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Open access

Yoko Olmedilla, Shoaib Khan, Victoria Young, Robin Joseph, Simon Cudlip, Olaf Ansgorge, Ashley Grossman and Aparna Pal

Summary

A 21 year-old woman was found to have a pituitary macroadenoma following an episode of haemophilus meningitis. Biochemical TSH and GH excess was noted, although with no clear clinical correlates. She was treated with a somatostatin analogue (SSA), which restored the euthyroid state and controlled GH hypersecretion, but she re-presented with a further episode of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak and recurrent meningitis. Histology following transsphenoidal adenomectomy revealed a Pit-1 lineage plurihormonal adenoma expressing GH, TSH and PRL. Such plurihormonal pituitary tumours are uncommon and even more unusual to present with spontaneous bacterial meningitis. The second episode of CSF leak and meningitis appears to have been due to SSA therapy-induced tumour shrinkage, which is not a well-described phenomenon in the literature for this type of tumour.

Learning points:

  • Pit-1 lineage GH/TSH/PRL-expressing plurihormonal pituitary adenomas are uncommon. Moreover, this case is unique as the patient first presented with bacterial meningitis.

  • Inmunohistochemical plurihormonality of pituitary adenomas does not necessarily correlate with biochemical and clinical features of hormonal hypersecretion.

  • Given that plurihormonal Pit-1 lineage adenomas may behave more aggressively than classical pituitary adenomas, accurate pathological characterization of these tumours has an increasing prognostic relevance.

  • Although unusual, a CSF leak and meningitis may be precipitated by SSA therapy of a pituitary macroadenoma via tumour shrinkage.

Open access

Pedro Marques, Kavinga Gunawardana and Ashley Grossman

Summary

Gestational diabetes insipidus (DI) is a rare complication of pregnancy, usually developing in the third trimester and remitting spontaneously 4–6 weeks post-partum. It is mainly caused by excessive vasopressinase activity, an enzyme expressed by placental trophoblasts which metabolises arginine vasopressin (AVP). Its diagnosis is challenging, and the treatment requires desmopressin. A 38-year-old Chinese woman was referred in the 37th week of her first single-gestation due to polyuria, nocturia and polydipsia. She was known to have gestational diabetes mellitus diagnosed in the second trimester, well-controlled with diet. Her medical history was unremarkable. Physical examination demonstrated decreased skin turgor; her blood pressure was 102/63 mmHg, heart rate 78 beats/min and weight 53 kg (BMI 22.6 kg/m2). Laboratory data revealed low urine osmolality 89 mOsmol/kg (350–1000), serum osmolality 293 mOsmol/kg (278–295), serum sodium 144 mmol/l (135–145), potassium 4.1 mmol/l (3.5–5.0), urea 2.2 mmol/l (2.5–6.7), glucose 3.5 mmol/l and HbA1c 5.3%. Bilirubin, alanine transaminase, alkaline phosphatase and full blood count were normal. The patient was started on desmopressin with improvement in her symptoms, and normalisation of serum and urine osmolality (280 and 310 mOsmol/kg respectively). A fetus was delivered at the 39th week without major problems. After delivery, desmopressin was stopped and she had no further evidence of polyuria, polydipsia or nocturia. Her sodium, serum/urine osmolality at 12-weeks post-partum were normal. A pituitary magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed the neurohypophyseal T1-bright spot situated ectopically, with a normal adenohypophysis and infundibulum. She remains clinically well, currently breastfeeding, and off all medication. This case illustrates some challenges in the diagnosis and management of transient gestational DI.

Learning points

  • Gestational DI is a rare complication of pregnancy occurring in two to four out of 100 000 pregnancies. It usually develops at the end of the second or third trimester of pregnancy and remits spontaneously 4–6 weeks after delivery.

  • Gestational DI occurrence is related to excessive vasopressinase activity, an enzyme expressed by placental trophoblasts during pregnancy, which metabolises AVP. Its activity is proportional to the placental weight, explaining the higher vasopressinase activity in third trimester or in multiple pregnancies.

  • Vasopressinase is metabolised by the liver, which most likely explains its higher concentrations in pregnant women with hepatic dysfunction, such acute fatty liver of pregnancy, HELLP syndrome, hepatitis and cirrhosis. Therefore, it is important to assess liver function in patients with gestational DI, and to be aware of the risk of DI in pregnant women with liver disease.

  • Serum and urine osmolality are essential for the diagnosis, but other tests such as serum sodium, glucose, urea, creatinine, liver function may be informative. The water deprivation test is normally not recommended during pregnancy because it may lead to significant dehydration, but a pituitary MRI should be performed at some point to exclude lesions in the hypothalamo-pituitary region.

  • These patients should be monitored for vital signs, fluid balance, body weight, fetal status, renal and liver function, and treated with desmopressin. The recommended doses are similar or slightly higher than those recommended for central DI in non-pregnant women, and should be titrated individually.

Open access

Caterina Policola, Victoria Stokes, Niki Karavitaki and Ashley Grossman

Summary

Opiate drugs such as morphine are in extensive use for pain relief and palliation. It is well established that these drugs can cause changes in endocrine function, but such effects are not always sufficiently appreciated in clinical practice, especially in relation to the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis. Herein, we report on an 18-year-old man who was diagnosed with a slipped left femoral epiphysis following a long history of pain in his leg. On examination, he was thought to look relatively young for his age and therefore the orthopaedic surgeons arranged an endocrine assessment, which showed an undetectable concentration of serum cortisol and a suppressed concentration of testosterone; therefore, he was referred urgently with a diagnosis of hypopituitarism. We elicited a history that he had been treated with opiate analgesics for 3 days at the time of his original blood tests. Full endocrine assessment including a short Synacthen test revealed that he now had normal adrenal and pituitary function. We conclude that his morphine therapy had caused profound suppression of his HPA and pituitary–gonadal axes and suggest that clinicians should be aware of these significant changes in patients on even short-term opiate therapy.

