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Open access

Isabella Lupi, Alessandro Brancatella, Mirco Cosottini, Nicola Viola, Giulia Lanzolla, Daniele Sgrò, Giulia Di Dalmazi, Francesco Latrofa, Patrizio Caturegli and Claudio Marcocci

Summary

Programmed cell death protein 1/programmed cell death protein ligand 1 (PD-1/PD-L1) and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4/B7 (CTLA-4/B7) pathways are key regulators in T-cell activation and tolerance. Nivolumab, pembrolizumab (PD-1 inhibitors), atezolizumab (PD-L1 inhibitor) and ipilimumab (CTLA-4 inhibitor) are monoclonal antibodies approved for treatment of several advanced cancers. Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs)-related hypophysitis is described more frequently in patients treated with anti-CTLA-4; however, recent studies reported an increasing prevalence of anti-PD-1/PD-L1-induced hypophysitis which also exhibits slightly different clinical features. We report our experience on hypophysitis induced by anti-PD-1/anti-PD-L1 treatment. We present four cases, diagnosed in the past 12 months, of hypophysitis occurring in two patients receiving anti-PD-1, in one patient receiving anti-PD-1 and anti-CTLA-4 combined therapy and in one patient receiving anti-PD-L1. In this case series, timing, clinical presentation and association with other immune-related adverse events appeared to be extremely variable; central hypoadrenalism and hyponatremia were constantly detected although sellar magnetic resonance imaging did not reveal specific signs of pituitary inflammation. These differences highlight the complexity of ICI-related hypophysitis and the existence of different mechanisms of action leading to heterogeneity of clinical presentation in patients receiving immunotherapy.

Learning points:

  • PD-1/PD-L1 blockade can induce hypophysitis with a different clinical presentation when compared to CTLA-4 blockade.
  • Diagnosis of PD-1/PD-L1 induced hypophysitis is mainly made on clinical grounds and sellar MRI does not show radiological abnormalities.
  • Hyponatremia due to acute secondary adrenal insufficiency is often the principal sign of PD-1/PD-L1-induced hypophysitis and can be masked by other symptoms due to oncologic disease.
  • PD-1/PD-L1-induced hypophysitis can present as an isolated manifestation of irAEs or be in association with other autoimmune diseases
Open access

Diana Oliveira, Mara Ventura, Miguel Melo, Sandra Paiva and Francisco Carrilho

Summary

Addison’s disease (AD) is the most common endocrine manifestation of antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), but it remains a very rare complication of the syndrome. It is caused by adrenal venous thrombosis and consequent hemorrhagic infarction or by spontaneous (without thrombosis) adrenal hemorrhage, usually occurring after surgery or anticoagulant therapy. We present a clinical case of a 36-year-old female patient with a previous diagnosis of APS. She presented with multiple thrombotic events, including spontaneous abortions. During evaluation by the third episode of abortion, a CT imaging revealed an adrenal hematoma, but the patient was discharged without further investigation. A few weeks later, she presented in the emergency department with manifestations suggestive of adrenal insufficiency. Based on that assumption, she started therapy with glucocorticoids, with significant clinical improvement. After stabilization, additional investigation confirmed AD and excluded other etiologies; she also started mineralocorticoid replacement. This case illustrates a rare complication of APS that, if misdiagnosed, may be life threatening. A high index of suspicion is necessary for its diagnosis, and prompt treatment is crucial to reduce the morbidity and mortality potentially associated.

Learning points:

  • AD is a rare but life-threatening complication of APS.
  • It is important to look for AD in patients with APS and a suggestive clinical scenario.
  • APS must be excluded in patients with primary adrenal insufficiency and adrenal imaging revealing thrombosis/hemorrhage.
  • Glucocorticoid therapy should be promptly initiated when AD is suspected.
  • Mineralocorticoid replacement must be started when there is confirmed aldosterone deficiency.
  • Hypertension is a common feature of APS; in patients with APS and AD, replacement therapy with glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids may jeopardize hypertension management.
Open access

M A Shehab, Tahseen Mahmood, M A Hasanat, Md Fariduddin, Nazmul Ahsan, Mohammad Shahnoor Hossain, Md Shahdat Hossain and Sharmin Jahan

Summary

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) due to the three-beta-hydroxysteroid-dehydrogenase (3β-HSD) enzyme deficiency is a rare autosomal recessive disorder presenting with sexual precocity in a phenotypic male. Klinefelter syndrome (KS) is the most common sex chromosome aneuploidy presenting with hypergonadotropic hypogonadism in a male. However, only a handful of cases of mosaic KS have been described in the literature. The co-existence of mosaic KS with CAH due to 3β-HSD enzyme deficiency portrays a unique diagnostic paradox where features of gonadal androgen deficiency are masked by simultaneous adrenal androgen excess. Here, we report a 7-year-old phenotypic male boy who, at birth presented with ambiguous genitalia, probably a microphallus with penoscrotal hypospadias. Later on, he developed accelerated growth with advanced bone age, premature pubarche, phallic enlargement and hyperpigmentation. Biochemically, the patient was proven to have CAH due to 3β-HSD deficiency. However, the co-existence of bilateral cryptorchidism made us to consider the possibility of hypogonadism as well, and it was further explained by concurrent existence of mosaic KS (47,XXY/46,XX). He was started on glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid replacement and underwent right-sided orchidopexy on a later date. He showed significant clinical and biochemical improvement on subsequent follow-up. However, the declining value of serum testosterone was accompanied by rising level of FSH thereby unmasking hypergonadotropic hypogonadism due to mosaic KS. In future, we are planning to place him on androgen replacement as well.

