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Jai Madhok Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine

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Amy Kloosterboer Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine

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Chitra Venkatasubramanian Department of Neurology & Neurological Sciences, Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, California, USA

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Frederick G Mihm Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine

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Summary

We report the case of a 76-year-old male with a remote history of papillary thyroid cancer who developed severe paroxysmal headaches in the setting of episodic hypertension. Brain imaging revealed multiple lesions, initially of inconclusive etiology, but suspicious for metastatic foci. A search for the primary malignancy revealed an adrenal tumor, and biochemical testing confirmed the diagnosis of a norepinephrine-secreting pheochromocytoma. Serial imaging demonstrated multiple cerebral infarctions of varying ages, evidence of vessel narrowing and irregularities in the anterior and posterior circulations, and hypoperfusion in watershed areas. An exhaustive work-up for other etiologies of stroke including thromboembolic causes or vasculitis was unremarkable. There was resolution of symptoms, absence of new infarctions, and improvement in vessel caliber after adequate alpha-adrenergic receptor blockade for the management of pheochromocytoma. This clinicoradiologic constellation of findings suggested that the etiology of the multiple infarctions was reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS). Pheochromocytoma remains a poorly recognized cause of RCVS. Unexplained multifocal cerebral infarctions in the setting of severe hypertension should prompt the consideration of a vasoactive tumor as the driver of cerebrovascular dysfunction. A missed or delayed diagnosis has the potential for serious neurologic morbidity for an otherwise treatable condition.

Learning points:

  • The constellation of multifocal watershed cerebral infarctions of uncertain etiology in a patient with malignant hypertension should trigger the consideration of undiagnosed catecholamine secreting tumors, such as pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas.

  • Reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome is a serious but reversible cerebrovascular manifestation of pheochromocytomas that may lead to strokes (ischemic and hemorrhagic), seizures, and cerebral edema.

  • Alpha-adrenergic receptor blockade can reverse cerebral vasoconstriction and prevent further cerebral ischemia and infarctions.

  • Early diagnosis of catecholamine secreting tumors has the potential for reducing neurologic morbidity and mortality in patients presenting with cerebrovascular complications.

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Eka Melson Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham, UK

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Sidra Amir University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham, UK

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Lisa Shepherd Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham, UK

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Samina Kauser University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham, UK

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Bethan Freestone University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham, UK

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Punith Kempegowda University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham, UK

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Summary

Although pheochromocytoma classically presents with headaches, palpitations and paroxysmal hypertension, atypical presentations such as cardiomyopathy, stroke and subarachnoid haemorrhage have been infrequently documented. We present in this case report, an uncommon presentation of pheochromocytoma with myocardial infarction with normal coronary arteries (MINOCA). A 79-year-old woman presented with central crushing chest pain radiating to left arm associated with headache, palpitations, sweating and difficulty in breathing. For 2 years, she experienced brief episodes of headache, tinnitus, dizziness, palpitations, and sweating that spontaneously resolved. Clinical examination was unremarkable except for high blood pressure (210/105 mmHg). Her electrocardiogram showed T wave inversions from V1 to V6 and elevated troponins (774 ng/L at baseline and 932 ng/L 3 h from baseline (normal <16 ng/L) in keeping with a diagnosis of non-ST elevated myocardial infarction. Coronary angiography showed normal coronary arteries. Patient was hence treated as myocardial infarction with normal coronaries (MINOCA). Despite appropriate treatment for MINOCA, she continued to experience episodic headaches, palpitations, dizziness and erratic blood pressures (particularly severe hypertension shortly after beta-blocker administration). Further investigations revealed raised urine noradrenaline of 4724 nmol/24 h (<554 nmol/24 h) and urine adrenaline of 92863 nmol/24 h (<77 nmol/24 h). Computerised tomography demonstrated a well-defined rounded mass in right adrenal gland morphological of pheochromocytoma. She underwent laparoscopic right adrenalectomy with histology confirming pheochromocytoma. This case highlights the importance of thorough investigation for the underlying cause for MINOCA. In patients with unexplained erratic blood pressure control, pheochromocytoma should be considered as a differential diagnosis.

Learning points:

  • Pheochromocytoma is rare tumour that often presents with non-specific symptoms.

  • It is important to investigate underlying cause of MINOCA.

  • Thorough history is the key to diagnosis.

