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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

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

Lukas Burget, Laura Audí Parera, Monica Fernandez-Cancio, Rolf Gräni, Christoph Henzen and Christa E Flück

Summary

Steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (STAR) is a key protein for the intracellular transport of cholesterol to the mitochondrium in endocrine organs (e.g. adrenal gland, ovaries, testes) and essential for the synthesis of all steroid hormones. Several mutations have been described and the clinical phenotype varies strongly and may be grouped into classic lipoid congenital adrenal hyperplasia (LCAH), in which all steroidogenesis is disrupted, and non-classic LCAH, which resembles familial glucocorticoid deficiency (FGD), which affects predominantly adrenal functions. Classic LCAH is characterized by early and potentially life-threatening manifestation of primary adrenal insufficiency (PAI) with electrolyte disturbances and 46,XY disorder of sex development (DSD) in males as well as lack of pubertal development in both sexes. Non-classic LCAH manifests usually later in life with PAI. Nevertheless, life-long follow-up of gonadal function is warranted. We describe a 26-year-old female patient who was diagnosed with PAI early in life without detailed diagnostic work-up. At the age of 14 months, she presented with hyperpigmentation, elevated ACTH and low cortisol levels. As her older brother was diagnosed with PAI two years earlier, she was put on hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone replacement therapy before an Addisonian crisis occurred. Upon review of her case in adulthood, consanguinity was noted in the family. Genetic analysis for PAI revealed a homozygous mutation in the STAR gene (c.562C>T, p.Arg188Cys) in both siblings. This mutation has been previously described in non-classic LCAH. This case illustrates that early onset, familial PAI is likely due to autosomal recessive genetic mutations in known genes causing PAI.

Learning points:

  • In childhood-onset PAI, a genetic cause is most likely, especially in families with consanguinity.

  • Adult patients with an etiologically unsolved PAI should be reviewed repeatedly and genetic work-up should be considered.

  • Knowing the exact genetic diagnosis in PAI is essential for genetic counselling and may allow disease-specific treatment.

  • Young men and women with NCLAH due to homozygous STAR Arg188Cys mutation should be investigated for their gonadal function as hypogonadism and infertility might occur during puberty or in early adulthood.

Open access

V Larouche, L Snell and D V Morris

Summary

Myxoedema madness was first described as a consequence of severe hypothyroidism in 1949. Most cases were secondary to long-standing untreated primary hypothyroidism. We present the first reported case of iatrogenic myxoedema madness following radioactive iodine ablation for Graves' disease, with a second concurrent diagnosis of primary hyperaldosteronism. A 29-year-old woman presented with severe hypothyroidism, a 1-week history of psychotic behaviour and paranoid delusions 3 months after treatment with radioactive iodine ablation for Graves' disease. Her psychiatric symptoms abated with levothyroxine replacement. She was concurrently found to be hypertensive and hypokalemic. Primary hyperaldosteronism from bilateral adrenal hyperplasia was diagnosed. This case report serves as a reminder that myxoedema madness can be a complication of acute hypothyroidism following radioactive iodine ablation of Graves' disease and that primary hyperaldosteronism may be associated with autoimmune hyperthyroidism.

Learning points

  • Psychosis (myxoedema madness) can present as a neuropsychiatric manifestation of acute hypothyroidism following radioactive iodine ablation of Graves' disease.

  • Primary hyperaldosteronism may be caused by idiopathic bilateral adrenal hyperplasia even in the presence of an adrenal adenoma seen on imaging.

  • Adrenal vein sampling is a useful tool for differentiating between a unilateral aldosterone-producing adenoma, which is managed surgically, and an idiopathic bilateral adrenal hyperplasia, which is managed medically.

  • The management of autoimmune hyperthyroidism, iatrogenic hypothyroidism and primary hyperaldosteronism from bilateral idiopathic adrenal hyperplasia in patients planning pregnancy includes delaying pregnancy 6 months following radioactive iodine treatment and until patient is euthyroid for 3 months, using amiloride as opposed to spironolactone, controlling blood pressure with agents safe in pregnancy such as nifedipine and avoiding β blockers.

  • Autoimmune hyperthyroidism and primary hyperaldosteronism rarely coexist; any underlying mechanism associating the two is still unclear.

