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Open access

R T Casey, B G Challis, D Pitfield, R M Mahroof, N Jamieson, C J Bhagra, A Vuylsteke, S J Pettit and K C Chatterjee

Summary

A phaeochromocytoma (PC) is a rare, catecholamine-secreting neuroendocrine tumour arising from the adrenal medulla. Presenting symptoms of this rare tumour are highly variable but life-threatening multiorgan dysfunction can occur secondary to catecholamine-induced hypertension or hypotension and subsequent cardiovascular collapse. High levels of circulating catecholamines can induce an acute stress cardiomyopathy, also known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Recent studies have focused on early diagnosis and estimation of the prevalence of acute stress cardiomyopathy in patients with PC, but very little is reported about management of these complex cases. Here, we report the case of a 38-year-old lady who presented with an acute Takotsubo or stress cardiomyopathy and catecholamine crisis, caused by an occult left-sided 5 cm PC. The initial presenting crisis manifested with symptoms of severe headache and abdominal pain, triggered by a respiratory tract infection. On admission to hospital, the patient rapidly deteriorated, developing respiratory failure, cardiogenic shock and subsequent cardiovascular collapse due to further exacerbation of the catecholamine crisis caused by a combination of opiates and intravenous corticosteroid. An echocardiogram revealed left ventricular apical hypokinesia and ballooning, with an estimated left ventricular ejection fraction of 10–15%. Herein, we outline the early stabilisation period, preoperative optimisation and intraoperative management, providing anecdotal guidance for the management of this rare life-threatening complication of PC.

Learning points:

  • A diagnosis of phaeochromocytoma should be considered in patients presenting with acute cardiomyopathy or cardiogenic shock without a clear ischaemic or valvular aetiology.

  • Catecholamine crisis is a life-threatening medical emergency that requires cross-disciplinary expertise and management to ensure the best clinical outcome.

  • After initial resuscitation, treatment of acute catecholamine-induced stress cardiomyopathy requires careful introduction of alpha-blockade followed by beta-blockade if necessary to manage β-receptor-mediated tachycardia.

  • Prolonged α-adrenergic receptor stimulation by high levels of circulating catecholamines precipitates arterial vasoconstriction and intravascular volume contraction, which can further exacerbate hypotension. Invasive pressure monitoring can aid management of intravascular volume in these complex patients.

Open access

Ismael Capel, Elisabet Tasa-Vinyals, Albert Cano-Palomares, Irene Bergés-Raso, Lara Albert, Mercedes Rigla and Assumpta Caixàs

Summary

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (TC) is an atypical, severe but reversible form of acute heart insufficiency. It typically presents with left ventricular failure, transient apical and mid-segments hypokinesis, absence of significant coronary stenosis and new electrographic abnormalities and/or elevation in serum cardiac enzymes. Although TC (‘broken heart syndrome’) has classically been associated with emotional trauma, evidence suggests that other precipitants might exist, including iatrogenic and thyroid-mediated forms. Thyroid disease is a relatively common comorbidity in TC patients. We report a case of TC in a postmenopausal female with no history of emotional trauma or other potential precipitant factors who was diagnosed with amiodarone-induced hyperthyroidism during her hospital stay. Though some case reports of thyroid-related TC exist, we are not aware of any other reported case of TC precipitated by amiodarone-induced hyperthyroidism.

Learning points:

  • TC is a relatively new, rare, transient, severe, but reversible cardiovascular condition that is characterized by an acute left ventricular cardiac failure, which can clinically, analytically and electrocardiographically mimic an acute myocardial infarction.

  • Many precipitant factors have been described in TC, being the most classical and emotional trauma. However, thyroid dysfunction is also a significant condition frequently found in patients with TC.

  • A hypercatecholaminergic state leading to cardiomyocyte damage has been established as the main fact of TC physiopathology. Hyperthyroidism induces an upregulation of β-adrenergic receptors.

  • Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism have been related with TC development. Most reported cases of TC involving thyroid dysfunction correspond to hyperthyroidism due to Graves–Basedow disease, but there are also descriptions with severe hypothyroidism, radioiodine treatment or thyroid surgery.

  • Amiodarone is a class III antiarrhythmic agent widely used, and it is a well-known cause of thyroid dysfunction, which can present either with hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, as approximately 40 percent of the amiodarone molecule is composed of iodine.

  • In this case, a type II amiodarone-induced hyperthyroidism was the precipitant factor of a TC in a patient with a pre-existing atrial fibrillation. Given the high prevalence of atrial fibrillation and the wide use of amiodarone, the risk of this iatrogenic effect should be taken into account.

Open access

Stephanie Teasdale and Elham Reda

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.