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Open access

E Sanz-Sapera, S Sarria-Estrada, F Arikan and B Biagetti

Summary

Pituitary apoplexy is a rare but potentially life-threatening clinical syndrome characterised by ischaemic infarction or haemorrhage into a pituitary tumour that can lead to spontaneous remission of hormonal hypersecretion. We report the case of a 50-year-old man who attended the emergency department for sudden onset of headache. A computed tomography (CT) scan at admission revealed pituitary haemorrhage and the blood test confirmed the clinical suspicion of acromegaly and an associated hypopituitarism. The T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed the classic pituitary ring sign on the right side of the pituitary. Following admission, he developed acute-onset hyponatraemia that required hypertonic saline administration, improving progressively. Surprisingly, during the follow-up, IGF1 levels became normal and he progressively recovered pituitary function.

Learning points:

  • Patients with pituitary apoplexy may have spontaneous remission of hormonal hypersecretion. If it is not an emergency, we should delay a decision to undertake surgery following apoplexy and re-evaluate hormone secretion.

  • Hyponatraemia is an acute sign of hypocortisolism in pituitary apoplexy. However, SIADH although uncommon, could appear later as a consequence of direct hypothalamic insult and requires active and individualised treatment. For this reason, closely monitoring sodium at the beginning of the episode and throughout the first week is advisable to guard against SIADH.

  • Despite being less frequent, if pituitary apoplexy is limited to the tumour, the patient can recover pituitary function previously damaged by the undiagnosed macroadenoma.

Open access

Teresa M Canteros, Valeria De Miguel and Patricia Fainstein-Day

Summary

Severe Cushing syndrome (SCS) is considered an emergency that requires immediate treatment to lower serum cortisol levels. Fluconazole may be considered an alternative treatment in Cushing syndrome when ketoconazole is not tolerated or unavailable. We report a 39-year-old woman with a history of partial pancreaticoduodenectomy due to a periampullary neuroendocrine tumor with locoregional extension. Three years after surgery, she developed liver metastases and was started on 120 mg of lanreotide/month, despite which, liver metastases progressed in the following 6 months. The patient showed extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, delirium, moon face, hirsutism and severe proximal weakness. Laboratory tests showed anemia, hyperglycemia and severe hypokalemia. 24-h urinary free cortisol: 2152 nmol/day (reference range (RR): <276), morning serum cortisol 4883.4 nmol/L (RR: 138–690), ACTH 127.3 pmol/L (RR: 2.2–10). She was diagnosed with ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS). On admission, she presented with acute upper gastrointestinal tract bleeding and hemodynamic instability. Intravenous fluconazole 400 mg/day was started. After 48 h, her mental state improved and morning cortisol decreased by 25%. The dose was titrated to 600 mg/day which resulted in a 55% decrease in cortisol levels in 1 week, but then had to be decreased to 400 mg/day because transaminase levels increased over 3 times the upper normal level. After 18 days of treatment, hemodynamic stability, lower cortisol levels and better overall clinical status enabled successful bilateral adrenalectomy. This case report shows that intravenous fluconazole effectively decreased cortisol levels in SCS due to EAS.

Learning points:

  • Severe Cushing syndrome can be effectively treated with fluconazole to achieve a significant improvement of hypercortisolism prior to bilateral adrenalectomy.

  • Intravenous fluconazole is an alternative treatment when ketoconazole is not tolerated and etomidate is not available.

  • Fluconazole is well tolerated with mild side effects. Hepatotoxicity is usually mild and resolves after drug discontinuation.

Open access

C Kamath, J Witczak, M A Adlan and L D Premawardhana

Summary

Thymic enlargement (TE) in Graves’ disease (GD) is often diagnosed incidentally when chest imaging is done for unrelated reasons. This is becoming more common as the frequency of chest imaging increases. There are currently no clear guidelines for managing TE in GD. Subject 1 is a 36-year-old female who presented with weight loss, increased thirst and passage of urine and postural symptoms. Investigations confirmed GD, non-PTH-dependent hypercalcaemia and Addison’s disease (AD). CT scans to exclude underlying malignancy showed TE but normal viscera. A diagnosis of hypercalcaemia due to GD and AD was made. Subject 2, a 52-year-old female, was investigated for recurrent chest infections, haemoptysis and weight loss. CT thorax to exclude chest malignancy, showed TE. Planned thoracotomy was postponed when investigations confirmed GD. Subject 3 is a 47-year-old female who presented with breathlessness, chest pain and shakiness. Investigations confirmed T3 toxicosis due to GD. A CT pulmonary angiogram to exclude pulmonary embolism showed TE. The CT appearances in all three subjects were consistent with benign TE. These subjects were given appropriate endocrine treatment only (without biopsy or thymectomy) as CT appearances showed the following appearances of benign TE – arrowhead shape, straight regular margins, absence of calcification and cyst formation and radiodensity equal to surrounding muscle. Furthermore, interval scans confirmed thymic regression of over 60% in 6 months after endocrine control. In subjects with CT appearances consistent with benign TE, a conservative policy with interval CT scans at 6 months after endocrine control will prevent inappropriate surgical intervention.

