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Open access

Stephanie Wei Ping Wong, Yew Wen Yap, Ram Prakash Narayanan, Mohammad Al-Jubouri, Ashley Grossman, Christina Daousi and Yahya Mahgoub

Summary

We report our experience on managing a case of florid Cushing’s disease with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) sepsis using intravenous etomidate in the intensive care unit of a UK district general hospital.

Learning points:

  • Severe Cushing’s syndrome is associated with high morbidity and mortality.
  • Etomidate is a safe and effective medical therapy to rapidly lower cortisol levels even in the context of severe sepsis and immunosuppression.
  • Etomidate should ideally be administered in an intensive care unit but is still feasible in a district general hospital.
  • During treatment with etomidate, accumulation of serum 11β-deoxycortisol (11DOC) levels can cross-react with laboratory cortisol measurement leading to falsely elevated serum cortisol levels. For this reason, serum cortisol measurement using a mass spectrometry assay should ideally be used to guide etomidate prescription.
Open access

Huilin Koh, Manish Kaushik, Julian Kenrick Loh and Chiaw Ling Chng

Summary

Thyroid storm with multi-organ failure limits the use of conventional treatment. A 44-year-old male presented with thyroid storm and experienced cardiovascular collapse after beta-blocker administration, with resultant fulminant multi-organ failure requiring inotropic support, mechanical ventilation, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) and continuous renal replacement therapy. Hepatic and renal failure precluded the use of conventional thyroid storm treatment and early plasma exchange was instituted. The patient underwent emergency thyroidectomy after four effective exchanges, with subsequent rapid reversal of multi-organ failure. The challenges of institution of plasma exchanges with ongoing ECMO support, dialysis and timing of thyroidectomy are discussed. This case highlights the important role of early therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) as an effective salvage therapy for lowering circulating hormones and stabilization of patients in preparation for emergency thyroidectomy in patients with thyroid storm and fulminant multi-organ failure.

Learning points:

  • Administration of beta-blockers in thyroid storm presenting with congestive cardiac failure may precipitate cardiovascular collapse due to inhibition of thyroid-induced hyperadrenergic compensation which maintains cardiac output.
  • TPE can be an effective bridging therapy to emergency total thyroidectomy when conventional thyroid storm treatment is contraindicated.
  • End-organ support using ECMO and CRRT can be combined with TPE effectively in the management of critically ill cases of thyroid storm.
  • The effectiveness of plasma exchange in lowering thyroid hormones appears to wane after 44–48 h of therapy in this case, highlighting the importance early thyroidectomy.
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

Nikolaos Asonitis, Eva Kassi, Michalis Kokkinos, Ilias Giovanopoulos, Foteini Petychaki and Helen Gogas

Summary

Hypercalcemia of malignancy is the most common cause of hypercalcemia in hospitalized patients. It is associated with a poor prognosis, since it reflects an advanced cancer stage. Among all cancer in females, breast cancer is the most common malignancy, and it has the highest prevalence of hypercalcemia. Approximately 70% of patients with breast cancer have bone metastases and 10% of them will have hypercalcemia as a complication at some point in the disease. Herein, we report a 69-year-old female patient with metastatic breast cancer, who developed severe hypercalcemia in the course of her disease and was diagnosed with humoral hypercalcemia of malignancy (HHM). Intense hydration along with corticoisteroids and antiresorptive medication (calcitonin, bisphosphonates and denosumab) were administered to the patient. Despite the above treatment, serum calcium levels remain elevated and calcimimetic cinacalcet was added. Upon discontinuation of cinacalcet, calcium levels were raised and returned back to the normal levels following re-initiation of the calcimimetic. Her calcium level restored to normal, and she was discharged with the following medical treatment: denosumab monthly, and cinacalcet at a titrated dose of 90 mg per day. The patient is followed as an outpatient and 11 months later, her calcium level remained within the normal range.

Learning points:

  • Hypercalcemia of malignancy is the most common cause of hypercalcemia in hospitalized patients.
  • Breast cancer has the highest prevalence of hypercalcemia.
  • The cornerstone of therapy remains the intense hydration and intravenous bisphosphonates (preferably zoledronic acid).
  • In case of persistent hypercalcemia of malignancy, the administration of calcimimetic cinacalcet could be an additional effective therapeutic option.
Open access

Peter Taylor, Sasan Dehbozorgi, Arshiya Tabasum, Anna Scholz, Harsh Bhatt, Philippa Stewart, Pranav Kumar, Mohd S Draman, Alastair Watt, Aled Rees, Caroline Hayhurst and Stephen Davies

Summary

Hyponatraemia is the most commonly encountered electrolyte disturbance in neurological high dependency and intensive care units. Cerebral salt wasting (CSW) is the most elusive and challenging of the causes of hyponatraemia, and it is vital to distinguish it from the more familiar syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone (SIADH). Managing CSW requires correction of the intravascular volume depletion and hyponatraemia, as well as mitigation of on-going substantial sodium losses. Herein we describe a challenging case of CSW requiring large doses of hypertonic saline and the subsequent substantial benefit with the addition of fludrocortisone.