Learning points:

  • Ambiguous genitalia with subsequent development of sexual precocity in a phenotypic male points towards some unusual varieties of CAH.
  • High level of serum testosterone, adrenal androgen, plasma ACTH and low basal cortisol are proof of CAH, whereas elevated level of 17-OH pregnenolone is biochemical marker of 3β-HSD enzyme deficiency.
  • Final diagnosis can be obtained with sequencing of HSD3B2 gene showing various mutations.
  • Presence of bilateral cryptorchidism in such a patient may be due to underlying hypogonadism.
  • Karyotyping in such patient may rarely show mosaic KS (47,XXY/46,XX) and there might be unmasking of hypergonadotropic hypogonadism resulting from adrenal androgen suppression from glucocorticoid treatment.
Open access

Theresa Penger, Andrea Albrecht, Michaela Marx, Daniel Stachel, Markus Metzler and Helmuth G Dörr

Summary

We report on a boy of Albanian descent with the history of juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML). JMML was diagnosed at the age of 17 months and treated by hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). At the age of 14.3 years, about 12 years after HSCT, he was hospitalized with an adrenal crisis. Hormone findings were consistent with primary adrenal insufficiency. Autoimmune adrenalitis was confirmed by positive autoantibodies against 21-hydroxylase and adrenal tissue. Since autoimmune Hashimoto thyroiditis was already known from the age of 9 years, we assume that both diseases are part of the spectrum of autoimmune polyglandular syndrome (APS) type 2. APS type 2 is a rare endocrine disease characterized by Addison’s disease along with autoimmune thyroid disease and/or type 1 diabetes.

Learning points:

  • Endocrine sequelae after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) are common and can develop over a long period.
  • Primary adrenal insufficiency after HSCT is absolutely rare.
  • The combination of adrenal autoimmune disease and Hashimoto thyroiditis is consistent with autoimmune polyglandular syndrome type 2.
Open access

Diana Oliveira, Adriana Lages, Sandra Paiva and Francisco Carrilho

Summary

Addison’s disease, or primary adrenocortical insufficiency, is a long-term, potentially severe, rare endocrine disorder. In pregnancy, it is even rarer. We report the case of a 30-year-old pregnant patient with Addison’s disease, referred to Obstetrics-Endocrinology specialty consult at 14 weeks gestation. She had been to the emergency department of her local hospital various times during the first trimester presenting with a clinical scenario suggestive of glucocorticoid under-replacement (nausea, persistent vomiting and hypotension), but this was interpreted as normal pregnancy symptoms. Hydrocortisone dose was adjusted, and the patient maintained regular follow-up. No complications were reported for the remainder of gestation and delivery. Pregnant patients with Addison’s disease should be monitored during gestation and in the peripartum period by multidisciplinary teams. Adjustments in glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid replacement therapy are often necessary, and monitoring should be based mainly on clinical findings, which becomes increasingly difficult during pregnancy. Patient education and specialized monitoring are key to avoiding complications from under- or over-replacement therapy in this period.

Learning points:

  • An increase in glucocorticoid replacement dose is expected to be necessary during pregnancy in a woman with Addison’s disease.
  • Patient education regarding steroid cover and symptoms of acute adrenal crisis are fundamental.
  • Monitoring in this period is challenging and remains mainly clinical.
  • The increase in hydrocortisone dose often obviates the need to increase fludrocortisone dose.
Open access

Judith Gerards, Michael M Ritter, Elke Kaminsky, Andreas Gal, Wolfgang Hoeppner and Marcus Quinkler

Summary

DAX1 (NR0B1) is an orphan nuclear receptor, which plays an important role in development and function of the adrenal glands and gonads. Mutations in DAX1 cause X-linked adrenal hypoplasia congenita (X-linked AHC), which is characterized by adrenal insufficiency (AI) and hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (HHG). Affected boys present with adrenal failure usually in childhood and, later in life, with delayed puberty. However, patients with a late-onset form of X-linked AHC have also been described in the past years. We report a male patient who presented with symptoms of an adrenal crisis at the age of 38 years and was later diagnosed with HHG. Family history was positive with several male relatives diagnosed with AI and compatible with the assumed X-chromosomal inheritance of the trait. Direct sequencing of DAX1 of the patient revealed a hemizygous cytosine-to-thymine substitution at nucleotide 64 in exon 1, which creates a novel nonsense mutation (p.(Gln22*)). In order to compare the clinical presentation of the patient to that of other patients with X-linked AHC, we searched the electronic database MEDLINE (PubMed) and found reports of nine other cases with delayed onset of X-linked AHC. In certain cases, genotype–phenotype correlation could be assumed.

