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Open access

Michelle Maher, Federico Roncaroli, Nigel Mendoza, Karim Meeran, Natalie Canham, Monika Kosicka-Slawinska, Birgitta Bernhard, David Collier, Juliana Drummond, Kassiani Skordilis, Nicola Tufton, Anastasia Gontsarova, Niamh Martin, Márta Korbonits and Florian Wernig

Summary

Symptomatic pituitary adenomas occur with a prevalence of approximately 0.1% in the general population. It is estimated that 5% of pituitary adenomas occur in a familial setting, either in isolated or syndromic form. Recently, loss-of-function mutations in genes encoding succinate dehydrogenase subunits (SDHx) or MYC-associated factor X (MAX) have been found to predispose to pituitary adenomas in co-existence with paragangliomas or phaeochromocytomas. It is rare, however, for a familial SDHx mutation to manifest as an isolated pituitary adenoma. We present the case of a pituitary lactotroph adenoma in a patient with a heterozygous germline SDHB mutation, in the absence of concomitant neoplasms. Initially, the adenoma showed biochemical response but poor tumour shrinkage in response to cabergoline; therefore, transsphenoidal surgery was performed. Following initial clinical improvement, tumour recurrence was identified 15 months later. Interestingly, re-initiation of cabergoline proved successful and the lesion demonstrated both biochemical response and tumour shrinkage. Our patient’s SDHB mutation was identified when we realised that her father had a metastatic paraganglioma, prompting genetic testing. Re-inspection of the histopathological report of the prolactinoma confirmed cells with vacuolated cytoplasm. This histological feature is suggestive of an SDHx mutation and should prompt further screening for mutations by immunohistochemistry and/or genetic testing. Surprisingly, immunohistochemistry of this pituitary adenoma demonstrated normal SDHB expression, despite loss of SDHB expression in the patient’s father’s paraganglioma.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary adenomas may be the presenting and/or sole feature of SDHB mutation-related disease.

  • SDHx mutated pituitary adenomas may display clinically aggressive behaviour and demonstrate variable response to medical treatment.

  • Histological evidence of intracytoplasmic vacuoles in a pituitary adenoma might suggest an SDH-deficient tumour and should prompt further screening for SDHx mutations.

  • Immunohistochemistry may not always predict the presence of SDHx mutations.

Open access

Marlene Tarvainen, Satu Mäkelä, Jukka Mustonen and Pia Jaatinen

Summary

Puumala hantavirus (PUUV) infection causes nephropathia epidemica (NE), a relatively mild form of haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS). Hypophyseal haemorrhage and hypopituitarism have been described in case reports on patients with acute NE. Chronic hypopituitarism diagnosed months or years after the acute illness has also been reported, without any signs of a haemorrhagic aetiology. The mechanisms leading to the late-onset hormonal defects remain unknown. Here, we present a case of NE-associated autoimmune polyendocrinopathy and hypopituitarism presumably due to autoimmune hypophysitis. Thyroid peroxidase antibody seroconversion occurred between 6 and 12 months, and ovarian as well as glutamate decarboxylase antibodies were found 18 months after acute NE. Brain MRI revealed an atrophic adenohypophysis with a heterogeneous, low signal intensity compatible with a sequela of hypophysitis. The patient developed central (or mixed central and peripheral) hypothyroidism, hypogonadism and diabetes insipidus, all requiring hormonal replacement therapy. This case report suggests that late-onset hormonal defects after PUUV infection may develop by an autoimmune mechanism. This hypothesis needs to be confirmed by prospective studies with sufficient numbers of patients.

Learning points:

  • Pituitary haemorrhage resulting in hypopituitarism has been reported during acute HFRS caused by PUUV and other hantaviruses.

  • Central and peripheral hormone deficiencies developing months or years after HFRS have also been found, with an incidence higher than that in the general population. The pathogenesis of these late-onset hormonal defects remains unknown.

  • This case report suggests that the late-onset hypopituitarism and peripheral endocrine defects after HFRS could evolve via autoimmune mechanisms.

  • The sensitivity of current anti-pituitary antibody (APA) tests is low. A characteristic clinical course, together with typical brain MRI and endocrine findings may be sufficient for a non-invasive diagnosis of autoimmune hypophysitis, despite negative APAs.