Open access

S Hussain, E Panteliou, D M Berney, R Carpenter, M Matson, A Sahdev, M Bell, E O'Sullivan and W M Drake

Summary

We describe a young male patient with longstanding hypertension, who was diagnosed with primary hyperaldosteronism and treated by an attempted retroperitoneoscopic total unilateral adrenalectomy for a left-sided presumed aldosterone-secreting adenoma. Imaging had shown an unremarkable focal adrenal lesion with normal contralateral adrenal morphology, and histology of the resected specimen showed no adverse features. Post-operatively, his blood pressure and serum aldosterone levels fell to the normal range, but 9 months later, his hypertension recurred, primary aldosteronism was again confirmed and he was referred to our centre. Repeat imaging demonstrated an irregular left-sided adrenal lesion with normal contralateral gland appearances. Adrenal venous sampling was performed, which supported unilateral (left-sided) aldosterone hypersecretion. Redo surgery via a laparoscopically assisted transperitoneal approach was performed and multiple nodules were noted extending into the retroperitoneum. It was thought unlikely that complete resection had been achieved. His blood pressure returned to normal post-operatively, although hypokalaemia persisted. Histological examination, from this second operation, showed features of an adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC; including increased mitoses and invasion of fat) that was assessed as malignant using the scoring systems of Weiss and Aubert. Biochemical hyperaldosteronism persisted post-operatively, and detailed urine steroid profiling showed no evidence of adrenal steroid precursors or other mineralocorticoid production. He received flank radiotherapy to the left adrenal bed and continues to receive adjunctive mitotane therapy for a diagnosis of a pure aldosterone-secreting ACC.

Learning points

  • Pure aldosterone-secreting ACCs are exceptionally uncommon, but should be considered in the differential diagnosis of patients presenting with primary aldosteronism.

  • Aldosterone-producing ACCs may not necessarily show typical radiological features consistent with malignancy.

  • Patients who undergo surgical treatment for primary aldosteronism should have follow-up measurements of blood pressure to monitor for disease recurrence, even if post-operative normotension is thought to indicate a surgical ‘cure’.

  • Owing to the rarity of such conditions, a greater understanding of their natural history is likely to come from wider cooperation with, and contribution to, large multi-centre outcomes databases.

Open access

Tohru Eguchi and Shozo Miyauchi

Summary

A 43-year-old Japanese woman was admitted to our hospital with weakness. Laboratory findings showed hypokalemia, hypocalcemia and elevation of the serum creatinine phosphokinase levels, but intact parathyroid hormone levels. Further evaluations suggested that she had primary aldosteronism (PA), secondary hyperparathyroidism and bilateral adrenal tumors. She was treated successfully by laparoscopic right adrenalectomy. This case not only serves to the diagnosis of bilateral adrenal tumors in which selective adrenal venous sampling (SAVS) proved to be useful, but also for physicians to be aware of secondary hyperparathyroidism and the risk of secondary osteoporosis caused by PA.

Learning points

  • The classic presenting signs of PA are hypertension and hypokalemia.

  • Hypokalemia can induce rhabdomyolysis.

  • PA causes secondary hyperparathyroidism.

  • Patients with PA have the risk of osteoporosis with secondary hyperparathyroidism.

  • SAVS is useful in bilateral adrenal tumors.

Open access

Vivienne Yoon, Aliya Heyliger, Takashi Maekawa, Hironobu Sasano, Kelley Carrick, Stacey Woodruff, Jennifer Rabaglia, Richard J Auchus and Hans K Ghayee

Summary

Objective: To recognize that benign adrenal adenomas can co-secrete excess aldosterone and cortisol, which can change clinical management.

Methods: We reviewed the clinical and histological features of an adrenal tumor co-secreting aldosterone and cortisol in a patient. Biochemical testing as well as postoperative immunohistochemistry was carried out on tissue samples for assessing enzymes involved in steroidogenesis.

Results: A patient presented with hypertension, hypokalemia, and symptoms related to hypercortisolism. The case demonstrated suppressed renin concentrations with an elevated aldosterone:renin ratio, abnormal dexamethasone suppression test results, and elevated midnight salivary cortisol concentrations. The patient had a right adrenal nodule with autonomous cortisol production and interval growth. Right adrenalectomy was carried out. Postoperatively, the patient tolerated the surgery, but he was placed on a short course of steroid replacement given a subnormal postoperative serum cortisol concentration. Long-term follow-up of the patient showed that his blood pressure and glucose levels had improved. Histopathology slides showed positive staining for 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, 11β-hydroxylase, and 21 hydroxylase.

Conclusion: In addition to the clinical manifestations and laboratory values, the presence of these enzymes in this type of tumor provides support that the tumor in this patient was able to produce mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids. The recognition of patients with a tumor that is co-secreting aldosterone and cortisol can affect decisions to treat with glucocorticoids perioperatively to avoid adrenal crisis.

Learning points

  • Recognition of the presence of adrenal adenomas co-secreting mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids.

  • Consideration for perioperative and postoperative glucocorticoid use in the treatment of co-secreting adrenal adenomas.