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Open access

G Leksic, A M Alduk, V Molnar, A Haxhiu, A Haxhiu, A Balasko, N Knezevic, T Dusek and D Kastelan

Summary

Primary aldosteronism (PA) is characterised by aldosterone hypersecretion and represents a common cause of secondary hypertension. During diagnostic evaluation, it is essential to determine the aetiology of PA since the treatment of unilateral and bilateral disease differs significantly. Adrenal vein sampling (AVS) has been implemented as a gold standard test for the diagnosis of PA subtype. However, due to the AVS complexity, costs and limited availability, many patients with PA are being treated based on the computed tomography (CT) findings. In this article, we present two patients with discrepant CT and AVS results, demonstrating that AVS is the only reliable method for localising the source of aldosterone excess.

Learning points:

  • CT is an unreliable method for distinguishing aldosterone-producing adenoma (APA) from bilateral adrenal hyperplasia (BAH).

  • CT can be misleading in defining lateralisation of the aldosterone excess in case of unilateral disease (APA).

  • AVS is the gold standard test for defining the PA subtype.

Open access

Pedro Marques, Nicola Tufton, Satya Bhattacharya, Mark Caulfield and Scott A Akker

Summary

Mineralocorticoid hypertension is most often caused by autonomous overproduction of aldosterone, but excess of other mineralocorticoid precursors can lead to a similar presentation. 11-Deoxycorticosterone (DOC) excess, which can occur in 11-β hydroxylase or 17-α hydroxylase deficiencies, in DOC-producing adrenocortical tumours or in patients taking 11-β hydroxylase inhibitors, may cause mineralocorticoid hypertension. We report a 35-year-old woman who in the third trimester of pregnancy was found to have a large adrenal mass on routine obstetric ultrasound. On referral to our unit, persistent hypertension and long-standing hypokalaemia was noted, despite good compliance with multiple antihypertensives. Ten years earlier, she had hypertension noted in pregnancy which had persisted after delivery. A MRI scan confirmed the presence of a 12 cm adrenal mass and biochemistry revealed high levels of DOC and low/normal renin, aldosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone, with normal catecholamine levels. The patient was treated with antihypertensives until obstetric delivery, following which she underwent an adrenalectomy. Histology confirmed a large adrenal cortical neoplasm of uncertain malignant potential. Postoperatively, blood pressure and serum potassium normalised, and the antihypertensive medication was stopped. Over 10 years of follow-up, she remains asymptomatic with normal DOC measurements. This case should alert clinicians to the possibility of a diagnosis of a DOC-producing adrenal tumours in patients with adrenal nodules and apparent mineralocorticoid hypertension in the presence of low or normal levels of aldosterone. The associated diagnostic and management challenges are discussed.

Learning points:

  • Hypermineralocorticoidism is characterised by hypertension, volume expansion and hypokalaemic alkalosis and is most commonly due to overproduction of aldosterone. However, excess of other mineralocorticoid products, such as DOC, lead to the same syndrome but with normal or low aldosterone levels.

  • The differential diagnosis of resistant hypertension with low renin and low/normal aldosterone includes congenital adrenal hyperplasia, syndrome of apparent mineralocorticoid excess, Cushing’s syndrome, Liddle’s syndrome and 11-deoxycorticosterone-producing tumours.

  • DOC is one intermediate product in the mineralocorticoid synthesis with weaker activity than aldosterone. However, marked DOC excess seen in 11-β hydroxylase or 17-α hydroxylase deficiencies in DOC-producing adrenocortical tumours or in patients taking 11-β hydroxylase inhibitors, may cause mineralocorticoid hypertension.

  • Excessive production of DOC in adrenocortical tumours has been attributed to reduced activity of the enzymes 11-β hydroxylase and 17-α hydroxylase and increased activity of 21-α hydroxylase.

  • The diagnosis of DOC-producing adrenal tumours is challenging because of its rarity and poor availability of DOC laboratory assays.

