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Open access

Joanna Prokop, João Estorninho, Sara Marote, Teresa Sabino, Aida Botelho de Sousa, Eduardo Silva and Ana Agapito

Summary

POEMS syndrome (Polyneuropathy, Organomegaly, Endocrinopathy, Monoclonal protein and Skin changes) is a rare multisystemic disease. Clinical presentation is variable, the only mandatory criteria being polyneuropathy and monoclonal gammapathy in association with one major and one minor criterion. Primary adrenal insufficiency is rarely reported. We describe a case of a 33-year-old patient, in whom the presenting symptoms were mandibular mass, chronic sensory-motor peripheral polyneuropathy and adrenal insufficiency. The laboratory evaluation revealed thrombocytosis, severe hyperkalemia with normal renal function, normal protein electrophoresis and negative serum immunofixation for monoclonal protein. Endocrinologic laboratory work-up confirmed Addison’s disease and revealed subclinical primary hypothyroidism. Thoracic abdominal CT showed hepatosplenomegaly, multiple sclerotic lesions in thoracic vertebra and ribs. The histopathologic examination of the mandibular mass was nondiagnostic. Bone marrow biopsy revealed plasma cell dyscrasia and confirmed POEMS syndrome. Axillary lymphadenopathy biopsy: Castleman’s disease. Gluco-mineralocorticoid substitution and levothyroxine therapy were started with clinical improvement. Autologous hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) was planned, cyclophosphamide induction was started. Meanwhile the patient suffered two ischemic strokes which resulted in aphasia and hemiparesis. Cerebral angiography revealed vascular lesions compatible with vasculitis and stenosis of two cerebral arteries. The patient deceased 14 months after the diagnosis. The young age at presentation, multiplicity of manifestations and difficulties in investigation along with the absence of serum monoclonal protein made the diagnosis challenging. We report this case to highlight the need to consider POEMS syndrome in differential diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy in association with endocrine abnormalities even in young patients.

Learning points:

  • POEMS syndrome is considered a ‘low tumor burden disease’ and the monoclonal protein in 15% of cases is not found by immunofixation.

  • Neuropathy is the dominant characteristic of POEMS syndrome and it is peripheral, ascending, symmetric and affecting both sensation and motor function.

  • Endocrinopathies are a frequent feature of POEMS syndrome, but the cause is unknown.

  • The most common endocrinopathies are hypogonadism, primary hypothyroidism and abnormalities in glucose metabolism.

  • There is no standard therapy; however, patients with disseminated bone marrow involvement are treated with chemotherapy with or without HCT.

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

Ana G Ferreira, Tiago N Silva, Henrique V Luiz, Filipa D Campos, Maria C Cordeiro and Jorge R Portugal

Sellar plasmacytomas are rare and the differential diagnosis with non-functioning pituitary adenomas might be difficult because of clinical and radiological resemblance. They usually present with neurological signs and intact anterior pituitary function. Some may already have or eventually progress to multiple myeloma. We describe a case associated with extensive anterior pituitary involvement, which is a rare form of presentation. A 68-year-old man was referred to our Endocrinology outpatient clinic due to gynecomastia, reduced libido and sexual impotence. Physical examination, breast ultrasound and mammography confirmed bilateral gynecomastia. Blood tests revealed slight hyperprolactinemia, low testosterone levels, low cortisol levels and central hypothyroidism. Sellar MRI showed a heterogeneous sellar mass (56 × 60 × 61 mm), initially suspected as an invasive macroadenoma. After correcting the pituitary deficits with hydrocortisone and levothyroxine, the patient underwent transsphenoidal surgery. Histological examination revealed a plasmacytoma and multiple myeloma was ruled out. The patient was unsuccessfully treated with radiation therapy (no tumor shrinkage). Myeloma ultimately developed, with several other similar lesions in different locations. The patient was started on chemotherapy, had a bone marrow transplant and is now stable (progression free) on lenalidomide and dexamethasone. The presenting symptoms and panhypopituitarism persisted, requiring chronic replacement treatment with levothyroxine, hydrocortisone and testosterone.

Learning points:

  • Plasmacytomas, although rare, are a possible type of sellar masses, which have a completely different treatment approach, so it is important to make the correct diagnosis.

  • Usually, they present with neurological signs and symptoms and a well-preserved pituitary function, but our case shows that anterior pituitary function can be severely compromised.

  • Making a more extensive evaluation (clinical and biochemical) might provide some clues to this diagnosis.

Open access

Siew Hui Foo and Shahada A H Sobah

Summary

Hypopituitarism is a rare presentation of Burkitt's lymphoma (BL). The purpose of this report is to present a case of BL presenting with panhypopituitarism and to review other case reports of lymphoma presenting with pituitary dysfunction to highlight the distinguishing features of these cases from other benign aetiologies of pituitary dysfunction such as non-functioning pituitary adenomas. We reviewed a total of 11 cases of lymphoma presenting with pituitary dysfunction published from 1998 to 2013 including the present case. The demographics, clinical presentations, laboratory features, radiological findings, histological diagnosis, treatment administered and outcomes were described. Of the total number of patients, 45.5% of the cases had diffuse large B-cell lymphoma while 27.3% had BL. Anterior pituitary dysfunction was more common than posterior pituitary dysfunction at presentation. The other common associated presenting symptoms were painful ophthalmoplegia, cranial nerve palsies and constitutional symptoms. Hypothalamic–pituitary abnormalities were often demonstrated radiologically to be associated with cavernous sinus and/or stalk involvement. All patients who completed immunochemotherapy responded haematologically. Pituitary dysfunction also improved in most cases although the recovery tended to be partial. In conclusion, a high index of suspicion of underlying malignancy, such as lymphoma, should be present in patients presenting with acute pituitary dysfunction associated with painful ophthalmoplegia, rapidly evolving neurological features, radiological features atypical of a pituitary adenoma and constitutional symptoms. An early diagnosis is essential as prompt initiation of definitive therapy will induce disease remission and recovery of pituitary dysfunction.

Learning points

  • Hypopituitarism may be the presenting symptom of lymphoma in the absence of associated overt symptoms or signs of a haematological malignancy resulting in delay in diagnosis and institution of treatment.

  • Pituitary dysfunction due to tumour infiltration has a greater tendency to involve the posterior pituitary and infundibulum resulting in diabetes insipidus and hyperprolactinaemia compared with a non-functioning pituitary adenoma.

  • The common associated symptoms of hypopituitarism due to lymphoma infiltration of the hypothalamic–pituitary system include painful ophthalmoplegia, cranial nerve palsies and constitutional symptoms.

  • Radiological abnormalities of the hypothalamic–pituitary region are usually present and often associated with cavernous sinus or stalk involvement.

  • With early institution of definitive treatment, both haematological response and improvement of pituitary dysfunction are expected although the reversal of hypopituitarism tends to be partial and delayed.

  • A high index of suspicion of underlying malignancy such as lymphoma should be present in patients presenting with acute pituitary dysfunction associated with painful ophthalmoplegia, radiological features atypical of pituitary adenomas and constitutional symptoms to enable early diagnosis and prompt initiation of definitive therapy.