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Open access

Mawson Wang, Catherine Cho, Callum Gray, Thora Y Chai, Ruhaida Daud and Matthew Luttrell

Summary

We report the case of a 65-year-old female who presented with symptomatic hypercalcaemia (corrected calcium of 4.57 mmol/L) with confusion, myalgias and abdominal discomfort. She had a concomitant metabolic alkalosis (pH 7.46, HCO3 - 40 mmol/L, pCO2 54.6 mmHg). A history of significant Quick-Eze use (a calcium carbonate based antacid) for abdominal discomfort, for 2 weeks prior to presentation, suggested a diagnosis of milk-alkali syndrome (MAS). Further investigations did not demonstrate malignancy or primary hyperparathyroidism. Following management with i.v. fluid rehydration and a single dose of i.v. bisphosphonate, she developed symptomatic hypocalcaemia requiring oral and parenteral calcium replacement. She was discharged from the hospital with stable biochemistry on follow-up. This case demonstrates the importance of a detailed history in the diagnosis of severe hypercalcaemia, with MAS representing the third most common cause of hypercalcaemia. We discuss its pathophysiology and clinical importance, which can often present with severe hypercalcaemia that can respond precipitously to calcium-lowering therapy.

Learning points:

  • Milk-alkali syndrome is an often unrecognised cause for hypercalcaemia, but is the third most common cause of admission for hypercalcaemia.
  • Calcium ingestion leading to MAS can occur at intakes as low as 1.0–1.5 g per day in those with risk factors.
  • Early recognition of this syndrome can avoid the use of calcium-lowering therapy such as bisphosphonates which can precipitate hypocalcaemia.
Open access

Kaja Grønning, Archana Sharma, Maria Adele Mastroianni, Bo Daniel Karlsson, Eystein S Husebye, Kristian Løvås and Ingrid Nermoen

Summary

Primary adrenal lymphoma (PAL) is a rare cause of adrenal insufficiency. More than 90% is of B-cell origin. The condition is bilateral in up to 75% of cases, with adrenal insufficiency in two of three patients. We report two cases of adrenal insufficiency presenting at the age of 70 and 79 years, respectively. Both patients had negative 21-hydroxylase antibodies with bilateral adrenal lesions on CT. Biopsy showed B-cell lymphoma. One of the patients experienced intermittent disease regression on replacement dosage of glucocorticoids.

Learning points:

  • Primary adrenal lymphoma (PAL) is a rare cause of adrenal insufficiency.
  • Bilateral adrenal masses of unknown origin or in individuals with suspected extra-adrenal malignancy should be biopsied quickly when pheochromocytoma is excluded biochemically.
  • Steroid treatment before biopsy may affect diagnosis.
  • Adrenal insufficiency with negative 21-hydroxylase antibodies should be evaluated radiologically.
Open access

Aisling McCarthy, Sophie Howarth, Serena Khoo, Julia Hale, Sue Oddy, David Halsall, Brian Fish, Sashi Mariathasan, Katrina Andrews, Samson O Oyibo, Manjula Samyraju, Katarzyna Gajewska-Knapik, Soo-Mi Park, Diana Wood, Carla Moran and Ruth T Casey

Summary

Primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) is characterised by the overproduction of parathyroid hormone (PTH) due to parathyroid hyperplasia, adenoma or carcinoma and results in hypercalcaemia and a raised or inappropriately normal PTH. Symptoms of hypercalcaemia occur in 20% of patients and include fatigue, nausea, constipation, depression, renal impairment and cardiac arrythmias. In the most severe cases, uraemia, coma or cardiac arrest can result. Primary hyperparathyroidism in pregnancy is rare, with a reported incidence of 1%. Maternal and fetal/neonatal complications are estimated to occur in 67 and 80% of untreated cases respectively. Maternal complications include nephrolithiasis, pancreatitis, hyperemesis gravidarum, pre-eclampsia and hypercalcemic crises. Fetal complications include intrauterine growth restriction; preterm delivery and a three to five-fold increased risk of miscarriage. There is a direct relationship between the degree of severity of hypercalcaemia and miscarriage risk, with miscarriage being more common in those patients with a serum calcium greater than 2.85 mmol/L. Neonatal complications include hypocalcemia. Herein, we present a case series of three women who were diagnosed with primary hyperparathyroidism in pregnancy. Case 1 was diagnosed with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) in pregnancy and required a bilateral neck exploration and subtotal parathyroidectomy in the second trimester of her pregnancy due to symptomatic severe hypercalcaemia. Both case 2 and case 3 were diagnosed with primary hyperparathyroidism due to a parathyroid adenoma and required a unilateral parathyroidectomy in the second trimester. This case series highlights the work-up and the tailored management approach to patients with primary hyperparathyroidism in pregnancy.