Open access

Matthieu St-Jean, Jessica MacKenzie-Feder, Isabelle Bourdeau and André Lacroix

Summary

A 29-year-old G4A3 woman presented at 25 weeks of pregnancy with progressive signs of Cushing’s syndrome (CS), gestational diabetes requiring insulin and hypertension. A 3.4 × 3.3 cm right adrenal adenoma was identified during abdominal ultrasound imaging for nephrolithiasis. Investigation revealed elevated levels of plasma cortisol, 24 h urinary free cortisol (UFC) and late-night salivary cortisol (LNSC). Serum ACTH levels were not fully suppressed (4 and 5 pmol/L (N: 2–11)). One month post-partum, CS regressed, 24-h UFC had normalised while ACTH levels were now less than 2 pmol/L; however, dexamethasone failed to suppress cortisol levels. Tests performed in vivo 6 weeks post-partum to identify aberrant hormone receptors showed no cortisol stimulation by various tests (including 300 IU hLH i.v.) except after administration of 250 µg i.v. Cosyntropin 1–24. Right adrenalectomy demonstrated an adrenocortical adenoma and atrophy of adjacent cortex. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis of the adenoma revealed the presence of ACTH (MC2) receptor mRNA, while LHCG receptor mRNA was almost undetectable. This case reveals that CS exacerbation in the context of pregnancy can result from the placental-derived ACTH stimulation of MC2 receptors on the adrenocortical adenoma. Possible contribution of other placental-derived factors such as oestrogens, CRH or CRH-like peptides cannot be ruled out.

Learning points:

  • Diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome during pregnancy is complicated by several physiological alterations in hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis regulation occurring in normal pregnancy.

  • Cushing’s syndrome (CS) exacerbation during pregnancy can be associated with aberrant expression of LHCG receptor on primary adrenocortical tumour or hyperplasia in some cases, but not in this patient.

  • Placental-derived ACTH, which is not subject to glucocorticoid negative feedback, stimulated cortisol secretion from this adrenal adenoma causing transient CS exacerbation during pregnancy.

  • Following delivery and tumour removal, suppression of HPA axis can require several months to recover and requires glucocorticoid replacement therapy.

Open access

Carolina Shalini Singarayar, Foo Siew Hui, Nicholas Cheong and Goay Swee En

Summary

Thyrotoxicosis is associated with cardiac dysfunction; more commonly, left ventricular dysfunction. However, in recent years, there have been more cases reported on right ventricular dysfunction, often associated with pulmonary hypertension in patients with thyrotoxicosis. Three cases of thyrotoxicosis associated with right ventricular dysfunction were presented. A total of 25 other cases of thyrotoxicosis associated with right ventricular dysfunction published from 1994 to 2017 were reviewed along with the present 3 cases. The mean age was 45 years. Most (82%) of the cases were newly diagnosed thyrotoxicosis. There was a preponderance of female gender (71%) and Graves’ disease (86%) as the underlying aetiology. Common presenting features included dyspnoea, fatigue and ankle oedema. Atrial fibrillation was reported in 50% of the cases. The echocardiography for almost all cases revealed dilated right atrial and or ventricular chambers with elevated pulmonary artery pressure. The abnormal echocardiographic parameters were resolved in most cases after rendering the patients euthyroid. Right ventricular dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension are not well-recognized complications of thyrotoxicosis. They are life-threatening conditions that can be reversed with early recognition and treatment of thyrotoxicosis. Signs and symptoms of right ventricular dysfunction should be sought in all patients with newly diagnosed thyrotoxicosis, and prompt restoration of euthyroidism is warranted in affected patients before the development of overt right heart failure.

Learning points:

  • Thyrotoxicosis is associated with right ventricular dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension apart from left ventricular dysfunction described in typical thyrotoxic cardiomyopathy.

  • Symptoms and signs of right ventricular dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension should be sought in all patients with newly diagnosed thyrotoxicosis.

  • Thyrotoxicosis should be considered in all cases of right ventricular dysfunction or pulmonary hypertension not readily explained by other causes.

  • Prompt restoration of euthyroidism is warranted in patients with thyrotoxicosis complicated by right ventricular dysfunction with or without pulmonary hypertension to allow timely resolution of the abnormal cardiac parameters before development of overt right heart failure.

Open access

Charlotte Boughton, David Taylor, Lea Ghataore, Norman Taylor and Benjamin C Whitelaw

Summary

We describe severe hypokalaemia and hypertension due to a mineralocorticoid effect in a patient with myelodysplastic syndrome taking posaconazole as antifungal prophylaxis. Two distinct mechanisms due to posaconazole are identified: inhibition of 11β hydroxylase leading to the accumulation of the mineralocorticoid hormone 11-deoxycorticosterone (DOC) and secondly, inhibition of 11β hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 (11βHSD2), as demonstrated by an elevated serum cortisol-to-cortisone ratio. The effects were ameliorated by spironolactone. We also suggest that posaconazole may cause cortisol insufficiency. Patients taking posaconazole should therefore be monitored for hypokalaemia, hypertension and symptoms of hypocortisolaemia, at the onset of treatment and on a monthly basis. Treatment with mineralocorticoid antagonists (spironolactone or eplerenone), supplementation of glucocorticoids (e.g. hydrocortisone) or dose reduction or cessation of posaconazole should all be considered as management strategies.