Open access

Derick Adams and Philip A Kern

Summary

Pituitary abscess is a relatively uncommon cause of pituitary hormone deficiencies and/or a suprasellar mass. Risk factors for pituitary abscess include prior surgery, irradiation and/or pathology of the suprasellar region as well as underlying infections. We present the case of a 22-year-old female presenting with a spontaneous pituitary abscess in the absence of risk factors described previously. Her initial presentation included headache, bitemporal hemianopia, polyuria, polydipsia and amenorrhoea. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of her pituitary showed a suprasellar mass. As the patient did not have any risk factors for pituitary abscess or symptoms of infection, the diagnosis was not suspected preoperatively. She underwent transsphenoidal resection and purulent material was seen intraoperatively. Culture of the surgical specimen showed two species of alpha hemolytic Streptococcus, Staphylococcus capitis and Prevotella melaninogenica. Urine and blood cultures, dental radiographs and transthoracic echocardiogram failed to show any source of infection that could have caused the pituitary abscess. The patient was treated with 6weeks of oral metronidazole and intravenous vancomycin. After 6weeks of transsphenoidal resection and just after completion of antibiotic therapy, her headache and bitemporal hemianopsia resolved. However, nocturia and polydipsia from central diabetes insipidus and amenorrhoea from hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism persisted.

Learning points

  • Pituitary abscesses typically develop in patients who have other sources of infection or disruption of the normal suprasellar anatomy by either surgery, irradiation or pre-existing pathology; however, they can develop in the absence of known risk factors.

  • Patients with pituitary abscesses typically complain of headache, visual changes and symptoms of pituitary hormone deficiencies.

  • As other pituitary neoplasms present with similar clinical findings, the diagnosis of pituitary abscess is often not suspected until transsphenoidal resection is performed.

  • Prompt surgical and medical treatment of pituitary abscess is necessary, which typically results in improvement in headache and visual changes; however, pituitary hormone deficiencies are typically often permanent.

Open access

Nicole Maison, Esther Korpershoek, Graeme Eisenhofer, Mercedes Robledo, Ronald de Krijger and Felix Beuschlein

Summary

Pheochromocytomas (PCC) and paraganglioma (PGL) are rare neuroendocrine tumors arising from chromaffin cells of the neural crest. Mutations in the RET-proto-oncogene are associated with sporadic pheochromocytoma, familial or sporadic medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) and multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2. In the past, only few cases of pigmented PCCs, PGLs, and one case of pigmented MTC have been reported in the literature. Herein, we present the case of a 77-year old woman with a history of Tako-tsubo-cardiomyopathy and laboratory, as well as radiological, high suspicion of pheochromocytoma, who underwent left-sided adrenalectomy. The 3 cm tumor, which was located on the upper pole of the left adrenal, appeared highly pigmented with dark red to black color. Histologic examinations revealed highly pleomorphic cells with bizarre, huge hyperchromatic nuclei, that immunohistochemically were positive for chromogranin A and synaptophysin, focally positive for HMB45 and negative for melan A. These clinical and pathological features led to the diagnosis of the rare variant of a melanotic ‘black’ pheochromocytoma. In our case a somatic RET mutation in exon 16 (RET c.2753T>C, p.Met918Thy) was detected by targeted next generation sequencing. In summary, this case represents a rare variant of catecholamine-producing tumor with distinct histological features. A potential relationship between the phenotype, the cellular origin and the genetic alterations is discussed.

Learning points

  • Pheochromocytoma is a rare neuroendocrine tumor.

  • Pigmentation is seen in several types of tumors arising from the neural crest. The macroscopic black aspect can mislead to the diagnosis of a metastasis deriving from a malignant melanoma.

  • RET mutation are seen in catecholamine and non-catecholamine producing tumors of the same cellular origin.

Open access

W C Candy Sze, Joe McQuillan, P Nicholas Plowman, Niall MacDougall, Philip Blackburn, H Ian Sabin, Nadeem Ali and William M Drake

Summary

We report three patients who developed symptoms and signs of ocular neuromyotonia (ONM) 3–6 months after receiving gamma knife radiosurgery (GKS) for functioning pituitary tumours. All three patients were complex, requiring multi-modality therapy and all had received prior external irradiation to the sellar region. Although direct causality cannot be attributed, the timing of the development of the symptoms would suggest that the GKS played a contributory role in the development of this rare problem, which we suggest clinicians should be aware of as a potential complication.