Learning points:

  • The diagnosis of CSW requires a high index of suspicion. Distinguishing it from SIADH is essential to enable prompt treatment in order to prevent severe hyponatraemia.
  • The hallmarks of substantial CSW are hyponatraemia, reduced volume status and inappropriately high renal sodium loss.
  • Substantial volumes of hypertonic saline may be required for a prolonged period of time to correct volume and sodium deficits.
  • Fludrocortisone has a role in the management of CSW. It likely reduces the doses of hypertonic saline required and can maintain serum sodium levels of hypertonic saline.
Open access

Ling Zhu, Sueziani Binte Zainudin, Manish Kaushik, Li Yan Khor and Chiaw Ling Chng

Summary

Type II amiodarone-induced thyrotoxicosis (AIT) is an uncommon cause of thyroid storm. Due to the rarity of the condition, little is known about the role of plasma exchange in the treatment of severe AIT. A 56-year-old male presented with thyroid storm 2months following cessation of amiodarone. Despite conventional treatment, his condition deteriorated. He underwent two cycles of plasma exchange, which successfully controlled the severe hyperthyroidism. The thyroid hormone levels continued to fall up to 10h following plasma exchange. He subsequently underwent emergency total thyroidectomy and the histology of thyroid gland confirmed type II AIT. Management of thyroid storm secondary to type II AIT can be challenging as patients may not respond to conventional treatments, and thyroid storm may be more harmful in AIT patients owing to the underlying cardiac disease. If used appropriately, plasma exchange can effectively reduce circulating hormones, to allow stabilisation of patients in preparation for emergency thyroidectomy.

Learning points

  • Type II AIT is an uncommon cause of thyroid storm and may not respond well to conventional thyroid storm treatment.
  • Prompt diagnosis and therapy are important, as patients may deteriorate rapidly.
  • Plasma exchange can be used as an effective bridging therapy to emergency thyroidectomy.
  • This case shows that in type II AIT, each cycle of plasma exchange can potentially lower free triiodothyronine levels for 10h.
  • Important factors to consider when planning plasma exchange as a treatment for thyroid storm include timing of each session, type of exchange fluid to be used and timing of surgery.

Open access

Kharis Burns, Darshika Christie-David and Jenny E Gunton

Summary

Ketoconazole was a first-line agent for suppressing steroidogenesis in Cushing's disease. It now has limited availability. Fluconazole, another azole antifungal, is an alternative, although its in vivo efficacy is unclear. A 61-year-old female presented with weight gain, abdominal striae and worsening depression. HbA1c increased to 76 mmol/mol despite increasing insulin. Investigations confirmed cortisol excess; afternoon serum cortisol was 552 nmol/l with an inappropriate ACTH of 9.3 pmol/l. In total, 24-h urinary free cortisol (UFC):creatinine ratio was 150 nmol/mmol with failure to suppress after 48 h of low-dose dexamethasone. Pituitary MRI revealed a 4-mm microadenoma. Inferior petrosal sinus sampling confirmed Cushing's disease. Transsphenoidal resection was performed and symptoms improved. However, disease recurred 6 months later with elevated 24-h UFC >2200 nmol/day. Metyrapone was commenced at 750 mg tds. Ketoconazole was later added at 400 mg daily, with dose reduction in metyrapone. When ketoconazole became unavailable, fluconazole 200 mg daily was substituted. Urine cortisol:creatinine ratio rose, and the dose was increased to 400 mg daily with normalisation of urine hormone levels. Serum cortisol and urine cortisol:creatinine ratios remain normal on this regimen at 6 months. In conclusion, to our knowledge, this is the first case demonstrating prolonged in vivo efficacy of fluconazole in combination with low-dose metyrapone for the treatment of Cushing's disease. Fluconazole has a more favourable toxicity profile, and we suggest that it is a potential alternative for medical management of Cushing's disease.

Learning points

  • Surgery remains first line for the management of Cushing's disease with pharmacotherapy used where surgery is unsuccessful or there is persistence of cortisol excess.
  • Ketoconazole has previously been used to treat cortisol excess through inhibition of CYP450 enzymes 11-β-hydroxylase and 17-α-hydroxylase, though its availability is limited in many countries.
  • Fluconazole shares similar properties to ketoconazole, although it has less associated toxicity.
  • Fluconazole represents a suitable alternative for the medical management of Cushing's disease and proved an effective addition to metyrapone in the management of this case.

