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Open access

Vasileios Chortis, Christine J H May, Kassiani Skordilis, John Ayuk, Wiebke Arlt, and Rachel K Crowley



Adrenal incidentalomas (AI) represent an increasingly common problem in modern endocrine practice. The diagnostic approach to AIs can be challenging and occasionally reveals surprising features. Here we describe two rare cases of complex adrenal lesions consisting of phaeochromocytomas with synchronous metastases from extra-adrenal primaries.

Case descriptions

Patient 1 – a 65-year-old gentleman with a newly diagnosed malignant melanoma was found to harbour an adrenal lesion with suspicious radiographic characteristics. Percutaneous adrenal biopsy was consistent with adrenocortical adenoma. After excision of the skin melanoma and regional lymphatic metastases, he was followed up without imaging. Three years later, he presented with abdominal discomfort and enlargement of his adrenal lesion, associated with high plasma metanephrines. Adrenalectomy revealed a mixed tumour consisting of a large phaeochromocytoma with an embedded melanoma metastasis in its core. Patient 2 – a 63-year-old lady with a history of NF-1-related phaeochromocytoma 20 years ago and previous breast cancer presented with a new adrenal lesion on the contralateral side. Plasma normetanephrine was markedly elevated. Elective adrenalectomy revealed an adrenal tumour consisting of chromaffin cells intermixed with breast carcinoma cells.


Adrenal incidentalomas require careful evaluation to exclude metastatic disease, especially in the context of a history of previous malignancy. Adrenal biopsy provides limited and potentially misleading information. Phaeochromocytomas are highly vascularised tumours that may function as a sieve, extracting and retaining irregularly shaped cancer cells, thereby yielding adrenal masses with intriguing dual pathology.

Learning points:

  • Adrenal incidentalomas require careful evaluation focused on exclusion of underlying hormone excess and malignant pathology.
  • Adrenal biopsy can be misleading and should only be considered in select cases.
  • Phaeochromocytomas harbouring intratumoural metastases from other, extra-adrenal primary malignancies represent rare pathological entities that highlight the complexities that can be presented by adrenal tumours.
Open access

Dalal Ali, Patrick Divilly, Ruth Prichard, Dermot O’Toole, Donal O’Shea, and Rachel K Crowley


Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) is a rare inherited endocrine disorder with a high rate of penetrance. The incidence of MEN1 is 1/30,000 in the general population; however, it is quite rare for a patient to present for medical attention with MEN1 for the first time in pregnancy. Primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) is one of the most common features of MEN1. The incidence of PHPT occurring in pregnancy is 1%. Despite advances in the medical, surgical and obstetric care over the years, management of this condition during pregnancy may be challenging. It can be difficult to identify pregnant women with PHPT requiring intervention and to monitor safely. Hypercalcemia can result in significant maternal and fetal adverse outcomes including: miscarriage, intrauterine growth restriction, preterm delivery, neonatal hypocalcaemia, pre-eclampsia and maternal nephrolithiasis. Herein, we present a case study of a lady with a strong family history of MEN1, who was biochemically proven to have PHPT and evidence of Zollinger Ellison Syndrome (ZE) on endoscopy. This patient delayed her assisted pregnancy plans for in vitro fertilization (IVF) until completion of the MEN1 workup; nevertheless, she spontaneously achieved an unplanned pregnancy. As a result, she required intervention with parathyroidectomy in the second trimester of her pregnancy as her calcium level continued to rise. This case study highlights the workup, follow up and management of MEN1 presenting with PHPT and ZE in pregnancy.

Learning points