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Open access

Daniela Gallo, Sara Rosetti, Ilaria Marcon, Elisabetta Armiraglio, Antonina Parafioriti, Graziella Pinotti, Giuseppe Perrucchini, Bohdan Patera, Linda Gentile, Maria Laura Tanda, Luigi Bartalena, and Eliana Piantanida

Summary

Brown tumors are osteoclastic, benign lesions characterized by fibrotic stroma, intense vascularization and multinucleated giant cells. They are the terminal expression of the bone remodelling process occurring in advanced hyperparathyroidism. Nowadays, due to earlier diagnosis, primary hyperparathyroidism keeps few of the classical manifestations and brown tumors are definitely unexpected. Thus, it may happen that they are misdiagnosed as primary or metastatic bone cancer. Besides bone imaging, endocrine evaluation including measurement of serum parathyroid hormone and calcium (Ca) levels supports the pathologist to address the diagnosis. Herein, a case of multiple large brown tumors misdiagnosed as a non-treatable osteosarcoma is described, with special regards to diagnostic work-up. After selective parathyroidectomy, treatment with denosumab was initiated and a regular follow-up was established. The central role of multidisciplinary approach involving pathologist, endocrinologist and oncologist in the diagnostic and therapeutic work-up is reported. In our opinion, the discussion of this case would be functional especially for clinicians and pathologists not used to the differential diagnosis in uncommon bone disorders.

Learning points:

  • Brown tumors develop during the remodelling process of bone in advanced and long-lasting primary or secondary hyperparathyroidism.
  • Although rare, they should be considered during the challenging diagnostic work-up of giant cell lesions.
  • Coexistence of high parathyroid hormone levels and hypercalcemia in primary hyperparathyroidism is crucial for the diagnosis.
  • A detailed imaging study includes bone X-ray, bone scintiscan and total body CT; to rule out bone malignancy, evaluation of bone lesion biopsy should include immunostaining for neoplastic markers as H3G34W and Ki67 index.
  • If primary hyperparathyroidism is confirmed, selective parathyroidectomy is the first-line treatment.
  • In advanced bone disease, treatment with denosumab should be considered, ensuring a strict control of Ca levels.
Open access

S Hamidi, S Mottard, M J Berthiaume, J Doyon, M J Bégin, and L Bondaz

Summary

Brown tumors (BTs) are expansile osteolytic lesions complicating severe primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT). Clinical, radiological and histological features of BTs share many similarities with other giant cell-containing lesions of the bone, which can make their diagnosis challenging. We report the case of a 32-year-old man in whom an aggressive osteolytic lesion of the iliac crest was initially diagnosed as a giant cell tumor by biopsy. The patient was scheduled for surgical curettage, with a course of neoadjuvant denosumab. Routine biochemical workup prior to denosumab administration incidentally revealed high serum calcium levels. The patient was diagnosed with PHPT and a parathyroid adenoma was identified. In light of these findings, histological slices of the iliac lesion were reviewed and diagnosis of a BT was confirmed. Follow-up CT-scans performed 2 and 7 months after parathyroidectomy showed regression and re-ossification of the bone lesion. The aim of this case report is to underline the importance of distinguishing BTs from other giant cell-containing lesions of the bone and to highlight the relevance of measuring serum calcium as part of the initial evaluation of osteolytic bone lesions. This can have a major impact on patients’ management and can prevent unnecessary invasive surgical interventions.

