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Open access

M J Trott, G Farah, V J Stokes, L M Wang and A B Grossman

Summary

We present a case of a young female patient with a rare cause of relapsing and remitting Cushing’s syndrome due to ectopic ACTH secretion from a thymic neuroendocrine tumour. A 34-year-old female presented with a constellation of symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome, including facial swelling, muscle weakness and cognitive impairment. We use the terms ‘relapsing and remitting’ in this case report, given the unpredictable time course of symptoms, which led to a delay of 2 years before the correct diagnosis of hypercortisolaemia. Diagnostic workup confirmed ectopic ACTH secretion, and a thymic mass was seen on mediastinal imaging. The patient subsequently underwent thymectomy with complete resolution of her symptoms. Several case series have documented the association of Cushing’s syndrome with thymic neuroendocrine tumours (NETs), although to our knowledge there are a few published cases of patients with relapsing and remitting symptoms. This case is also notable for the absence of features of the MEN-1 syndrome, along with the female gender of our patient and her history of non-smoking.

Learning points

  • Ectopic corticotrophin (ACTH) secretion should always be considered in the diagnostic workup of young patients with Cushing’s syndrome

  • There is a small but growing body of literature describing the correlation between ectopic ACTH secretion and thymic neuroendocrine tumours (NETs)

  • The possibility of a MEN-1 syndrome should be considered in all patients with thymic NETs, and we note the observational association with male gender and cigarette smoking in this cohort

  • An exception to these associations is the finding of relatively high incidence of thymic NETs among female non-smoking MEN-1 patients in the Japanese compared with Western populations

  • The relapsing and remitting course of our patient’s symptoms is noteworthy, given the paucity of this finding among other published cases

Open access

Ya-Wun Guo, Chii-Min Hwu, Justin Ging-Shing Won, Chia-Huei Chu and Liang-Yu Lin

Summary

A functional lesion in corticotrophin (ACTH)-independent Cushing’s syndrome is difficult to distinguish from lesions of bilateral adrenal masses. Methods for distinguishing these lesions include adrenal venous sampling and 131I-6β-iodomethyl-19-norcholesterol (131I-NP-59) scintigraphy. We present a case of a 29-year-old Han Chinese female patient with a history of hypercholesterolaemia and polycystic ovary syndrome. She presented with a 6month history of an 8kg body weight gain and gradual rounding of the face. Serial examinations revealed loss of circadian rhythm of cortisol, elevated urinary free-cortisol level and undetectable ACTH level (<5pg/mL). No suppression was observed in both the low- and high-dose dexamethasone suppression tests. Adrenal computed tomography revealed bilateral adrenal masses. Adrenal venous sampling was performed, and the right-to-left lateralisation ratio was 14.29. The finding from adrenal scintigraphy with NP-59 was consistent with right adrenal adenoma. The patient underwent laparoscopic right adrenalectomy, and the pathology report showed adrenocortical adenoma. Her postoperative cortisol level was 3.2μg/dL, and her Cushingoid appearance improved. In sum, both adrenal venous sampling and 131I-NP-59 scintigraphy are good diagnostic methods for Cushing’s syndrome presenting with bilateral adrenal masses.

Learning points

  • The clinical presentation of Cushing’ syndrome includes symptoms and signs of fat redistribution and protein-wasting features.

  • The diagnosis of patients with ACTH-independent Cushing’s syndrome with bilateral adrenal masses is challenging for localisation of the lesion.

  • Both adrenal venous sampling and 131I-NP-59 scintigraphy are good methods to use in these patients with Cushing’s syndrome presenting with bilateral adrenal masses.