Learning points:

  • X-linked AHC is a rare disease characterized by primary AI and hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (HHG). The full-blown clinical picture is seen usually only in males with a typical onset in childhood.
  • Patients with a late-onset form of X-linked AHC have also been described recently. Being aware of this late-onset form might help to reach an early diagnosis and prevent life-threatening adrenal crises.
  • Adult men with primary AI of unknown etiology should be investigated for HHG. Detecting a DAX1 mutation may confirm the clinical diagnosis of late-onset X-linked AHC.
  • In relatives of patients with genetically confirmed X-linked AHC, targeted mutation analysis may help to identify family members at risk and asymptomatic carriers, and discuss conscious family planning.
Open access

Anna Kopczak, Adrian-Minh Schumacher, Sandra Nischwitz, Tania Kümpfel, Günter K Stalla and Matthias K Auer

Summary

The autoimmune polyendocrinopathy–candidiasis–ectodermal dystrophy (APECED) syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by a mutation in the autoimmune regulator (AIRE) gene. Immune deficiency, hypoparathyroidism and Addison’s disease due to autoimmune dysfunction are the major clinical signs of APECED. We report on a 21-year-old female APECED patient with two inactivating mutations in the AIRE gene. She presented with sudden onset of periodic nausea. Adrenal insufficiency was diagnosed by means of the ACTH stimulation test. Despite initiation of hormone replacement therapy with hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone, nausea persisted and the patient developed cognitive deficits and a loss of interest which led to the diagnosis of depression. She was admitted to the psychiatric department for further diagnostic assessment. An EEG showed a focal epileptic pattern. Glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) antibodies, which had been negative eight years earlier, were now elevated in serum and in the cerebrospinal fluid. Oligoclonal bands were positive indicating an inflammatory process with intrathecal antibody production in the central nervous system (CNS). The periodic nausea was identified as dialeptic seizures, which clinically presented as gastrointestinal aura followed by episodes of reduced consciousness that occurred about 3–4 times per day. GAD antibody-associated limbic encephalitis (LE) was diagnosed. Besides antiepileptic therapy, an immunosuppressive treatment with corticosteroids was initiated followed by azathioprine. The presence of nausea and vomiting in endocrine patients with autoimmune disorders is indicative of adrenal insufficiency. However, our case report shows that episodic nausea may be a symptom of epileptic seizures due to GAD antibodies-associated LE in patients with APECED.

Learning points:

  • Episodic nausea cannot only be a sign of Addison’s disease, but can also be caused by epileptic seizures with gastrointestinal aura due to limbic encephalitis.
  • GAD antibodies are not only found in diabetes mellitus type 1, but they are also associated with autoimmune limbic encephalitis and can appear over time.
  • Limbic encephalitis can be another manifestation of autoimmune disease in patients with APECED/APS-1 that presents over the time course of the disease.
Open access

M Baxter, S Gorick and F M Swords

Summary

Addison's disease is a condition characterised by immune-mediated destruction of the adrenal glands leading to a requirement of lifelong replacement therapy with mineralocorticoid and glucocorticoid. We present a case of a 53-year-old man who presented at the age of 37 years with nausea, fatigue and dizziness. He was found to have postural hypotension and buccal pigmentation. His presenting cortisol level was 43 nmol/l with no response to Synacthen testing. He made an excellent response to conventional replacement therapy with hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone and then remained well for 16 years. On registering with a new endocrinologist, his hydrocortisone dose was revised downwards and pre- and post-dose serum cortisol levels were assessed. His pre-dose cortisol was surprisingly elevated, and so his dose was further reduced. Subsequent Synacthen testing was normal and has remained so for further 12 months. He is now asymptomatic without glucocorticoid therapy, although he continues on fludrocortisone 50 μg daily. His adrenal antibodies are positive, although his ACTH and renin levels remain elevated after treatment. Addison's disease is generally deemed to lead to irreversible cell-mediated immune destruction of the adrenal glands. For this reason, patients receive detailed counselling and education on the need for lifelong replacement therapy. To our knowledge, this is the third reported case of spontaneous recovery of the adrenal axis in Addison's disease. Recovery may therefore be more common than previously appreciated, which may have major implications for the treatment and monitoring of this condition, and for the education given to patients at diagnosis.

Learning points

  • Partial recovery from Addison's disease is possible although uncommon.
  • Patients with long-term endocrine conditions on replacement therapy still benefit from regular clinical and biochemical assessment, to revisit optimal management.
  • As further reports of adrenal axis recovery emerge, this may influence the counselling given to patients with Addison's disease in the future.