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Open access

Osamah A Hakami, Julia Ioana, Shahzad Ahmad, Tommy Kyaw Tun, Seamus Sreenan and John H McDermott

Summary

Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have revolutionised cancer therapy and improved outcomes for patients with advanced disease. Pembrolizumab, a monoclonal antibody that acts as a programmed cell death 1 (PD-1(PDCD1)) inhibitor, has been approved for the treatment of advanced melanoma and other solid tumours. Immune-related adverse events (irAEs) including endocrinopathies have been well described with this and other PD-1 inhibitors. While hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, and less commonly hypophysitis, are the most common endocrinopathies occurring in patients treated with pembrolizumab, the incidence of type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) was low in clinical trials. We report a case of pembrolizumab-induced primary hypothyroidism and T1DM presenting with severe diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). A 52-year-old male patient was treated with pembrolizumab for metastatic melanoma. He presented to the emergency department with a 1-day history of nausea and vomiting 2 weeks after his seventh dose of pembrolizumab, having complained of polyuria and polydipsia for 2 months before presentation. He had been diagnosed with thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibody-negative hypothyroidism, requiring thyroxine replacement, shortly after his fifth dose. Testing revealed a severe DKA (pH: 6.99, glucose: 38.6 mmol/L, capillary ketones: 4.9 and anion gap: 34.7). He was treated in the intensive care unit as per the institutional protocol, and subsequently transitioned to subcutaneous basal-bolus insulin. After his diabetes and thyroid stabilised, pembrolizumab was recommenced to treat his advanced melanoma given his excellent response. This case highlights the importance of blood glucose monitoring as an integral part of cancer treatment protocols composed of pembrolizumab and other ICIs.

Learning points:

  • The incidence of T1DM with pembrolizumab treatment is being increasingly recognised and reported, and DKA is a common initial presentation.

  • Physicians should counsel patients about this potential irAE and educate them about the symptoms of hyperglycaemia and DKA.

  • The ESMO guidelines recommend regular monitoring of blood glucose in patients treated with ICIs, a recommendation needs to be incorporated into cancer treatment protocols for pembrolizumab and other ICIs in order to detect hyperglycaemia early and prevent DKA.

Open access

Bidhya Timilsina, Niranjan Tachamo, Prem Raj Parajuli and Ilan Gabriely

Summary

A 74-year-old woman presented with progressive lethargy, confusion, poor appetite and abdominal pain. She was found to have non-PTH-mediated severe hypercalcemia with renal failure and metabolic alkalosis. Extensive workup for hypercalcemia to rule out alternate etiology was unrevealing. Upon further questioning, she was taking excess calcium carbonate (Tums) for her worsening heartburn. She was diagnosed with milk-alkali syndrome (MAS). Her hypercalcemia and alkalosis recovered completely with aggressive hydration along with improvement in her renal function. High index of suspicion should be maintained and history of drug and supplements, especially calcium ingestion, should be routinely asked in patients presenting with hypercalcemia to timely diagnose MAS and prevent unnecessary tests and treatments.

Learning points:

  • Suspect milk-alkali syndrome in patients with hypercalcemia, metabolic alkalosis and renal failure, especially in context of ingestion of excess calcium-containing supplements.

  • Careful history of over-the-counter medications, supplements and diet is crucial to diagnose milk-alkali syndrome.

  • Milk-alkali syndrome may cause severe hypercalcemia in up to 25–30% of cases.

Open access

Ming Li Yee, Rosemary Wong, Mineesh Datta, Timothy Nicholas Fazio, Mina Mohammad Ebrahim, Elissa Claire Mcnamara, Gerard De Jong and Christopher Gilfillan

Summary

Mitochondrial diseases are rare, heterogeneous conditions affecting organs dependent on high aerobic metabolism. Presenting symptoms and signs vary depending on the mutation and mutant protein load. Diabetes mellitus is the most common endocrinopathy, and recognition of these patients is important due to its impact on management and screening of family members. In particular, glycemic management differs in these patients: the use of metformin is avoided because of the risk of lactic acidosis. We describe a patient who presented with gradual weight loss and an acute presentation of hyperglycemia complicated by the superior mesenteric artery syndrome. His maternal history of diabetes and deafness and a personal history of hearing impairment led to the diagnosis of a mitochondrial disorder.