Learning points:

  • Chest imaging is common in modern clinical practice and incidental anterior mediastinal abnormalities are therefore diagnosed frequently.

  • Thymic enlargement (TE) associated with Graves’ disease (GD) is occasionally seen in view of the above.

  • There is no validated strategy to manage TE in GD at present.

  • However, CT (or MRI) scan features of the thymus may help characterise benign TE, and such subjects do not require thymic biopsy or surgery at presentation.

  • In them, an expectant ‘wait and see’ policy is recommended with GD treatment only, as the thymus will show significant regression 6 months after endocrine control.

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

Shunsuke Funazaki, Hodaka Yamada, Kazuo Hara and San-e Ishikawa

Summary

Lymphocytic hypophysitis (LyH) has been known to be associated with pregnancy. We herein report the case of a 33-year-old woman who underwent vaginal delivery without massive bleeding at 40 weeks of gestation. Because of the presence of headache and terrible fatigue after childbirth, she visited our hospital. Severe hyponatremia (Na, 118 mEq/L) and visual field abnormality was noted upon examination. MRI revealed pituitary enlargement with a swollen pituitary stalk, albeit at low signal intensity. Basal pituitary hormone levels were all reduced and remained low after exogenous administration of hypothalamic-releasing hormones. She was diagnosed with LyH and was started on prednisolone 60 mg/day. A month later, her pituitary function had gradually improved together with a decrease in pituitary enlargement and recovery of her visual field. The dose of prednisolone was gradually reduced and finally withdrawn 27 months later. After prednisolone withdrawal, her pituitary function remained normal despite the absence of any hormonal replacement. A year later, she became pregnant without medication and delivered a second baby without LyH recurrence. Thereafter, her pituitary function has been normal for more than 5 years. Two valuable observations can be highlighted from the case. First, the patient completely recovered from LyH through prompt prednisolone therapy during its initial phase and had almost normal pituitary function. Second, after recovery from LyH, she was able to undergo spontaneous pregnancy and deliver a baby. We believe that reporting incidences of spontaneous pregnancy after complete normalization of pituitary function in patients with LyH is of great significance.

Learning points:

  • Females are more affected by LyH than males given its strong association with pregnancy.

  • LyH possesses characteristic findings on pituitary MRI.

  • Glucocorticoid therapy for LyH has been recommended as an effective treatment.

  • A history of previous pregnancies does not increase the risk of developing AH in subsequent pregnancies.

  • Early induction of high-dose prednisolone was therapeutically effective in treating LyH.

Open access

S F Wan Muhammad Hatta, L Kandaswamy, C Gherman-Ciolac, J Mann and H N Buch

Summary

Myopathy is a well-known complication of hypercortisolism and commonly involves proximal lower-limb girdle. We report a rare case of Cushing’s syndrome in a 60-year-old female presenting with significant respiratory muscle weakness and respiratory failure. She had history of rheumatoid arthritis, primary biliary cirrhosis and primary hypothyroidism and presented with weight gain and increasing shortness of breath. Investigations confirmed a restrictive defect with impaired gas transfer but with no significant parenchymatous pulmonary disease. Respiratory muscle test confirmed weakness of respiratory muscles and diaphragm. Biochemical and radiological investigations confirmed hypercortisolaemia secondary to a left adrenal tumour. Following adrenalectomy her respiratory symptoms improved along with an objective improvement in the respiratory muscle strength, diaphragmatic movement and pulmonary function test.

Learning points:

  • Cushing’s syndrome can present in many ways, a high index of suspicion is required for its diagnosis, as often patients present with only few of the pathognomonic symptoms and signs of the syndrome.

  • Proximal lower-limb girdle myopathy is common in Cushing’s syndrome. Less often long-term exposure of excess glucocorticoid production can also affect other muscles including respiratory muscle and the diaphragm leading to progressive shortness of breath and even acute respiratory failure.