Learning points

  • Therapy with opiates is the standard therapy for severe acute and chronic pain.

  • Such drugs cause profound changes in endocrine function.

  • Importantly, opiates suppress the HPA axis at a central level.

  • Short-term therapy with morphine could be the cause of biochemical adrenocortical insufficiency.

  • Morphine and related drugs also suppress the pituitary–gonadal axis.

  • After discontinuation of therapy with such drugs, adrenal function improves.

Open access

Kirun Gunganah, Ashley Grossman and Maralyn Druce

Summary

A 22-year-old female student presented with a history of recurrent pancreatitis. The commonest causes of pancreatitis, including drugs, gallstones, corticosteroids, excess alcohol and hypertriglyceridaemia, were excluded. She was found to have an elevated serum calcium level that was considered to be the cause of her pancreatitis, with a detectable serum parathyroid hormone (PTH). An initial diagnosis of primary hyperparathyroidism was made. However, two neck explorations failed to reveal a parathyroid adenoma. She was referred to our unit three years later as her episodes of pancreatitis were becoming more frequent and her calcium level remained persistently elevated. Her investigations were as follows: elevated adjusted calcium level of 2.79 mmol/l (2.2–2.58), PTH level of 4.2 pmol/l (0.6–6.0), low 24 h urine calcium of 0.3 mmol/l and a urine calcium:creatinine ratio of <0.003. A clinical diagnosis of familial hypocalciuric hypercalcaemia (FHH) was made and confirmed on genetic testing that showed a c.1703 G>A mutation in the calcium-sensing receptor gene. Although the hypercalcaemia of FHH is usually without sequelae due to the generalised changes in calcium sensing, in the presence of this complication she was started on cinacalcet 30 mg daily. She had one further episode of pancreatitis with calcium levels ranging between 2.53 and 2.66 mmol/l. Her cinacalcet was gradually increased to 30 mg three times daily, maintaining her calcium levels in the range of 2.15–2.20 mmol/l. She has not had a further episode of pancreatitis for more than 2 years.

FHH is usually a benign condition with minimal complications from hypercalcaemia. Pancreatitis has been reported rarely, and no clear management strategy has been defined in these cases. Cinacalcet was successfully used in treating recurrent pancreatitis in a patient with FHH by maintaining calcium levels in the lower part of the reference range. Whether or not this is an effective long-term treatment remains yet to be seen.

Learning points

  • FHH is an important differential diagnosis for hypercalcaemia.

  • FHH can rarely cause pancreatitis.

  • No clear strategy is available to help in the management of patients with pancreatitis due to FHH.

  • Cinacalcet was effective in lowering serum calcium levels and reducing the frequency of pancreatitis in our patient with FHH.

Open access

Emilia Sbardella, George Farah, Ahmed Fathelrahman, Simon Cudlip, Olaf Ansorge, Niki Karavitaki and Ashley B Grossman

Summary

Pituitary adenomas are a common intracranial neoplasm, usually demonstrating a benign phenotype. They can be classified according to pathological, radiological or clinical behaviour as typical, atypical or carcinomas, invasive or noninvasive, and aggressive or nonaggressive. Prolactinomas account for 40–60% of all pituitary adenomas, with dopamine agonists representing the first-line treatment and surgery/radiotherapy reserved for drug intolerance/resistance or in neuro-ophthalmological emergencies. We present the case of a 62-year-old man with an apparently indolent prolactin-secreting macroadenoma managed with partial resection and initially showing a biochemical response to cabergoline. Five years later, the tumour became resistant to cabergoline, despite a substantial increase in dosage, showing rapid growth and causing worsening of vision. The patient then underwent two further transsphenoidal operations and continued on high-dose cabergoline; despite these interventions, the tumour continued enlarging and prolactin increased to 107 269 U/L. Histology of the third surgical specimen demonstrated features of aggressive behaviour (atypical adenoma with a high cell proliferation index) not present in the tumour removed at the first operation. Subsequently, he was referred for radiotherapy aiming to control tumour growth.

Learning points:

  • The development of secondary resistance to dopamine agonists (DAs) is a serious sign as it may be associated with de-differentiation of the prolactinoma and thus of aggressive or malignant transformation.

  • Significant de-differentiation of the adenoma documented on consecutive histologies suggests a possible transition to malignancy.

  • A combination of histological ‘alarm’ features associated with persistent growth and escape from DAs treatment in recurrent adenomas should alert clinicians and demands close follow-up.

  • A multidisciplinary approach by pathologists, endocrinologists and neurosurgeons is essential.

Open access

Stephanie Wei Ping Wong, Yew Wen Yap, Ram Prakash Narayanan, Mohammad Al-Jubouri, Ashley Grossman, Christina Daousi and Yahya Mahgoub

Summary

We report our experience on managing a case of florid Cushing’s disease with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) sepsis using intravenous etomidate in the intensive care unit of a UK district general hospital.

Learning points:

  • Severe Cushing’s syndrome is associated with high morbidity and mortality.

  • Etomidate is a safe and effective medical therapy to rapidly lower cortisol levels even in the context of severe sepsis and immunosuppression.

  • Etomidate should ideally be administered in an intensive care unit but is still feasible in a district general hospital.

  • During treatment with etomidate, accumulation of serum 11β-deoxycortisol (11DOC) levels can cross-react with laboratory cortisol measurement leading to falsely elevated serum cortisol levels. For this reason, serum cortisol measurement using a mass spectrometry assay should ideally be used to guide etomidate prescription.