Learning points:

  • The constellation of diabetes, multi-organ involvement and maternal inheritance should prompt consideration of a mitochondrial disorder.

  • Mitochondrial encephalomyopathy, lactic acidosis, stroke-like episodes (MELAS) and maternally inherited diabetes and deafness (MIDD) are the most common mitochondrial diabetes disorders caused by a mutation in m.3243A>G in 80% of cases.

  • Metformin should be avoided due to the risk of lactic acidosis.

  • There is more rapid progression to insulin therapy and higher prevalence of diabetic complications compared to type 2 diabetes.

  • Diagnosis of a mitochondrial disorder leads to family screening, education and surveillance for future complications.

  • Superior mesenteric artery syndrome, an uncommon but important cause of intestinal pseudo-obstruction in cases of significant weight loss, has been reported in MELAS patients.

Open access

Philip D Oddie, Benjamin B Albert, Paul L Hofman, Craig Jefferies, Stephen Laughton and Philippa J Carter

Summary

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) during childhood is a rare malignant tumor that frequently results in glucocorticoid and/or androgen excess. When there are signs of microscopic or macroscopic residual disease, adjuvant therapy is recommended with mitotane, an adrenolytic and cytotoxic drug. In addition to the anticipated side effect of adrenal insufficiency, mitotane is known to cause gynecomastia and hypothyroidism in adults. It has never been reported to cause precocious puberty. A 4-year-old girl presented with a 6-week history of virilization and elevated androgen levels and 1-year advancement in bone age. Imaging revealed a right adrenal mass, which was subsequently surgically excised. Histology revealed ACC with multiple unfavorable features, including high mitotic index, capsular invasion and atypical mitoses. Adjuvant chemotherapy was started with mitotane, cisplatin, etoposide and doxorubicin. She experienced severe gastrointestinal side effects and symptomatic adrenal insufficiency, which occurred despite physiological-dose corticosteroid replacement. She also developed hypothyroidism that responded to treatment with levothyroxine and peripheral precocious puberty (PPP) with progressive breast development and rapidly advancing bone age. Five months after discontinuing mitotane, her adrenal insufficiency persisted and she developed secondary central precocious puberty (CPP). This case demonstrates the diverse endocrine complications associated with mitotane therapy, which contrast with the presentation of ACC itself. It also provides the first evidence that the known estrogenic effect of mitotane can manifest as PPP.

Learning points:

  • Adrenocortical carcinoma is an important differential diagnosis for virilization in young children

  • Mitotane is a chemotherapeutic agent that is used to treat adrenocortical carcinoma and causes adrenal necrosis

  • Mitotane is an endocrine disruptor. In addition to the intended effect of adrenal insufficiency, it can cause hypothyroidism, with gynecomastia also reported in adults.

  • Patients taking mitotane require very high doses of hydrocortisone replacement therapy because mitotane interferes with steroid metabolism. This effect persists after mitotane therapy is completed

  • In our case, mitotane caused peripheral precocious puberty, possibly through its estrogenic effect.

Open access

Gordon Sloan, Tania Kakoudaki and Nishant Ranjan

Summary

We report a case of a 63-year-old man who developed diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) associated with canagliflozin, a sodium glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT-2) inhibitor. He presented acutely unwell with a silent myocardial infarction, diverticulitis and DKA with a minimally raised blood glucose level. Standard therapy for DKA was initiated. Despite this, ketonaemia persisted for a total of 12 days after discontinuation of canagliflozin. Glucosuria lasting for several days despite discontinuation of the medications is a recognised phenomenon. However, this is the longest duration of ketonaemia to be reported. The cause of prolonged SGLT-2 inhibition remains uncertain. Deviation from the normal DKA treatment protocol and use of personalised regimens may be required in order to prevent relapse into ketoacidosis while avoiding hypoglycaemia in those that develop this condition.