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Haruyuki Ohsugi Department of Urology and Andrology, Kansai Medical University, Hirakata, Japan

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Nae Takizawa Department of Urology and Andrology, Kansai Medical University, Hirakata, Japan

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Hidefumi Kinoshita Department of Urology and Andrology, Kansai Medical University, Hirakata, Japan

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Tadashi Matsuda Department of Urology and Andrology, Kansai Medical University, Hirakata, Japan

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Summary

A 21-year-old woman was referred to our hospital to treat bilateral pheochromocytomas (PCCs) after a diagnosis of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A (MEN2A). We performed bilateral laparoscopic adrenalectomy. One year after the operation, urinary fractionated metanephrines in 24-h urine increased. MRI showed a 30 mm tumor on the interaortocaval region and 123I-MIBG concentrated in this area. We excised the tumor and performed para-aortic lymphadenectomy. Histopathologic examination confirmed a PCC arising from ectopic adrenal tissue. Urinary fractionated metanephrines in 24-h urine declined to basal levels immediately after the operation. We detected no recurrence of paraganglioma or PCC for 5 years after the treatment.

Learning points:

  • Most ectopic adrenal tissue is associated with no symptoms and contains only the adrenal cortex.

  • Adrenocortical tumors sometimes arise from ectopic adrenal tissues similarly to in the normal adrenal gland.

  • PCC arising from ectopic adrenal tissue occurs infrequently.

  • MEN2-related PCC is accompanied by adrenal medullary hyperplasia, which might be part of tumorigenesis.

Open access
Vasileios Chortis Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research, University of Birmingham
Centre for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Birmingham Health Partners, Birmingham, UK
Departments of Endocrinology, University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham, UK

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Christine J H May Departments of Endocrinology, University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham, UK

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Kassiani Skordilis Centre for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Birmingham Health Partners, Birmingham, UK
Departments of Cellular Pathology, University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham, UK

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John Ayuk Centre for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Birmingham Health Partners, Birmingham, UK
Departments of Endocrinology, University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham, UK

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Wiebke Arlt Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research, University of Birmingham
Centre for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Birmingham Health Partners, Birmingham, UK
Departments of Endocrinology, University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham, UK

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Rachel K Crowley St. Vincent’s University Hospital and University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

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Summary

Context

Adrenal incidentalomas (AI) represent an increasingly common problem in modern endocrine practice. The diagnostic approach to AIs can be challenging and occasionally reveals surprising features. Here we describe two rare cases of complex adrenal lesions consisting of phaeochromocytomas with synchronous metastases from extra-adrenal primaries.

Case descriptions

Patient 1 – a 65-year-old gentleman with a newly diagnosed malignant melanoma was found to harbour an adrenal lesion with suspicious radiographic characteristics. Percutaneous adrenal biopsy was consistent with adrenocortical adenoma. After excision of the skin melanoma and regional lymphatic metastases, he was followed up without imaging. Three years later, he presented with abdominal discomfort and enlargement of his adrenal lesion, associated with high plasma metanephrines. Adrenalectomy revealed a mixed tumour consisting of a large phaeochromocytoma with an embedded melanoma metastasis in its core. Patient 2 – a 63-year-old lady with a history of NF-1-related phaeochromocytoma 20 years ago and previous breast cancer presented with a new adrenal lesion on the contralateral side. Plasma normetanephrine was markedly elevated. Elective adrenalectomy revealed an adrenal tumour consisting of chromaffin cells intermixed with breast carcinoma cells.

Conclusions

Adrenal incidentalomas require careful evaluation to exclude metastatic disease, especially in the context of a history of previous malignancy. Adrenal biopsy provides limited and potentially misleading information. Phaeochromocytomas are highly vascularised tumours that may function as a sieve, extracting and retaining irregularly shaped cancer cells, thereby yielding adrenal masses with intriguing dual pathology.

Learning points:

  • Adrenal incidentalomas require careful evaluation focused on exclusion of underlying hormone excess and malignant pathology.

  • Adrenal biopsy can be misleading and should only be considered in select cases.

  • Phaeochromocytomas harbouring intratumoural metastases from other, extra-adrenal primary malignancies represent rare pathological entities that highlight the complexities that can be presented by adrenal tumours.

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Catherine Alguire Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine and Research Center (CRCHUM), Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, Montreal, Québec, Canada

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Jessica Chbat Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine and Research Center (CRCHUM), Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, Montreal, Québec, Canada

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Isabelle Forest Department of Psychiatry, Centre hospitalier Pierre-Le Gardeur, Terrebonne, Québec, Canada

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Ariane Godbout Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine and Research Center (CRCHUM), Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, Montreal, Québec, Canada

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Isabelle Bourdeau Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine and Research Center (CRCHUM), Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, Montreal, Québec, Canada

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Summary

Pheochromocytoma is a rare tumor of the adrenal gland. It often presents with the classic triad of headache, palpitations and generalized sweating. Although not described as a typical symptom of pheochromocytoma, anxiety is the fourth most common symptom reported by patients suffering of pheochromocytoma. We report the case of a 64 year old man who had severe anxiety and panic disorder as presenting symptoms of pheochromocytoma. After 13 years of psychiatric follow-up, the patient was diagnosed with malignant pheochromocytoma. After surgical resection of his pheochromocytoma and his hepatic metastases, the major panic attacks completely disappeared, the anxiety symptoms improved significantly and the psychiatric medications were stopped except for a very low maintenance dose of venlafaxine. We found in our cohort of 160 patients with pheochromocytoma 2 others cases of apparently benign tumors with severe anxiety that resolved after pheochromocytoma resection. These cases highlight that pheochromocytoma should be included in the differential diagnosis of refractory anxiety disorder.

