Ceccato

Summary

Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is an autosomal dominant multisystem hereditary cutaneous condition, characterized by multiple hamartomas. In rare cases, pituitary neuroendocrine tumors (PitNETs) have been described in patients with TSC, but the causal relationship between these two diseases is still under debate. TSC is mostly caused by mutations of two tumor suppressor genes, encoding for hamartin (TSC1) and tuberin (TSC2), controlling cell growth and proliferation. Here, we present the case of a 62-year-old Caucasian woman with TSC and a silent gonadotroph PitNET with suprasellar extension, treated with transsphenoidal endoscopic neurosurgery with complete resection. Therapeutic approaches based on mTOR signaling (i.e. everolimus) have been successfully used in patients with TSC and tested in non-functioning PitNET cellular models with promising results. Here, we observed a reduction of cell viability after an in vitro treatment of PitNET’s derived primary cells with everolimus. TSC analysis retrieved no disease-associated variants with the exception of the heterozygous intronic variant c.4006-71C>T found in TSC2: the computational tools predicted a gain of a new splice site with consequent intron retention, not confirmed by an in vitro analysis of patient’s lymphocyte-derived RNA. Further analyses are therefore needed to provide insights on the possible mechanisms involving the hamartin-tuberin complex in the pathogenesis of pituitary adenomas. However, our data further support previous observations of an antiproliferative effect of everolimus on PitNET.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary neuroendocrine tumors (PitNET) in patients with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) are rare: only few cases have been reported in literature.

  • Therapeutic approach related to mTOR signaling, such as everolimus, may be used in some patients with PitNETs as well as those with TSC.

  • We reported a woman with both non-secreting PitNET and TSC; PitNET was surgically removed and classified as a silent gonadotroph tumor.

  • Everolimus treatment in PitNET’s-derived primary cells revealed a significant decrease in cell viability.

  • Considering our case and available evidence, it is still unclear whether a PitNET is a part of TSC or just a coincidental tumor.

Open access

Alessandro Mantovani, Ilaria Teobaldi, Vincenzo Stoico, Fabrizia Perrone, Marina Zannoni, Luca Cima, Massimiliano Bruti, Lucia Mingolla, Maddalena Trombetta and Enzo Bonora

Summary

After basal cell carcinoma, the cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC) is the second most frequent non-melanoma skin cancer worldwide, and, classically, arises from the upper coats of the epidermis of sun-exposed areas or from skin areas constantly exposed to a chronic inflammatory stimulus. The occurrence of cSCC seems to be linked to several factors, including exposure to sunlight (or other ultraviolet radiations), immunosuppression, chronic scarring conditions and some familial cancer syndromes. Although the majority of cSCCs are adequately eradicated by surgical excision, a subgroup of cSCC may be linked with an increased risk of recurrence, metastasis and death. The incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus is constantly increasing worldwide. Importantly, diabetes mellitus is a strong risk factor for cancers (including cutaneous tumors) and is highly related with poor cancer outcomes. At present, in the literature, squamous cell carcinoma developing in association with diabetic foot ulcers has been already reported in some reports; however, additional data are needed to make the clinicians aware of this rare, although possible, complication. Therefore, we herein report an unusual case of an elderly man with T2DM and a positive oncological history, presenting a cSCC involving the skin overlying the first toe of left foot. The growing cSCC appeared approximately 3 years after the appearance of a diabetic ulcer.

Learning points:

  • Diabetic foot ulcers are an important and severe complication of diabetes mellitus and often can result in foot amputation.

  • Chronic and non-healing diabetic foot ulcers are often observed in clinical practice.

  • Clinicians should always take into consideration the malignant degeneration (e.g., cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma) of any chronic non-healing diabetic foot ulcer in elderly T2DM individuals.

  • Timely surgical resection of a chronic, non-healing diabetic foot ulcer might preclude the development of a cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma.

Open access

Elda Kara, Elisa Della Valle, Sara De Vincentis, Vincenzo Rochira and Bruno Madeo

Summary

Spontaneous or fine-needle aspiration (FNAB)-induced remission of primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) may occur, especially for cystic lesions. However, the disease generally relapses over a short time period. We present a case of PHPT due to an enlarged hyperfunctioning parathyroid that underwent long-term (almost 9 years) clinical and ultrasonographic remission after the disappearance of the lesion following ultrasound (US)-assisted FNAB. A 67-year-old woman with PHPT underwent biochemical and US examinations that confirmed the diagnosis and showed a lesion suggestive for parathyroid adenoma or hyperplasia. US-FNAB of the lesion confirmed its parathyroid nature by means of elevated levels of parathyroid hormone within the needle washing fluid. At the second visit, the patient referred slight neck swelling that resolved spontaneously in the days after the US-FNAB. At subsequent follow-up, the enlarged parathyroid was not found; it was visible neither with US nor with magnetic resonance imaging. Biochemical remission persists after 9 years. This is the first reported case of cure of PHPT after US-FNAB performed on a hyperfunctioning parathyroid resulting in its complete disappearance over a period of 9 years of negative biochemical and ultrasonographic follow-up.

Learning points:

  • Spontaneous or fine-needle aspiration-induced remission of primary hyperparathyroidism can occur.

  • Both circumstances may present disease relapse over a variable time period, but definite remission is also possible even though long-term periodic follow-up should be performed.

  • Parathyroid damage should be ruled out in case of neck symptomatology after parathyroid fine-needle aspiration or spontaneous symptomatology in patients with history of primary hyperparathyroidism.

Open access

B Cangiano, C Cacciatore, L Persani and M Bonomi

We describe a case of severe erythrocytosis caused by testosterone replacement therapy in a 66-year-old man affected with hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (HH) determining osteoporosis, resolved by switching to restoration therapy with clomiphene citrate. The patient complained fatigue, loss of libido and defective erections and a spontaneous vertebral fracture despite bisphosphonate therapy and vitamin D supplementation. The examinations proved isolated HH and he was therefore treated with testosterone gel with regression of specific manifestations but elevated hemoglobin and hematocrit values. Therefore, it was decided to switch to a restoration therapy with clomiphene citrate 25 mg/die, which resulted in the resolution of symptoms without evident side effects. In a couple of months, the patient showed normalization of testosterone levels and increment of testicular volume. Since secondary hypogonadism is the consequence of an insufficient stimulation of the gonads by hypothalamic–pituitary axis, therapeutic approaches aimed to restore endogenous testosterone production should be considered in alternative to testosterone replacement, particularly if side effects intervene. Among these strategies, clomiphene citrate seems to have a high efficacy and safety profile also in the elderly with isolated HH and no evident pituitary lesion.

Learning points:

  • Hypogonadism should always be assessed in patients with severe loss in BMD and undergo appropriate medical treatment.

  • In hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, more approaches are available other than testosterone replacement therapy alone.

  • In patients with severe late-onset central hypogonadism presenting with erythrocytosis even at low doses of replacement therapy, restoration therapy with clomiphene could prove to be an effective solution, particularly in patients with a reversible disruption of GNRH/gonadotropin functions.

  • Clomiphene citrate increases gonadotropin levels and testicular volume and should therefore be considered in hypogonadal men who wish to remain fertile.