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Open access

Catherine Alguire, Jessica Chbat, Isabelle Forest, Ariane Godbout and Isabelle Bourdeau

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.

Open access

Cheuk-Lik Wong, Chun-Kit Fok and Vicki Ho-Kee Tam

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:

  • All NF-1 patients who have symptoms suggestive of a pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma (PPGL), even remotely, should undergo biochemical testing.

  • The initial biochemical tests of choice for PPGL in NF-1 are either plasma-free metanephrines or urinary fractionated metanephrines. Any elevations of metanephrines should be carefully evaluated for the presence of PPGLs in NF-1 patients.

  • Primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) is described in subjects with NF-1. Due to the lack of epidemiological and functional studies, their association is yet to be substantiated. Meanwhile, PHPT may further exacerbate the metabolic bone defect in these patients and should be treated when present according to published guidelines.

  • Coexistence of PPGL and PHPT can occur in subjects with NF-1, mimicking multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2).

Open access

Annika Sjoeholm, Cassandra Li, Chaey Leem, Aiden Lee, Maria P Stack, Paul L Hofman and Benjamin J Wheeler

Summary

Phaeochromocytomas are a rare clinical entity, with dual hormone-secreting lesions particularly uncommon, seen in <1%. ACTH is the most common hormone co-produced, and is potentially lethal if not diagnosed. We present the case of a previously well 10-year-old boy, who presented acutely with a hypertensive crisis and was found to have a unilateral, non-syndromic phaeochromocytoma. Medical stabilization of his hypertension was challenging, and took 3 weeks to achieve, before proceeding to unilateral adrenalectomy. Post-operatively the child experienced severe fatigue and was subsequently confirmed to have adrenal insufficiency. He improved markedly with hydrocortisone replacement therapy, which is ongoing 6 months post-operatively. In retrospect this likely represents unrecognized, sub-clinical ACTH-dependent Cushing's syndrome secondary to an ACTH/or precursor dual-hormone secreting phaeochromocytoma. At follow-up, his hypertension had resolved, there was no biochemical evidence of recurrence of the phaeochromocytoma, and genetic analysis was indicative of a sporadic lesion.

Learning points

  • Dual hormone secreting phaeochromocytomas with ACTH/or a precursor may cause secondary adrenal insufficiency following surgical removal.

  • The concurrent features of Cushing's syndrome can be mild and easily overlooked presenting diagnostic and management pitfalls.

  • As concomitant syndromes of hormone excess are rare in phaeochromocytomas; the diagnosis requires a high index of suspicion.

  • Serial/diurnal cortisol levels, ACTH measurement +/− low dose dexamethasone suppression (when clinically stable, appropriate adrenergic blockade in place, and well supervised), can all be considered as needed.

Open access

Omayma Elshafie, Yahya Al Badaai, Khalifa Alwahaibi, Asim Qureshi, Samir Hussein, Faisal Al Azzri, Ali Almamari and Nicholas Woodhouse

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.