  • Treatment of Cushing’s myopathy involves treating the underlying cause that is hypercortisolism. Various medications have been suggested to hinder the development of GC-induced myopathy, but their effects are poorly analysed.

Open access

Michelle Maher, Federico Roncaroli, Nigel Mendoza, Karim Meeran, Natalie Canham, Monika Kosicka-Slawinska, Birgitta Bernhard, David Collier, Juliana Drummond, Kassiani Skordilis, Nicola Tufton, Anastasia Gontsarova, Niamh Martin, Márta Korbonits and Florian Wernig

Summary

Symptomatic pituitary adenomas occur with a prevalence of approximately 0.1% in the general population. It is estimated that 5% of pituitary adenomas occur in a familial setting, either in isolated or syndromic form. Recently, loss-of-function mutations in genes encoding succinate dehydrogenase subunits (SDHx) or MYC-associated factor X (MAX) have been found to predispose to pituitary adenomas in co-existence with paragangliomas or phaeochromocytomas. It is rare, however, for a familial SDHx mutation to manifest as an isolated pituitary adenoma. We present the case of a pituitary lactotroph adenoma in a patient with a heterozygous germline SDHB mutation, in the absence of concomitant neoplasms. Initially, the adenoma showed biochemical response but poor tumour shrinkage in response to cabergoline; therefore, transsphenoidal surgery was performed. Following initial clinical improvement, tumour recurrence was identified 15 months later. Interestingly, re-initiation of cabergoline proved successful and the lesion demonstrated both biochemical response and tumour shrinkage. Our patient’s SDHB mutation was identified when we realised that her father had a metastatic paraganglioma, prompting genetic testing. Re-inspection of the histopathological report of the prolactinoma confirmed cells with vacuolated cytoplasm. This histological feature is suggestive of an SDHx mutation and should prompt further screening for mutations by immunohistochemistry and/or genetic testing. Surprisingly, immunohistochemistry of this pituitary adenoma demonstrated normal SDHB expression, despite loss of SDHB expression in the patient’s father’s paraganglioma.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary adenomas may be the presenting and/or sole feature of SDHB mutation-related disease.

  • SDHx mutated pituitary adenomas may display clinically aggressive behaviour and demonstrate variable response to medical treatment.

  • Histological evidence of intracytoplasmic vacuoles in a pituitary adenoma might suggest an SDH-deficient tumour and should prompt further screening for SDHx mutations.

  • Immunohistochemistry may not always predict the presence of SDHx mutations.

Open access

Anne de Bray, Zaki K Hassan-Smith, Jamal Dirie, Edward Littleton, Swarupsinh Chavda, John Ayuk, Paul Sanghera and Niki Karavitaki

Summary

A 48-year-old man was diagnosed with a large macroprolactinoma in 1982 treated with surgery, adjuvant radiotherapy and bromocriptine. Normal prolactin was achieved in 2005 but in 2009 it started rising. Pituitary MRIs in 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2015 were reported as showing empty pituitary fossa. Prolactin continued to increase (despite increasing bromocriptine dose). Trialling cabergoline had no effect (prolactin 191,380 mU/L). In January 2016, he presented with right facial weakness and CT head was reported as showing no acute intracranial abnormality. In late 2016, he was referred to ENT with hoarse voice; left hypoglossal and recurrent laryngeal nerve palsies were found. At this point, prolactin was 534,176 mU/L. Just before further endocrine review, he had a fall and CT head showed a basal skull mass invading the left petrous temporal bone. Pituitary MRI revealed a large enhancing mass within the sella infiltrating the clivus, extending into the left petrous apex and occipital condyle with involvement of the left Meckel’s cave, internal acoustic meatus, jugular foramen and hypoglossal canal. At that time, left abducens nerve palsy was also present. CT thorax/abdomen/pelvis excluded malignancy. Review of previous images suggested that this lesion had started becoming evident below the fossa in pituitary MRI of 2015. Temozolomide was initiated. After eight cycles, there is significant tumour reduction with prolactin 1565 mU/L and cranial nerve deficits have remained stable. Prolactinomas can manifest aggressive behaviour even decades after initial treatment highlighting the unpredictable clinical course they can demonstrate and the need for careful imaging review.

Learning points:

  • Aggressive behaviour of prolactinomas can manifest even decades after first treatment highlighting the unpredictable clinical course these tumours can demonstrate.