Learning points:

  • Anxiety and panic disorder may be the main presenting symptoms of pheochromocytoma.

  • The diagnosis of pheochromocytoma should be excluded in cases of long-term panic disorder refractory to medications since the anxiety may be secondary to a catecholamine-secreting tumor.

  • Surgical treatment of pheochromocytoma leads to significant improvement of anxiety disorders.

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Cheuk-Lik Wong Department of Medicine and Geriatrics, Caritas Medical Centre, Shamshuipo, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR

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Chun-Kit Fok Department of Medicine and Geriatrics, Caritas Medical Centre, Shamshuipo, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR

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Vicki Ho-Kee Tam Department of Medicine and Geriatrics, Caritas Medical Centre, Shamshuipo, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR

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Summary

We report a case of elderly Chinese lady with neurofibromatosis type-1 presenting with longstanding palpitation, paroxysmal hypertension and osteoporosis. Biochemical testing showed mild hypercalcaemia with non-suppressed parathyroid hormone level suggestive of primary hyperparathyroidism, and mildly elevated urinary fractionated normetanephrine and plasma-free normetanephrine pointing to a catecholamine-secreting pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma. Further scintigraphic investigation revealed evidence of a solitary parathyroid adenoma causing primary hyperparathyroidism and a left pheochromocytoma. Resection of the parathyroid adenoma and pheochromocytoma resulted in normalization of biochemical abnormalities and hypertension. The rare concurrence of primary hyperparathyroidism and pheochromocytoma in neurofibromatosis type-1 is discussed.

Learning points:

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Run Yu Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles, USA

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Danielle Sharaga Cancer Center of Santa Barbara with Sansum Clinic, Santa Barbara, California, USA

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Christopher Donner Sansum Clinic, Santa Barbara, California, USA

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M Fernando Palma Diaz Department of Pathology

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Masha J Livhits Section of Endocrine Surgery, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles, USA

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Michael W Yeh Section of Endocrine Surgery, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles, USA

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Summary

Pheochromocytomatosis, a very rare form of pheochromocytoma recurrence, refers to new, multiple, and often small pheochromocytomas growing in and around the surgical resection bed of a previous adrenalectomy for a solitary pheochromocytoma. We here report a case of pheochromocytomatosis in a 70-year-old female. At age 64 years, she was diagnosed with a 6-cm right pheochromocytoma. She underwent laparoscopic right adrenalectomy, during which the tumor capsule was ruptured. At age 67 years, CT of abdomen did not detect recurrence. At age 69 years, she began experiencing episodes of headache and diaphoresis. At age 70 years, biochemical markers of pheochromocytoma became elevated with normal calcitonin level. CT revealed multiple nodules of various sizes in the right adrenal fossa, some of which were positive on metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scan. She underwent open resection of pheochromocytomatosis. Histological examination confirmed numerous pheochromocytomas ranging 0.1–1.2 cm in size. Next-generation sequencing of a panel of genes found a novel heterozygous germline c.570delC mutation in TMEM127, one of the genes that, if mutated, confers susceptibility to syndromic pheochromocytoma. Molecular analysis showed that the c.570delC mutation is likely pathogenic. Our case highlights the typical presentation of pheochromocytomatosis, a rare complication of adrenalectomy for pheochromocytoma. Previous cases and ours collectively demonstrate that tumor capsule rupture during adrenalectomy is a risk factor for pheochromocytomatosis. We also report a novel TMEM127 mutation in this case.

Learning points:

  • Pheochromocytomatosis is a very rare form of pheochromocytoma recurrence.

  • Pheochromocytomatosis refers to new, multiple and often small pheochromocytomas growing in and around the surgical resection bed of a previous adrenalectomy for a solitary pheochromocytoma.

  • Tumor capsule rupture during adrenalectomy predisposes a patient to develop pheochromocytomatosis.

  • Surgical resection of the multiple tumors of pheochromocytomatosis is recommended.

  • Pheochromocytoma recurrence should prompt genetic testing for syndromic pheochromocytoma.