Learning points:

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) may develop in the presence of lower-than-expected blood glucose levels in patients treated with a sodium glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT-2) inhibitor.

  • Certain individuals prescribed with SGLT-2 inhibitors may be more at risk of DKA, for example, those with a low beta cell function reserve, excessive alcohol consumption and a low carbohydrate diet.

  • In order to reduce the risk of SGLT-2 inhibitor-associated DKA, all patients must be carefully selected before prescription of the medication and appropriately educated.

  • Increased serum ketone levels and glucosuria have been reported to persist for several days despite discontinuation of their SGLT-2 inhibitor.

  • Physicians should consider individualised treatment regimens for subjects with prolonged DKA in the presence of SGLT-2 inhibition.

Open access

Charlotte Boughton, David Taylor, Lea Ghataore, Norman Taylor and Benjamin C Whitelaw

Summary

We describe severe hypokalaemia and hypertension due to a mineralocorticoid effect in a patient with myelodysplastic syndrome taking posaconazole as antifungal prophylaxis. Two distinct mechanisms due to posaconazole are identified: inhibition of 11β hydroxylase leading to the accumulation of the mineralocorticoid hormone 11-deoxycorticosterone (DOC) and secondly, inhibition of 11β hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 (11βHSD2), as demonstrated by an elevated serum cortisol-to-cortisone ratio. The effects were ameliorated by spironolactone. We also suggest that posaconazole may cause cortisol insufficiency. Patients taking posaconazole should therefore be monitored for hypokalaemia, hypertension and symptoms of hypocortisolaemia, at the onset of treatment and on a monthly basis. Treatment with mineralocorticoid antagonists (spironolactone or eplerenone), supplementation of glucocorticoids (e.g. hydrocortisone) or dose reduction or cessation of posaconazole should all be considered as management strategies.

Learning points:

  • Combined hypertension and hypokalaemia are suggestive of mineralocorticoid excess; further investigation is appropriate.

  • If serum aldosterone is suppressed, then further investigation to assess for an alternative mineralocorticoid is appropriate, potentially using urine steroid profiling and/or serum steroid panelling.

  • Posaconazole can cause both hypokalaemia and hypertension, and we propose that this is due to two mechanisms – both 11β hydroxylase inhibition and 11β HSD2 inhibition.

  • Posaconazole treatment may lead to cortisol insufficiency, which may require treatment; however, in this clinical case, the effect was mild.

  • First-line treatment of this presentation would likely be use of a mineralocorticoid antagonist.

  • Patients taking posaconazole should be monitored for hypertension and hypokalaemia on initiation and monthly thereafter.

Open access

Tess Jacob, Renee Garrick and Michael D Goldberg

Summary

Metformin is recommended as the first-line agent for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Although this drug has a generally good safety profile, rare but potentially serious adverse effects may occur. Metformin-associated lactic acidosis, although very uncommon, carries a significant risk of mortality. The relationship between metformin accumulation and lactic acidosis is complex and is affected by the presence of comorbid conditions such as renal and hepatic disease. Plasma metformin levels do not reliably correlate with the severity of lactic acidosis. We present a case of inadvertent metformin overdose in a patient with both renal failure and hepatic cirrhosis, leading to two episodes of lactic acidosis and hypoglycemia. The patient was successfully treated with hemodialysis both times and did not develop any further lactic acidosis or hypoglycemia, after the identification of metformin tablets accidentally mixed in with his supply of sevelamer tablets. Early initiation of renal replacement therapy is key in decreasing lactic acidosis-associated mortality.

Learning points:

  • When a toxic ingestion is suspected, direct visualization of the patient’s pills is advised in order to rule out the possibility of patient- or pharmacist-related medication errors.

