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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

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.

Open access

Alfredo Di Cerbo, Federica Pezzuto and Alessandro Di Cerbo

Summary

Graves’ disease, the most common form of hyperthyroidism in iodine-replete countries, is associated with the presence of immunoglobulins G (IgGs) that are responsible for thyroid growth and hyperfunction. In this article, we report the unusual case of a patient with acromegaly and a severe form of Graves’ disease. Here, we address the issue concerning the role of growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) in influencing thyroid function. Severity of Graves’ disease is exacerbated by coexistent acromegaly and both activity indexes and symptoms and signs of Graves’ disease improve after the surgical remission of acromegaly. We also discuss by which signaling pathways GH and IGF1 may play an integrating role in regulating the function of the immune system in Graves’ disease and synergize the stimulatory activity of Graves’ IgGs.

Learning points:

  • Clinical observations have demonstrated an increased prevalence of euthyroid and hyperthyroid goiters in patients with acromegaly.

  • The coexistence of acromegaly and Graves’ disease is a very unusual event, the prevalence being <1%.

  • Previous in vitro studies have showed that IGF1 synergizes the TSH-induced thyroid cell growth-activating pathways independent of TSH/cAMP/PKA cascade.

  • We report the first case of a severe form of Graves’ disease associated with acromegaly and show that surgical remission of acromegaly leads to a better control of symptoms of Graves’ disease.

Open access

Alessandro Mantovani, Fabrizia Perrone, Vincenzo Stoico, Isabella Pichiri, Laura Salvotelli, Ilaria Teobaldi, Massimiliano Bruti, Michela Conti, Luca Cima, Albino Eccher and Enzo Bonora

Summary

The incidences of type 2 diabetes mellitus and many cancers are rapidly increasing worldwide. Diabetes is a strong risk factor for some cancers (including lymphomas) and is also associated with adverse cancer outcomes. After gastrointestinal tract, the skin is the second most frequent extranodal site involved by non-Hodgkin lymphomas and the cutaneous B-cell lymphomas (CBCLs) range from 25% to 30% of all primary cutaneous lymphomas. The primary cutaneous diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (PCDLBCL) is an aggressive lymphoma with a poor prognosis, representing roughly 20% of all primary CBCLs. Classically, the cutaneous manifestation of this lymphoma is a red or violaceous tumors arising on a leg. To date, despite the large body of evidence suggesting that diabetes is strongly associated with an increased risk of some cancers, very little information is available regarding a possible association between type 2 diabetes and primary cutaneous diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. In this report, we will present the case of a white adult patient with type 2 diabetes with chronic leg ulcers complicated by a primary cutaneous diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

Learning points:

  • Diabetes mellitus is increasing worldwide as well as the incidence of many cancers.

  • Diabetes mellitus is a powerful risk factor for some cancers (including lymphomas) and is strongly associated with adverse cancer outcomes.

  • Seen that diabetes is strongly associated with an increased risk of cancers (including cutaneous lymphomas), clinicians should always keep in mind this complication in elderly patients with type 2 diabetes, even in a chronic leg ulcer with hypertrophy of the wound edge, which is hard to heal and does not have the typical characteristics of a diabetic or vascular ulcer. In these cases, a biopsy should be performed to rule out a neoplasm.

  • Early diagnosis and correct management of cancer in a patient with type 2 diabetes are crucial to improve clinical outcomes.

Open access

Roberto Attanasio, Liana Cortesi, Daniela Gianola, Claudia Vettori, Fulvio Sileo and Roberto Trevisan

Summary

Cushing’s syndrome is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Although surgery is the first-line treatment, drugs can still play a role as an ancillary treatment to be employed while waiting for surgery, after unsuccessful operation or in patients unsuitable for surgery. We were asked to evaluate a 32-year-old male waiting for cardiac transplantation. Idiopathic hypokinetic cardiomyopathy had been diagnosed since 6 years. He was on treatment with multiple drugs, had a pacemaker, an implantable cardioverter and an external device for the support of systolic function. Physical examination showed severely impaired general status, signs of hypercortisolism and multiple vertebral compression fractures. We administered teriparatide, and the few evaluable parameters supported the diagnosis of ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism: serum cortisol was 24.2 µg/dL in the morning and 20.3 µg/dL after overnight 1 mg dexamethasone, urinary free cortisol (UFC) was 258 µg/24 h and ACTH 125 pg/mL. Pituitary CT was negative. Pasireotide 300 µg bid was administered and uptitrated to 600 µg bid. Treatment was well tolerated, achieving dramatic improvement of clinical picture with progressive normalization of serum cortisol and ACTH levels as well as UFC. After 4 months, the patient underwent successful heart transplantation. Many complications ensued and were overcome. Pituitary MRI was negative. On pasireotide 300 µg bid and prednisone 2.5 mg/day (as part of immunosuppressive therapy), morning serum cortisol and ACTH were 15.6 µg/dL and 54 pg/mL respectively, UFC was 37 µg/24 h, fasting glucose: 107 mg/dL and HbA1c: 6.5%. In conclusion, primary treatment with pasireotide achieved remission of hypercortisolism, thus allowing the patient to undergo heart transplantation.

Learning points:

  • Untreated Cushing’s syndrome is associated with ominous prognosis.

  • First-line treatment is surgery (at pituitary or adrenal, according to disease localization).

  • A few drugs are available to treat hypercortisolism.

  • Pasireotide is a multi-ligand somatostatin analog approved for treatment of hypercortisolism.

  • Primary treatment with pasireotide was effective in a patient with severe Cushing’s syndrome, allowing him to undergo heart transplantation.

Open access

Marco Russo, Ilenia Marturano, Romilda Masucci, Melania Caruso, Maria Concetta Fornito, Dario Tumino, Martina Tavarelli, Sebastiano Squatrito and Gabriella Pellegriti

Summary

Struma ovarii is a rare ovarian teratoma characterized by the presence of thyroid tissue as the major component. Malignant transformation of the thyroidal component (malignant struma ovarii) has been reported in approximately 5% of struma ovarii. The management and follow-up of this unusual disease remain controversial. We report the case of a woman with a history of autoimmune thyroiditis and a previous resection of a benign struma ovarii that underwent hystero-annexiectomy for malignant struma ovarii with multiple papillary thyroid cancer foci and peritoneal involvement. Total thyroidectomy and subsequent radioiodine treatment lead to complete disease remission after 104 months of follow-up. The diagnosis and natural progression of malignant struma ovarii are difficult to discern, and relapses can occur several years after diagnosis. A multidisciplinary approach is mandatory; after surgical excision of malignant struma, thyroidectomy in combination with 131I therapy should be considered after risk stratification in accordance with a standard approach in differentiated thyroid cancer patients.

Learning points

  • Malignant struma ovarii is a rare disease; diagnosis is difficult and management is not well defined.

  • Predominant sites of metastasis are adjacent pelvic structures.

  • Thyroidectomy and 131I therapy should be considered after risk stratification in accordance with standard approaches in DTC patients.