Learning points:

  • Although rare, brown tumors should always be considered in the differential diagnosis of osteolytic giant cell-containing bone lesions.
  • Among giant cell-containing lesions of the bone, the main differential diagnoses of brown tumors are giant cell tumors and aneurysmal bone cysts.
  • Clinical, radiological and histological characteristics can be non-discriminating between brown tumors and giant cell tumors. One of the best ways to distinguish these two diagnoses appears to be through biochemical workup.
  • Differentiating brown tumors from giant cell tumors and aneurysmal bone cysts is crucial in order to ensure better patient care and prevent unnecessary morbid surgical interventions.
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

Anna Casteràs, Lídia Darder, Carles Zafon, Juan Antonio Hueto, Margarita Alberola, Enric Caubet, and Jordi Mesa

Summary

Skeletal manifestations of primary hyperparathyroidism (pHPT) include brown tumors (BT), which are osteoclastic focal lesions often localized in the jaws. Brown tumors are a rare manifestation of pHTP in Europe and USA; however, they are frequent in developing countries, probably related to vitamin D deficiency and longer duration and severity of disease. In the majority of cases, the removal of the parathyroid adenoma is enough for the bone to remineralize, but other cases require surgery. Hyperparathyroidism in MEN1 develops early, and is multiglandular and the timing of surgery remains questionable. To our knowledge, there are no reports of BT in MEN 1 patients. We present a 29-year-old woman with MEN 1 who developed a brown tumor of the jaw 24 months after getting pregnant, while breastfeeding. Serum corrected calcium remained under 2.7 during gestation, and at that point reached a maximum of 2.82 mmol/L. Concomitant PTH was 196 pg/mL, vitamin D 13.7 ng/mL and alkaline phosphatase 150 IU/L. Bone mineral density showed osteopenia on spine and femoral neck (both T-scores = −1.6). Total parathyroidectomy was performed within two weeks, with a failed glandular graft autotransplantation, leading to permanent hypoparathyroidism. Two months after removal of parathyroid glands, the jaw tumor did not shrink; thus, finally it was successfully excised. We hypothesize that higher vitamin D and mineral requirements during maternity may have triggered an accelerated bone resorption followed by appearance of the jaw BT. We suggest to treat pHPT before planning a pregnancy in MEN1 women or otherwise supplement with vitamin D, although this approach may precipitate severe hypercalcemia.

Learning points:

  • Brown tumors of the jaw can develop in MEN 1 patients with primary hyperparathyroidism at a young age (less than 30 years).
  • Pregnancy and lactation might trigger brown tumors by increasing mineral and vitamin D requirements.
  • Early parathyroidectomy is advisable in MEN 1 patients with primary hyperparathyroidism, at least before planning a pregnancy.
  • Standard bone mineral density does not correlate with the risk of appearance of a brown tumor.
  • Removal of parathyroid glands does not always lead to the shrinkage of the brown tumor, and surgical excision may be necessary.
Open access

K Nadarasa, M Bailey, H Chahal, O Raja, R Bhat, C Gayle, A B Grossman, and M R Druce

Summary

We present the case of a patient with metastatic parathyroid carcinoma whose hypercalcaemia was medically managed through two pregnancies. The diagnosis was made when the patient presented with chronic knee pain and radiological findings consistent with a brown tumour, at the age of 30. Her corrected calcium and parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels were significantly elevated. Following localisation studies, a right parathyroidectomy was performed with histology revealing parathyroid carcinoma, adherent to thyroid tissue. Aged 33, following biochemical recurrence of disease, the patient underwent a second operation. A subsequent CT and FDG–PET revealed bibasal pulmonary metastases. Aged 35, the patient was referred to our unit for treatment of persistent hypercalcaemia. The focus of treatment at this time was debulking metastatic disease using radiofrequency ablation. Despite advice to the contrary, the patient conceived twice while taking cinacalcet. Even though there are limited available data regarding the use of cinacalcet in pregnancy, both pregnancies continued to term with the delivery of healthy infants, using intensive medical management for persistent hypercalcaemia.

Learning points

  • Parathyroid carcinoma is a rare cause of primary hyperparathyroidism.
  • Hypercalcaemia during pregnancy can result in significant complications for both the mother and the foetus.
  • The use of high-dose cinacalcet in pregnancy has been shown, in this case, to aid in the management of resistant hypercalcaemia without teratogenicity.