Learning points:

  • Combined hypertension and hypokalaemia are suggestive of mineralocorticoid excess; further investigation is appropriate.

  • If serum aldosterone is suppressed, then further investigation to assess for an alternative mineralocorticoid is appropriate, potentially using urine steroid profiling and/or serum steroid panelling.

  • Posaconazole can cause both hypokalaemia and hypertension, and we propose that this is due to two mechanisms – both 11β hydroxylase inhibition and 11β HSD2 inhibition.

  • Posaconazole treatment may lead to cortisol insufficiency, which may require treatment; however, in this clinical case, the effect was mild.

  • First-line treatment of this presentation would likely be use of a mineralocorticoid antagonist.

  • Patients taking posaconazole should be monitored for hypertension and hypokalaemia on initiation and monthly thereafter.

Open access

Rémi Goupil, Martin Wolley, Jacobus Ungerer, Brett McWhinney, Kuniaki Mukai, Mitsuhide Naruse, Richard D Gordon and Michael Stowasser

Summary

In patients with primary aldosteronism (PA) undergoing adrenal venous sampling (AVS), cortisol levels are measured to assess lateralization of aldosterone overproduction. Concomitant adrenal autonomous cortisol and aldosterone secretion therefore have the potential to confound AVS results. We describe a case where metanephrine was measured during AVS to successfully circumvent this problem. A 55-year-old hypertensive male had raised plasma aldosterone/renin ratios and PA confirmed by fludrocortisone suppression testing. Failure of plasma cortisol to suppress overnight following dexamethasone and persistently suppressed corticotrophin were consistent with adrenal hypercortisolism. On AVS, comparison of adrenal and peripheral A/F ratios (left 5.7 vs peripheral 1.0; right 1.7 vs peripheral 1.1) suggested bilateral aldosterone production, with the left gland dominant but without contralateral suppression. However, using aldosterone/metanephrine ratios (left 9.7 vs peripheral 2.4; right 1.3 vs peripheral 2.5), aldosterone production lateralized to the left with good contralateral suppression. The patient underwent left laparoscopic adrenalectomy with peri-operative glucocorticoid supplementation to prevent adrenal insufficiency. Pathological examination revealed adrenal cortical adenomas producing both cortisol and aldosterone within a background of aldosterone-producing cell clusters. Hypertension improved and cured of PA and hypercortisolism were confirmed by negative post-operative fludrocortisone suppression and overnight 1 mg dexamethasone suppression testing. Routine dexamethasone suppression testing in patients with PA permits detection of concurrent hypercortisolism which can confound AVS results and cause unilateral PA to be misdiagnosed as bilateral with patients thereby denied potentially curative surgical treatment. In such patients, measurement of plasma metanephrine during AVS may overcome this issue.

Learning points

  • Simultaneous autonomous overproduction of cortisol and aldosterone is increasingly recognised although still apparently uncommon.

  • Because cortisol levels are used during AVS to correct for differences in dilution of adrenal with non-adrenal venous blood when assessing for lateralisation, unilateral cortisol overproduction with contralateral suppression could confound the interpretation of AVS results

  • Measuring plasma metanephrine during AVS to calculate lateralisation ratios may circumvent this problem.

Open access

S Hussain, E Panteliou, D M Berney, R Carpenter, M Matson, A Sahdev, M Bell, E O'Sullivan and W M Drake