Learning points

  • GKS can cause ONM, presenting as intermittent diplopia.

  • ONM can occur quite rapidly after treatment with GKS.

  • Treatment with carbamazepine is effective and improve patient's quality of life.

Open access

Sunita M C De Sousa, Peter Earls and Ann I McCormack

Summary

Pituitary hyperplasia (PH) occurs in heterogeneous settings and remains under-recognised. Increased awareness of this condition and its natural history should circumvent unnecessary trans-sphenoidal surgery. We performed an observational case series of patients referred to a single endocrinologist over a 3-year period. Four young women were identified with PH manifesting as diffuse, symmetrical pituitary enlargement near or touching the optic apparatus on MRI. The first woman presented with primary hypothyroidism and likely had thyrotroph hyperplasia given prompt resolution with thyroxine. The second and third women were diagnosed with pathological gonadotroph hyperplasia due to primary gonadal insufficiency, with histopathological confirmation including gonadal-deficiency cells in the third case where surgery could have been avoided. The fourth woman likely had idiopathic PH, though she had concomitant polycystic ovary syndrome which is a debated cause of PH. Patients suspected of PH should undergo comprehensive hormonal, radiological and sometimes ophthalmological evaluation. This is best conducted by a specialised multidisciplinary team with preference for treatment of underlying conditions and close monitoring over surgical intervention.

Learning points

  • Normal pituitary dimensions are influenced by age and gender with the greatest pituitary heights seen in young adults and perimenopausal women.

  • Pituitary enlargement may be seen in the settings of pregnancy, end-organ insufficiency with loss of negative feedback, and excess trophic hormone from the hypothalamus or neuroendocrine tumours.

  • PH may be caused or exacerbated by medications including oestrogen, GNRH analogues and antipsychotics.

  • Management involves identification of cases of idiopathic PH suitable for simple surveillance and reversal of pathological or iatrogenic causes where they exist.

  • Surgery should be avoided in PH as it rarely progresses.

Open access

Stephanie Teasdale, Fahid Hashem, Sarah Olson, Benjamin Ong and Warrick J Inder

Summary

A case of recurrent pituitary apoplexy is described in a 72-year-old man who initially presented with haemorrhage in a non-functioning pituitary adenoma. Five years later, he re-presented with a severe pituitary haemorrhage in an enlarging sellar mass invading both cavernous sinuses causing epistaxis and bilateral ocular paresis. Subsequent histology was consistent with a sellar malignant spindle and round cell neoplasm. Multiple pituitary tumours have previously been reported to coexist in the same individual, but to our knowledge this is the only case where two pathologically distinct pituitary neoplasms have sequentially arisen in a single patient. This case is also notable with respect to the progressive ocular paresis, including bilateral abducens nerve palsies, and the presentation with epistaxis.

Learning points

  • Ocular paresis in pituitary apoplexy can result from tumour infiltration of nerves, or by indirect compression via increased intrasellar pressure.

  • Epistaxis is a very rare presentation of a pituitary lesion.

  • Epistaxis more commonly occurs following trans-sphenoidal surgery, and can be delayed.

Open access

Jaya Sujatha Gopal-Kothandapani, Veejay Bagga, Stephen B Wharton, Daniel J Connolly, Saurabh Sinha and Paul J Dimitri

Summary

Xanthogranulomatous hypophysitis (XGH) is a very rare form of pituitary hypophysitis that may present both clinically and radiologically as a neoplastic lesion. It may either be primary with an autoimmune aetiology and can occur in isolation or as a part of autoimmune systemic disease or secondary as a reactive degenerative response to an epithelial lesion (e.g. craniopharyngioma (CP), Rathke's cleft cyst, germinoma and pituitary adenomas) or as a part of a multiorgan systemic involvement such as tuberculosis, sarcoidosis or granulomatosis. It may also present with a variation of symptoms in children and adults. Our case series compares the paediatric and adult presentations of XGH and the differential diagnoses considered in one child and two adult patients, highlighting the wide spectrum of this condition. Endocrine investigations suggested panhypopituitarism in all three patients and imaging revealed a suprasellar mass compressing the optic chiasm suggestive of CP or Rathke's cleft cyst in one patient and non-functioning pituitary macroadenoma in two patients. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) demonstrated mixed signal intensities on T1- and T2-weighted sequences. Following endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery, histological analysis revealed necrotic material with a xanthogranulomatous reaction confirming XGH in two patients and a necrobiotic granulomatous chronic inflammatory infiltrate with neutrophils in one patient, which is not typical of current descriptions of this disorder. This case series describes the wide spectrum of XGH disease that is yet to be defined. Mixed signal intensities on T1- and T2-weighted MRI sequences may indicate XGH and diagnosis is confirmed by histology. Histological variation may indicate an underlying systemic process.