Learning points:

  • Primary hyperparathyroidism in pregnancy is associated with a high incidence of associated maternal fetal and neonatal complications directly proportionate to degree of maternal serum calcium levels.
  • Parathyroidectomy is the definitive treatment for primary hyperparathyroidism in pregnancy and was used in the management of all three cases in this series. It is recommended when serum calcium is persistently greater than 2.75 mmol/L and or for the management of maternal or fetal complications of hypercalcaemia. Surgical management, when necessary is ideally performed in the second trimester.
  • Primary hyperparathyroidism is genetically determined in ~10% of cases, where the likelihood is increased in those under 40 years, where there is relevant family history and those with other related endocrinopathies. Genetic testing is a useful diagnostic adjunct and can guide treatment and management options for patients diagnosed with primary hyperparathyroidism in pregnancy, as described in case 1 in this series, who was diagnosed with MEN1 syndrome.
  • Women of reproductive age with primary hyperparathyroidism need to be informed of the risks and complications associated with primary hyperparathyroidism in pregnancy and pregnancy should be deferred and or avoided until curative surgery has been performed and calcium levels have normalised.
Open access

Vasileios Chortis, Christine J H May, Kassiani Skordilis, John Ayuk, Wiebke Arlt and Rachel K Crowley

Summary

Context

Adrenal incidentalomas (AI) represent an increasingly common problem in modern endocrine practice. The diagnostic approach to AIs can be challenging and occasionally reveals surprising features. Here we describe two rare cases of complex adrenal lesions consisting of phaeochromocytomas with synchronous metastases from extra-adrenal primaries.

Case descriptions

Patient 1 – a 65-year-old gentleman with a newly diagnosed malignant melanoma was found to harbour an adrenal lesion with suspicious radiographic characteristics. Percutaneous adrenal biopsy was consistent with adrenocortical adenoma. After excision of the skin melanoma and regional lymphatic metastases, he was followed up without imaging. Three years later, he presented with abdominal discomfort and enlargement of his adrenal lesion, associated with high plasma metanephrines. Adrenalectomy revealed a mixed tumour consisting of a large phaeochromocytoma with an embedded melanoma metastasis in its core. Patient 2 – a 63-year-old lady with a history of NF-1-related phaeochromocytoma 20 years ago and previous breast cancer presented with a new adrenal lesion on the contralateral side. Plasma normetanephrine was markedly elevated. Elective adrenalectomy revealed an adrenal tumour consisting of chromaffin cells intermixed with breast carcinoma cells.

Conclusions

Adrenal incidentalomas require careful evaluation to exclude metastatic disease, especially in the context of a history of previous malignancy. Adrenal biopsy provides limited and potentially misleading information. Phaeochromocytomas are highly vascularised tumours that may function as a sieve, extracting and retaining irregularly shaped cancer cells, thereby yielding adrenal masses with intriguing dual pathology.

Learning points:

  • Adrenal incidentalomas require careful evaluation focused on exclusion of underlying hormone excess and malignant pathology.
  • Adrenal biopsy can be misleading and should only be considered in select cases.
  • Phaeochromocytomas harbouring intratumoural metastases from other, extra-adrenal primary malignancies represent rare pathological entities that highlight the complexities that can be presented by adrenal tumours.