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Kohei Saitoh Departments of Diabetes and Endocrinology

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Takako Yonemoto Departments of Diabetes and Endocrinology
Medical Genetics, Shizuoka General Hospital, Shizuoka, Japan

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Takeshi Usui Medical Genetics, Shizuoka General Hospital, Shizuoka, Japan

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Kazuhiro Takekoshi Division of Sports Science, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan

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Makoto Suzuki Departments of Pathology

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Yoshiharu Nakashima Departments of Urology, Shizuoka General Hospital, Shizuoka, Japan

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Koji Yoshimura Departments of Urology, Shizuoka General Hospital, Shizuoka, Japan

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Rieko Kosugi Departments of Diabetes and Endocrinology

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Tatsuo Ogawa Departments of Diabetes and Endocrinology

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Tatsuhide Inoue Departments of Diabetes and Endocrinology

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Summary

Pheochromocytomas (PCCs) and paragangliomas (PGLs) are rare tumours with a heterogeneous genetic background. Up to 40% of apparently sporadic PCC/PGL cases carry 1 of the 12 gene germline mutations conferring genetic susceptibility to PCC/PGL. Although the precise mechanisms are unclear, TMEM127 is one of the rare responsible genes for PCC/PGL. Here we report the case of a patient with familial PCC having a novel TMEM127 variant (c.119C > T, p.S40F). In silico prediction analysis to evaluate the functional significance of this variant suggested that it is a disease-causing variant. A PCC on the left side was considered to be the dominant lesion, and unilateral adrenalectomy was performed. The histopathologic findings were consistent with benign PCC. A loss of heterogeneity of the TMEM127 variant was detected in the surgically removed tumour.

Learning points:

  • c.119C > T (p.S40F) is a novel TMEM127 variant that can cause pheochromocytoma.

  • The tumour showed loss of heterozygosity of this TMEM127 variant.

  • The clinical phenotype of this mutation is putative bilateral pheochromocytoma in the 4th decade.

  • Unilateral adrenalectomy may be performed as the initial surgery in such cases.

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Stephanie Teasdale
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Elham Reda Endocrinology, Gold Coast University Hospital, Southport, Queensland, Australia

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Summary

We present two cases of adrenal phaeochromocytoma in patients with a previous diagnosis of neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). One had an adrenergic phenotype. The other had a more noradrenergic phenotype. Both had large primary tumours, which increases the likelihood of malignancy. Both also had elevated plasma-free methoxytyramine, which has been linked with malignancy even in non-SDHB phaeochromocytomas.

Learning points

  • Phaeochromocytoma can have varied clinical presentations.

  • Methoxytyramine can be useful in the biochemical work-up of both SDHB-positive and SDHB-negative phaeochromocytoma.

  • The utility of methoxytyramine as a marker of malignancy in NF1-related phaeochromocytoma is unclear, and cases with elevated titres warrant longer follow-up.

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Omayma Elshafie Department of Medicine, Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

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Yahya Al Badaai Department of Surgery, Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

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Khalifa Alwahaibi Department of Surgery, Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

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Asim Qureshi Department of Pathology, Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

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Samir Hussein Department of Radiology, Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

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Faisal Al Azzri Department of Radiology, Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

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Ali Almamari Department of Medicine, Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

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Nicholas Woodhouse Department of Medicine, Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

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Summary

A 48-year-old hypertensive and diabetic patient presented with a 10-year history of progressive right facial pain, tinnitus, hearing loss, sweating, and palpitations. Investigations revealed a 5.6 cm vascular tumor at the carotid bifurcation. Her blood pressure (BP) was 170/110, on lisinopril 20 mg od and amlodipine 10 mg od and 100 U of insulin daily. A catecholamine-secreting carotid body paraganglioma (CSCBP) was suspected; the diagnosis was confirmed biochemically by determining plasma norepinephrine (NE) level, 89 000 pmol/l, and chromogranin A (CgA) level, 279 μg/l. Meta-iodobenzylguanidine and octreotide scanning confirmed a single tumor in the neck. A week after giving the patient a trial of octreotide 100 μg 8 h, the NE level dropped progressively from 50 000 to 25 000 pmol/l and CgA from 279 to 25 μg/l. Treatment was therefore continued with labetalol 200 mg twice daily (bid) and long-acting octreotide-LA initially using 40 mg/month and later increasing to 80 mg/month. On this dose and with a reduced labetalol intake of 100 mg bid, BP was maintained at 130/70 and her symptoms resolved completely. CgA levels returned to normal in the first week and these were maintained throughout the 3 month treatment period. During tumor resection, there were minimal BP fluctuations during the 10 h procedure. We conclude that short-term high-dose octreotide-LA might prove valuable in the preoperative management of catecholamine-secreting tumors. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report on the successful use of octreotide in a CSCBP.

Learning points

  • The value of octreotide scanning in the localization of extra-adrenal pheochromocytoma.

  • Control of catecholamine secretion using high-dose octreotide.

  • This is a report of a rare cause of secondary diabetes and hypertension.

Open access