Open access

Rémi Goupil, Martin Wolley, Jacobus Ungerer, Brett McWhinney, Kuniaki Mukai, Mitsuhide Naruse, Richard D Gordon and Michael Stowasser

Summary

In patients with primary aldosteronism (PA) undergoing adrenal venous sampling (AVS), cortisol levels are measured to assess lateralization of aldosterone overproduction. Concomitant adrenal autonomous cortisol and aldosterone secretion therefore have the potential to confound AVS results. We describe a case where metanephrine was measured during AVS to successfully circumvent this problem. A 55-year-old hypertensive male had raised plasma aldosterone/renin ratios and PA confirmed by fludrocortisone suppression testing. Failure of plasma cortisol to suppress overnight following dexamethasone and persistently suppressed corticotrophin were consistent with adrenal hypercortisolism. On AVS, comparison of adrenal and peripheral A/F ratios (left 5.7 vs peripheral 1.0; right 1.7 vs peripheral 1.1) suggested bilateral aldosterone production, with the left gland dominant but without contralateral suppression. However, using aldosterone/metanephrine ratios (left 9.7 vs peripheral 2.4; right 1.3 vs peripheral 2.5), aldosterone production lateralized to the left with good contralateral suppression. The patient underwent left laparoscopic adrenalectomy with peri-operative glucocorticoid supplementation to prevent adrenal insufficiency. Pathological examination revealed adrenal cortical adenomas producing both cortisol and aldosterone within a background of aldosterone-producing cell clusters. Hypertension improved and cured of PA and hypercortisolism were confirmed by negative post-operative fludrocortisone suppression and overnight 1 mg dexamethasone suppression testing. Routine dexamethasone suppression testing in patients with PA permits detection of concurrent hypercortisolism which can confound AVS results and cause unilateral PA to be misdiagnosed as bilateral with patients thereby denied potentially curative surgical treatment. In such patients, measurement of plasma metanephrine during AVS may overcome this issue.

Learning points

  • Simultaneous autonomous overproduction of cortisol and aldosterone is increasingly recognised although still apparently uncommon.

  • Because cortisol levels are used during AVS to correct for differences in dilution of adrenal with non-adrenal venous blood when assessing for lateralisation, unilateral cortisol overproduction with contralateral suppression could confound the interpretation of AVS results

  • Measuring plasma metanephrine during AVS to calculate lateralisation ratios may circumvent this problem.

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

Gautam Das, Peter N Taylor, Arshiya Tabasum, L N Rao Bondugulapati, Danny Parker, Piero Baglioni, Onyebuchi E Okosieme and David Scott Coombes

Summary

Resistant hypertension is often difficult to treat and may be associated with underlying primary aldosteronism (PA). We describe the case of an elderly gentleman who presented with severe and resistant hypertension and was found to have a left adrenal incidentaloma during evaluation but had aldosterone excess secondary to unilateral adrenal hyperplasia (UAH) of the contralateral gland, which needed surgical intervention. A 65-year-old gentleman was evaluated for uncontrolled high blood pressure (BP) in spite of taking four antihypertensive medications. The high BP was confirmed on a 24-h ambulatory reading, and further biochemical evaluation showed an elevated serum aldosterone renin ratio (ARR) (1577 pmol/l per ng per ml per h). Radiological evaluation showed an adrenal nodule (15 mm) in the left adrenal gland but an adrenal vein sampling demonstrated a lateralization towards the opposite site favouring the right adrenal to be the source of excess aldosterone. A laparoscopic right adrenalectomy was performed and the histology of the gland confirmed nodular hyperplasia. Following surgery, the patient's BP improved remarkably although he remained on antihypertensives and under regular endocrine follow-up. PA remains the most common form of secondary and difficult-to-treat hypertension. Investigations may reveal incidental adrenal lesions, which may not be the actual source of excess aldosterone, but UAH may be a contributor and may coexist and amenable to surgical treatment. An adrenal vein sampling should be undertaken for correct lateralization of the source, otherwise a correctable diagnosis may be missed and the incorrect adrenal gland may be removed.

Learning points

  • Severe and resistant hypertension can often be associated with underlying PA.

  • ARR is an excellent screening tool in patients with suspected PA.

  • Lateralization with adrenal venous sampling is essential to isolate the source and differentiate between unilateral and bilateral causes of hyperaldosteronism.

  • Adrenal incidentalomas and UAH may coexist and the latter may often be the sole cause of excess aldosterone secretion.

  • Decisions about adrenalectomy should be made only after integrating and interpreting radiological and biochemical test findings properly.

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.