Summary

We describe a young male patient with longstanding hypertension, who was diagnosed with primary hyperaldosteronism and treated by an attempted retroperitoneoscopic total unilateral adrenalectomy for a left-sided presumed aldosterone-secreting adenoma. Imaging had shown an unremarkable focal adrenal lesion with normal contralateral adrenal morphology, and histology of the resected specimen showed no adverse features. Post-operatively, his blood pressure and serum aldosterone levels fell to the normal range, but 9 months later, his hypertension recurred, primary aldosteronism was again confirmed and he was referred to our centre. Repeat imaging demonstrated an irregular left-sided adrenal lesion with normal contralateral gland appearances. Adrenal venous sampling was performed, which supported unilateral (left-sided) aldosterone hypersecretion. Redo surgery via a laparoscopically assisted transperitoneal approach was performed and multiple nodules were noted extending into the retroperitoneum. It was thought unlikely that complete resection had been achieved. His blood pressure returned to normal post-operatively, although hypokalaemia persisted. Histological examination, from this second operation, showed features of an adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC; including increased mitoses and invasion of fat) that was assessed as malignant using the scoring systems of Weiss and Aubert. Biochemical hyperaldosteronism persisted post-operatively, and detailed urine steroid profiling showed no evidence of adrenal steroid precursors or other mineralocorticoid production. He received flank radiotherapy to the left adrenal bed and continues to receive adjunctive mitotane therapy for a diagnosis of a pure aldosterone-secreting ACC.

Learning points

  • Pure aldosterone-secreting ACCs are exceptionally uncommon, but should be considered in the differential diagnosis of patients presenting with primary aldosteronism.

  • Aldosterone-producing ACCs may not necessarily show typical radiological features consistent with malignancy.

  • Patients who undergo surgical treatment for primary aldosteronism should have follow-up measurements of blood pressure to monitor for disease recurrence, even if post-operative normotension is thought to indicate a surgical ‘cure’.

  • Owing to the rarity of such conditions, a greater understanding of their natural history is likely to come from wider cooperation with, and contribution to, large multi-centre outcomes databases.

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.

Open access

Annika Sjoeholm, Cassandra Li, Chaey Leem, Aiden Lee, Maria P Stack, Paul L Hofman and Benjamin J Wheeler

Summary

Phaeochromocytomas are a rare clinical entity, with dual hormone-secreting lesions particularly uncommon, seen in <1%. ACTH is the most common hormone co-produced, and is potentially lethal if not diagnosed. We present the case of a previously well 10-year-old boy, who presented acutely with a hypertensive crisis and was found to have a unilateral, non-syndromic phaeochromocytoma. Medical stabilization of his hypertension was challenging, and took 3 weeks to achieve, before proceeding to unilateral adrenalectomy. Post-operatively the child experienced severe fatigue and was subsequently confirmed to have adrenal insufficiency. He improved markedly with hydrocortisone replacement therapy, which is ongoing 6 months post-operatively. In retrospect this likely represents unrecognized, sub-clinical ACTH-dependent Cushing's syndrome secondary to an ACTH/or precursor dual-hormone secreting phaeochromocytoma. At follow-up, his hypertension had resolved, there was no biochemical evidence of recurrence of the phaeochromocytoma, and genetic analysis was indicative of a sporadic lesion.

Learning points

  • Dual hormone secreting phaeochromocytomas with ACTH/or a precursor may cause secondary adrenal insufficiency following surgical removal.

  • The concurrent features of Cushing's syndrome can be mild and easily overlooked presenting diagnostic and management pitfalls.

  • As concomitant syndromes of hormone excess are rare in phaeochromocytomas; the diagnosis requires a high index of suspicion.

  • Serial/diurnal cortisol levels, ACTH measurement +/− low dose dexamethasone suppression (when clinically stable, appropriate adrenergic blockade in place, and well supervised), can all be considered as needed.

Open access

Jiman Kim, Eulsun Moon and Seungwon Kwon

Summary

Diabetic nephropathy, a microvascular complication of diabetes, is a progressive kidney disease caused by angiopathy of the capillaries in the kidney glomeruli. Herein, we report a case of a 62-year-old patient with a 30 year history of diabetes, who showed a substantial improvement in diabetic nephropathy on administration of 30 g of Astragalus membranaceus extract per day. After 1 month, estimated glomerular filtration rate increased from 47 to 72 ml/min per 1.73 m2 and was subsequently maintained at the 1-month follow-up. Urinary protein levels also decreased following treatment. Herein, we present and discuss the evidence and mechanism of A. membranaceus on diabetic nephropathy in this patient.

Learning points

  • Diabetic nephropathy is a progressive kidney disease.

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) are currently used to prevent and delay the progression of diabetic nephropathy. However, their effects are not sufficient to prevent a decline in kidney function.

  • Furthermore, combination therapy with an ACE inhibitor and an ARB can produce adverse effects without additional benefits.

  • In the early phase of diabetic nephropathy, administration of Astragalus membranaceus can be a therapeutic option.