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Open access

Jonathan Brown and Luqman Sardar

Summary

A 68-year-old previously independent woman presented multiple times to hospital over the course of 3 months with a history of intermittent weakness, vacant episodes, word finding difficulty and reduced cognition. She was initially diagnosed with a TIA, and later with a traumatic subarachnoid haemorrhage following a fall; however, despite resolution of the haemorrhage, symptoms were ongoing and continued to worsen. Confusion screen blood tests showed no cause for the ongoing symptoms. More specialised investigations, such as brain imaging, cerebrospinal fluid analysis, electroencephalogram and serology also gave no clear diagnosis. The patient had a background of hypothyroidism, with plasma thyroid function tests throughout showing normal free thyroxine and a mildly raised thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). However plasma anti-thyroid peroxidise (TPO) antibody titres were very high. After discussion with specialists, it was felt she may have a rare and poorly understood condition known as Hashimoto’s encephalopathy (HE). After a trial with steroids, her symptoms dramatically improved and she was able to live independently again, something which would have been impossible at presentation.

Learning points:

  • In cases of subacute onset confusion where most other diagnoses have already been excluded, testing for anti-thyroid antibodies can identify patients potentially suffering from HE.

  • In these patients, and under the guidance of specialists, a trial of steroids can dramatically improve patient’s symptoms.

  • The majority of patients are euthyroid at the time of presentation, and so normal thyroid function tests should not prevent anti-thyroid antibodies being tested for.

  • Due to high titres of anti-thyroid antibodies being found in a small percentage of the healthy population, HE should be treated as a diagnosis of exclusion, particularly as treatment with steroids may potentially worsen the outcome in other causes of confusion, such as infection.

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

Kate Laycock, Abhijit Chaudhuri, Charlotte Fuller, Zahra Khatami, Frederick Nkonge and Nemanja Stojanovic

Summary

Hashimoto’s encephalopathy (HE) is rarely reported with only a few hundred cases published. Diagnosis is made in patients with an appropriate clinical picture and high antithyroperoxidase (anti-TPO) antibodies after infectious, toxic and metabolic causes of encephalopathy have been excluded. There is little objective data on the neurocognitive impairment in patients with HE and their improvement with treatment. We present the case of a 28-year-old woman with HE. Approach to management was novel as objective neuropsychological assessment was used to assess her clinical condition and response to treatment. Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) as the first-line treatment instead of steroids. She responded well. The case illustrates that a different approach is required for the diagnosis and treatment of HE. A new diagnostic criteria is proposed that includes neurocognitive assessment, serum and CSF antibodies, an abnormal EEG and exclusion of other causes of encephalopathy. Furthermore, treatment should be tailored to the patient.

Learning points:

  • Neurocognitive assessment should be carried out to assess the extent of brain involvement in suspected Hashimoto’s encephalopathy pre- and post- treatment.

  • Treatment of Hashimoto’s encephalopathy should be tailored to the patient.

  • Unifying diagnostic criteria for Hashimoto’s encephalopathy must be established.

Open access

Sarah Y Qian, Matthew J L Hare, Alan Pham and Duncan J Topliss

Summary

Insulinomas are rare neuroendocrine tumours that classically present with fasting hypoglycaemia. This case report discusses an uncommon and challenging case of insulinoma soon after upper gastrointestinal surgery. A 63-year-old man presented with 6 months of post-prandial hypoglycaemia beginning after a laparoscopic revision of Toupet fundoplication. Hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia was confirmed during a spontaneous episode and in a mixed-meal test. Localisation studies including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) and gallium dotatate positron emission tomography (68Ga Dotatate PET) were consistent with a small insulinoma in the mid-body of the pancreas. The lesion was excised and histopathology was confirmed a localised well-differentiated neuroendocrine pancreatic neoplasm. There have been no significant episodes of hypoglycaemia since. This case highlights several key points. Insulinoma should be sought in proven post-prandial hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia – even in the absence of fasting hypoglycaemia. The use of nuclear imaging targeting somatostatin and GLP1 receptors has improved accuracy of localisation. Despite these advances, accurate surgical resection can remain challenging.

Learning points:

  • Hypoglycaemia is defined by Whipple’s triad and can be provoked by fasting or mixed-meal tests.

  • Although uncommon, insulinomas can present with post-prandial hypoglycaemia.

  • In hypoglycaemia following gastrointestinal surgery (i.e. bariatric surgery or less commonly Nissen fundoplication) dumping syndrome or non-insulinoma pancreatogenous hypoglycaemia syndrome (NIPHS) should be considered.

  • Improved imaging techniques including MRI, endoscopic ultrasound and functional nuclear medicine scans aid localisation of insulinomas.

  • Despite advances in imaging and surgical techniques, accurate resection of insulinomas remains challenging.

Open access

Kingsley Okolie, Sumathy Perampalam, Anthony Barker and Christopher J Nolan

Klinefelter syndrome (KS) is a chromosomal disorder affecting males, with the typical karyotype of 47,XXY due to a supernumerary X chromosome, which causes progressive testicular failure resulting in androgen deficiency and infertility. Despite it being the most common sex chromosomal disorder, its diagnosis is easily missed. In addition to its classical clinical features of tall stature, gynaecomastia, small testes, and symptoms and signs of hypogonadism including infertility, KS is also often associated with neurocognitive, behavioural and psychiatric disorders.

We present a 44-year-old man with KS who, despite having erectile dysfunction, paradoxically had increased libido. He used sildenafil to overcome his erectile dysfunction. Hypersexuality was manifested by very frequent masturbation, multiple sexual partners most of whom were casual, and a sexual offence conviction at the age of 17 years.

Discussion focuses on the frequent failure of clinicians to diagnose KS, the neurocognitive, behavioural and psychiatric aspects of KS, this unusual presentation of hypersexuality in a man with KS, and the challenges of medical management of hypogonadism in a man with a history of a sexual offence.

Learning points:

  • Klinefelter syndrome (KS) is common in men (about 1 in 600 males), but the diagnosis is very often missed.

  • In addition to classic features of hypogonadism, patients with KS can often have associated neurocognitive, behavioural and/or psychiatric disorders.

  • More awareness of the association between KS and difficulties related to verbal skills in boys could improve rates of early diagnosis and prevent longer-term psychosocial disability.

  • Hypersexuality in the context of hypogonadism raises the possibility of sex steroid independent mechanistic pathways for libido.

  • Testosterone replacement therapy in KS with hypersexuality should be undertaken with caution using a multidisciplinary team approach.