  • Though sending a specimen for determination of the plasma metformin concentration is important when a metformin-treated patient with diabetes presents with lactic acidosis, complex relationships exist between metformin accumulation, hyperlactatemia and acidosis, and the drug may not always be the precipitating factor.

  • Intermittent hemodialysis is recommended as the first-line treatment for metformin-associated lactic acidosis (MALA).

  • An investigational delayed-release form of metformin with reduced systemic absorption may carry a lower risk for MALA in patients with renal insufficiency, in whom metformin therapy may presently be contraindicated.

Open access

Hodaka Yamada, Shunsuke Funazaki, Masafumi Kakei, Kazuo Hara and San-e Ishikawa

Summary

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a critical complication of type 1 diabetes associated with water and electrolyte disorders. Here, we report a case of DKA with extreme hyperkalemia (9.0 mEq/L) in a patient with type 1 diabetes on hemodialysis. He had a left frontal cerebral infarction resulting in inability to manage his continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion pump. Electrocardiography showed typical changes of hyperkalemia, including absent P waves, prolonged QRS interval and tented T waves. There was no evidence of total body water deficit. After starting insulin and rapid hemodialysis, the serum potassium level was normalized. Although DKA may present with hypokalemia, rapid hemodialysis may be necessary to resolve severe hyperkalemia in a patient with renal failure.

Learning points:

  • Patients with type 1 diabetes on hemodialysis may develop ketoacidosis because of discontinuation of insulin treatment.

  • Patients on hemodialysis who develop ketoacidosis may have hyperkalemia because of anuria.

  • Absolute insulin deficit alters potassium distribution between the intracellular and extracellular space, and anuria abolishes urinary excretion of potassium.

  • Rapid hemodialysis along with intensive insulin therapy can improve hyperkalemia, while fluid infusions may worsen heart failure in patients with ketoacidosis who routinely require hemodialysis.

Open access

Gordon Sloan, Amjad Ali and Jonathan Webster

Summary

Ketoacidosis occurring during lactation has been described infrequently. The condition is incompletely understood, but it appears to be associated with a combination of increased metabolic demands during lactation, reduction in carbohydrate intake and acute illness. We present a case of a 27-year-old woman, 8 weeks post-partum, who was exclusively breastfeeding her child whilst following a low carbohydrate diet. She developed gastroenteritis and was unable to tolerate an oral diet for several days. She presented with severe metabolic acidosis on admission with a blood 3-hydroxybutyrate of 5.4 mmol/L. She was treated with intravenous dextrose and intravenous sodium bicarbonate, and given dietary advice to increase her carbohydrate intake. She made a rapid and full recovery. We provide a summary of the common causes of ketoacidosis and compare our case with other presentations of lactation ketoacidosis.

Learning points:

  • Ketoacidosis in the lactating woman is a rare cause of raised anion gap metabolic acidosis.

  • Low carbohydrate intake, starvation, intercurrent illness or a combination of these factors could put breastfeeding women at risk of ketoacidosis.

  • Ketoacidosis in the lactating woman has been shown to resolve rapidly with sufficient carbohydrate intake and intravenous dextrose.

  • Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are essential because the condition is reported to be reversible with a low chance of recurrence with appropriate dietary advice.

Open access

A Majid and B J Wheeler

Summary

In clinical practice, seizures independent of hypoglycemia are observed in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) more frequently than expected by chance, suggesting a link. However, seizures during management of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) have generally been considered a bad prognostic factor, and usually associated with well-known biochemical or neurological complications. We present the case of a 17-year-old girl with known T1DM managed for severe DKA complicated by hypocapnic seizure. We review the literature on this rare occurrence as well as outline other possible differentials to consider when faced with the alarming combination of DKA and seizure.

Learning points:

  • Seizures during DKA treatment require immediate management as well as evaluation to determine their underlying cause.

  • Their etiology is varied, but a lowered seizure threshold, electrolyte disturbances and serious neurological complications of DKA such as cerebral edema must all be considered.

  • Sudden severe hypocapnia may represent a rare contributor to seizure during the treatment of DKA.