  • Escape from control of hyperprolactinaemia in the absence of sellar adenomatous tissue requires careful and systematic search for the anatomical localisation of the lesion responsible for the prolactin excess.

  • Temozolomide is a valuable agent in the therapeutic armamentarium for aggressive/invasive prolactinomas, particularly if they are not amenable to other treatment modalities.

Open access

Su Ann Tee, Earn Hui Gan, Mohamad Zaher Kanaan, David Ashley Price, Tim Hoare and Simon H S Pearce

Summary

Primary adrenal insufficiency secondary to syphilis is extremely rare, with only five cases being reported in the literature. We report a case of adrenal insufficiency as a manifestation of Treponema pallidum infection (tertiary syphilis). A 69-year-old, previously fit and well Caucasian male was found to have adrenal insufficiency after being admitted with weight loss, anorexia and postural dizziness resulting in a fall. Biochemical testing showed hyponatraemia, hyperkalaemia, and an inadequate response to Synacthen testing, with a peak cortisol level of 302 nmol/L after administration of 250 µg Synacthen. Abdominal imaging revealed bilateral adrenal hyperplasia with inguinal and retroperitoneal lymphadenopathy. He was started on hydrocortisone replacement; however, it was not until he re-attended ophthalmology with a red eye and visual loss 1 month later, that further work-up revealed the diagnosis of tertiary syphilis. Following a course of penicillin, repeat imaging 5 months later showed resolution of the abnormal radiological appearances. However, adrenal function has not recovered and 3 years following initial presentation, the patient remains on both glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid replacement. In conclusion, this case highlights the importance of considering syphilis as a potential differential diagnosis in patients presenting with adrenal insufficiency and bilateral adrenal masses, given the recent re-emergence of this condition. The relative ease of treating infectious causes of adrenal lesions makes accurate and timely diagnosis crucial.

Learning points:

  • Infectious causes, including syphilis, should be excluded before considering adrenalectomy or biopsy for any patient presenting with an adrenal mass.

  • It is important to perform a full infection screen including tests for human immunodeficiency virus, other blood-borne viruses and concurrent sexually transmitted diseases in patients presenting with bilateral adrenal hyperplasia with primary adrenal insufficiency.

  • Awareness of syphilis as a potential differential diagnosis is important, as it not only has a wide range of clinical presentations, but its prevalence has been increasing in recent times.

Open access

Carolina Shalini Singarayar, Foo Siew Hui, Nicholas Cheong and Goay Swee En

Summary

Thyrotoxicosis is associated with cardiac dysfunction; more commonly, left ventricular dysfunction. However, in recent years, there have been more cases reported on right ventricular dysfunction, often associated with pulmonary hypertension in patients with thyrotoxicosis. Three cases of thyrotoxicosis associated with right ventricular dysfunction were presented. A total of 25 other cases of thyrotoxicosis associated with right ventricular dysfunction published from 1994 to 2017 were reviewed along with the present 3 cases. The mean age was 45 years. Most (82%) of the cases were newly diagnosed thyrotoxicosis. There was a preponderance of female gender (71%) and Graves’ disease (86%) as the underlying aetiology. Common presenting features included dyspnoea, fatigue and ankle oedema. Atrial fibrillation was reported in 50% of the cases. The echocardiography for almost all cases revealed dilated right atrial and or ventricular chambers with elevated pulmonary artery pressure. The abnormal echocardiographic parameters were resolved in most cases after rendering the patients euthyroid. Right ventricular dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension are not well-recognized complications of thyrotoxicosis. They are life-threatening conditions that can be reversed with early recognition and treatment of thyrotoxicosis. Signs and symptoms of right ventricular dysfunction should be sought in all patients with newly diagnosed thyrotoxicosis, and prompt restoration of euthyroidism is warranted in affected patients before the development of overt right heart failure.

Learning points:

  • Thyrotoxicosis is associated with right ventricular dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension apart from left ventricular dysfunction described in typical thyrotoxic cardiomyopathy.

  • Symptoms and signs of right ventricular dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension should be sought in all patients with newly diagnosed thyrotoxicosis.

  • Thyrotoxicosis should be considered in all cases of right ventricular dysfunction or pulmonary hypertension not readily explained by other causes.

  • Prompt restoration of euthyroidism is warranted in patients with thyrotoxicosis complicated by right ventricular dysfunction with or without pulmonary hypertension to allow timely resolution of the abnormal cardiac parameters before development of overt right heart failure.