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Open access

Joanna Prokop, João Estorninho, Sara Marote, Teresa Sabino, Aida Botelho de Sousa, Eduardo Silva and Ana Agapito

Summary

POEMS syndrome (Polyneuropathy, Organomegaly, Endocrinopathy, Monoclonal protein and Skin changes) is a rare multisystemic disease. Clinical presentation is variable, the only mandatory criteria being polyneuropathy and monoclonal gammapathy in association with one major and one minor criterion. Primary adrenal insufficiency is rarely reported. We describe a case of a 33-year-old patient, in whom the presenting symptoms were mandibular mass, chronic sensory-motor peripheral polyneuropathy and adrenal insufficiency. The laboratory evaluation revealed thrombocytosis, severe hyperkalemia with normal renal function, normal protein electrophoresis and negative serum immunofixation for monoclonal protein. Endocrinologic laboratory work-up confirmed Addison’s disease and revealed subclinical primary hypothyroidism. Thoracic abdominal CT showed hepatosplenomegaly, multiple sclerotic lesions in thoracic vertebra and ribs. The histopathologic examination of the mandibular mass was nondiagnostic. Bone marrow biopsy revealed plasma cell dyscrasia and confirmed POEMS syndrome. Axillary lymphadenopathy biopsy: Castleman’s disease. Gluco-mineralocorticoid substitution and levothyroxine therapy were started with clinical improvement. Autologous hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) was planned, cyclophosphamide induction was started. Meanwhile the patient suffered two ischemic strokes which resulted in aphasia and hemiparesis. Cerebral angiography revealed vascular lesions compatible with vasculitis and stenosis of two cerebral arteries. The patient deceased 14 months after the diagnosis. The young age at presentation, multiplicity of manifestations and difficulties in investigation along with the absence of serum monoclonal protein made the diagnosis challenging. We report this case to highlight the need to consider POEMS syndrome in differential diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy in association with endocrine abnormalities even in young patients.

Learning points:

  • POEMS syndrome is considered a ‘low tumor burden disease’ and the monoclonal protein in 15% of cases is not found by immunofixation.
  • Neuropathy is the dominant characteristic of POEMS syndrome and it is peripheral, ascending, symmetric and affecting both sensation and motor function.
  • Endocrinopathies are a frequent feature of POEMS syndrome, but the cause is unknown.
  • The most common endocrinopathies are hypogonadism, primary hypothyroidism and abnormalities in glucose metabolism.
  • There is no standard therapy; however, patients with disseminated bone marrow involvement are treated with chemotherapy with or without HCT.
Open access

Geetanjali Kale, Elaine M Pelley and Dawn Belt Davis

Summary

Myelolipomas have been reported in patients with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). ACTH excess, as seen with non-adherence to glucocorticoid therapy, may be responsible for tumor development. We report a case of a 51-year-old man with classic salt-wasting CAH managed on prednisone 7.5 mg daily and fludrocortisone who presented with chronic back pain and was found to have giant bilateral retroperitoneal masses. On computed tomography (CT) imaging, the masses were heterogeneous, but contained predominantly low-density fat attenuation. The tumors were resected due to concern for malignancy and mass symptoms. Pathologic examination identified both retroperitoneal masses as myelolipomas. The left tumor was 34×20×13 cm and weighed 4.7 kg and the right tumor was 20 cm in the largest dimension. Adrenal tissue was present in the specimen. The patient reported long-term compliance with glucocorticoid treatment. However, no biochemical monitoring of ACTH levels had occurred. Therefore, it is unclear if ACTH excess contributed to the development of these large tumors in this patient. It was presumed that both adrenal glands were inadvertently removed during surgery and the patient was treated with physiologic replacement doses of hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone postoperatively. In this case, the bilateral adrenalectomy was inadvertent. However, adrenalectomy can be considered as a treatment option in patients with classical CAH under certain circumstances to avoid complications of glucocorticoid excess.

Learning points

  • Myelolipomas should be considered in the differential diagnosis of adrenal or retroperitoneal masses in patients with CAH.
  • On CT imaging, myelolipomas are seen as heterogeneous masses with low-density mature fat interspersed with more dense myeloid tissue.
  • Myelolipomas are usually unilateral and measure <4 cm; however, very large and bilateral tumors have been reported.
  • Treatment of CAH typically involves using supraphysiologic doses of glucocorticoid to suppress adrenal hyperandrogenism. Bilateral adrenalectomy is an alternative treatment option in patients with CAH.
  • There is an association between ACTH excess and increased incidence of adrenal myelolipoma but the direct causal link remains to be established.