Open access

Niki Margari, Jonathan Pollock and Nemanja Stojanovic

Summary

Prolactinomas constitute the largest subsection of all secretory pituitary adenomas. Most are microprolactinomas and are satisfactorily treated by medical management alone. Giant prolactinomas, measuring more than 4 cm in diameter, are rare and usually occur more commonly in men. Macroprolatinomas tend to present with symptoms of mass effect rather than those of hyperprolactinaemia. Dopamine agonists (DA) are the treatment of choice for all prolactinomas. Surgery is usually reserved for DA resistance or if vision is threatened by the mass effects of the tumour. We describe the case of a 52 year-old woman with a giant invasive prolactinoma who required multiple surgical procedures as well as medical management with DA. One of the surgical interventions required a posterior approach via the trans cranial sub occipital transtentorial approach, a surgical technique that has not been previously described in the medical literature for this indication. The giant prolactinoma was reduced significantly with the above approach and patient symptoms from the compressing effects of the tumour were resolved. This case highlights the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to the management of such patients who present with florid neurological sequelae secondary to pressure effects. Although this presentation is uncommon, surgery via a sub occipital transtentorial approach may be considered the treatment of choice in suitable patients with giant invasive prolactinomas compressing the brainstem.

Learning points

  • Giant prolactinomas present with symptoms of mass effect or those of hyperprolactinaemia.
  • Interpretation of the pituitary profile is crucial to guide further investigations and management.
  • Treatment of giant invasive prolactinomas may involve a combination of medical management and multiple surgical interventions.
  • Treatment with DA may cause pituitary haemorrhage or infarction in patients with these tumours.
  • A sub occipital transtetorial approach may be considered the treatment of choice in invasive prolactinomas compressing the brainstem.
  • Multidisciplinary approach of such patients is fundamental for a better outcome.

Open access

Harish Venugopal, Katherine Griffin and Saima Amer

Summary

Resection of primary tumour is the management of choice in patients with ectopic ACTH syndrome. However, tumours may remain unidentified or occult in spite of extensive efforts at trying to locate them. This can, therefore, pose a major management issue as uncontrolled hypercortisolaemia can lead to life-threatening infections. We present the case of a 66-year-old gentleman with ectopic ACTH syndrome from an occult primary tumour with multiple significant complications from hypercortisolaemia. Ectopic nature of his ACTH-dependent Cushing's syndrome was confirmed by non-suppression with high-dose dexamethasone suppression test and bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling. The primary ectopic source remained unidentified in spite of extensive anatomical and functional imaging studies, including CT scans and Dotatate-PET scan. Medical adrenolytic treatment at maximum tolerated doses failed to control his hypercortisolaemia, which led to recurrent intra-abdominal and pelvic abscesses, requiring multiple surgical interventions. Laparoscopic bilateral adrenalectomy was considered but decided against given concerns of technical difficulties due to recurrent intra-abdominal infections and his moribund state. Eventually, alcohol ablation of adrenal glands by retrograde adrenal vein approach was attempted, which resulted in biochemical remission of Cushing's syndrome. Our case emphasizes the importance of aggressive management of hypercortisolaemia in order to reduce the associated morbidity and mortality and also demonstrates that techniques like percutaneous adrenal ablation using a retrograde venous approach may be extremely helpful in patients who are otherwise unable to undergo bilateral adrenalectomy.

Learning points

  • Evaluation and management of patients with ectopic ACTH syndrome from an unidentified primary tumour can be very challenging.
  • Persisting hypercortisolaemia in this setting can lead to debilitating and even life-threatening complications and hence needs to be managed aggressively.
  • Bilateral adrenalectomy should be considered when medical treatment is ineffective or poorly tolerated.
  • Percutaneous adrenal ablation may be considered in patients who are otherwise unable to undergo bilateral adrenalectomy.

Open access

A Khanna, R Khurana, A Kyriacou, R Davies and DW Ray

Summary

To assess continuous subcutaneous hydrocortisone infusion (CSHI) in patients with adrenocortical insufficiency (AI) and difficulties with oral replacement. Three patients with AI and frequent hospital admissions attributed to adrenal crises were treated with CSHI, which was delivered via a continuous subcutaneous infusion. All three patients preferred CSHI and remained on it long term, which permitted prolonged follow-up analysis. All three patients reported symptomatic improvement, and in two cases, reduced hospital admission rates and inpatient stay lengths were observed. The cost of hospital admissions and overall treatment was reduced in all cases. CSHI offers a practical and acceptable alternative to oral replacement in a subset of patients with AI. The cost of initiating and maintaining the pump is offset in the long term by reduced frequency and duration of emergency admissions. CSHI can therefore be considered in a select group of patients who are resistant to treatment with conventional oral glucocorticoids.

Learning points

  • Continuous subcutaneous infusion of cortisol is a viable alternative in patients unable to take oral steroids.
  • Patient acceptability was high, with three out of three patients preferring to remain on pump treatment.
  • Hospital admissions were reduced in response to pump therapy, which compensated for the increased treatment cost.
  • The daily dosage of hydrocortisone can be reduced by using pump therapy.