Learning points

  • XGH is a rare form of pituitary hypophysitis with a wide clinical and histological spectrum and can mimic a neoplastic lesion.

  • XGH primarily presents with growth arrest in children and pubertal arrest in adolescents. In adults, the presentation may vary.

  • A combination of hypopituitarism and mixed signal intensity lesion on MRI is suggestive of XGH and should be considered in the differential diagnosis of sellar lesions.

  • Radical surgery is the treatment of choice and carries an excellent prognosis with no recurrence.

Open access

Roberto Salvatori, Adrian F Daly, Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, Albert Thiry and Albert Beckers

Summary

Heterozygous germline inactivating mutations in the aryl hydrocarbon receptor-interacting protein (AIP) gene lead to pituitary adenomas that most frequently present in the setting of familial isolated pituitary adenoma syndrome, usually as somatotropinomas and prolactinomas. More recently, they have been found in a significant percentage of young patients presenting with pituitary macroadenoma without any apparent family history. We describe the case of a 19-year-old man who presented with a gigantic somatotropinoma. His family history was negative. His peripheral DNA showed a heterozygous AIP mutation (p.I13N), while tumor tissue only had the mutated allele, showing loss of heterozygosity (LOH) and suggesting that the mutation caused the disease.

Learning points

  • AIP mutations may be observed in sporadic somatotrope adenomas occurring in young patients.

  • LOH is a strong indicator that an AIP variant is disease causing.

  • Somatotrope adenomas in carriers of AIP mutations are generally larger and more difficult to cure.

Open access

Viral Chikani, Duncan Lambie and Anthony Russell

Summary

Metastases to the pituitary gland are an uncommon complication of thyroid cancer. They resemble pituitary neoplasms posing a diagnostic challenge. We present a case of an aggressive non-radioiodine avid papillary thyroid cancer with recurrent pituitary metastases and a review of the literature. A 70-year-old woman with a history of papillary thyroid cancer and bony metastases presented with symptoms of hypoadrenalism and peripheral vision loss. Magnetic resonance imaging showed a large pituitary mass impinging on the optic chiasm. She underwent transsphenoidal resection followed by 131I ablation. Post-therapy scintigraphy showed no iodine uptake in the sellar region or bony metastases. Histology of the pituitary mass confirmed metastatic papillary thyroid cancer. Fifteen months later, she had a recurrence of pituitary metastases affecting her vision. This was resected and followed with external beam radiotherapy. Over 2 years, the pituitary metastases increased in size and required two further operations. Radioactive iodine was not considered due to poor response in the past. Progressively, she developed a left-sided III and IV cranial nerve palsy and permanent bitemporal hemianopia. There was a rapid decline in the patient's health with further imaging revealing new lung and bony metastases, and she eventually died 8 months later. To our knowledge, this is the first case of pituitary metastases from a radioiodine-resistant papillary thyroid cancer. Radioiodine-resistant metastatic thyroid cancer may exhibit rapid aggressive growth and remain poorly responsive to the currently available treatment.

Learning points

  • Differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) has an excellent prognosis with <5% of the cases presenting with distant metastases, usually to lung and bone.

  • Metastasis to the pituitary is a rare complication of DTC.

  • The diagnosis of pituitary insufficiency secondary to pituitary metastases from DTC may be delayed due to the non-specific systemic symptoms of underlying malignancy and TSH suppression therapy for thyroid cancer.

  • The imaging characteristics of metastases to the pituitary may be similar to non-functioning pituitary adenoma.

  • Radioiodine refractory metastatic thyroid cancer has significantly lower survival rates compared with radioactive iodine-avid metastases due to limited therapeutic options.