Adrenal Venous Sampling Helps Surgical Decisions in Type of Cushing’s

Cushing’s syndrome patients with tumors on both adrenal glands — which sit on top of the kidneys — could undergo adrenal venous sampling, a procedure where blood samples are taken from both adrenal glands to determine which tumors to remove, researchers suggest.

Their study, “Outcomes of Adrenal Venous Sampling in Patients with Bilateral Adrenal Masses and ACTH-Independent Cushing’s Syndrome,” was published in the World Journal of Surgery. The work was a collaboration between SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse and the University of Pittsburgh.

Cushing’s syndrome, a condition characterized by excess cortisol, can be divided into two main subtypes. In some patients, the disease is dependent on tumors secreting the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which stimulates the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands. In others, adrenal tumors are solely responsible for excess cortisol and do not require ACTH for functioning.

ACTH-independent Cushing’s syndrome (AICS), the latter subtype, constitutes about 10% to 15% of endogenous — an overproduction of cortisol within the body — Cushing’s syndrome cases, with cortisol-secreting adenomas in just one gland (unilateral) being the most common cause.

Compared to unilateral adenomas, adrenal tumors in both glands (bilateral) in patients with AICS are difficult to diagnose. Disease management in these rare cases depends on the challenging determination of the lesion’s exact location and of the functional status of the benign tumors (if they are actively secreting cortisol).

Surgical removal of both adrenal glands, also known as bilateral adrenalectomy, “ensures cure of AICS, but leads to permanent corticosteroid dependence and a lifelong risk of adrenal crisis,” investigators explained. Therefore, screening for the presence of unilateral or bilateral adenomas is essential to avoid unnecessary surgery.

“Adrenal venous sampling (AVS) has been reported in a single institutional series … to aid in successful localization of cortisol-secreting adrenal adenomas in patients with bilateral adrenal masses and AICS,” researchers wrote.

Researchers retrospectively assessed the usefulness of AVS in guiding management of patients with bilateral adrenal masses plus AICS.

Nine women (age 51-73) with bilateral adrenal masses and AICS were included in the study. All subjects had undergone AVS at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center from 2008 to 2016. None of the patients had apparent symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome.

“Samples were obtained for testing of epinephrine [also called adrenaline] and cortisol from both [adrenal veins] and the external iliac vein. Multiple samples were obtained to ensure adequate sampling,” they wrote.

Adrenal glands produce cortisol and epinephrine, among other hormones, which are critical for maintaining good health. In AICS, there’s an overproduction of both hormones that’s independent on the release of ACTH, which is produced by the brain’s pituitary gland.

Successful adrenal venous sampling was achieved in eight women. “One patient with unsuccessful catheterization had [other additional diseases] and passed away from unrelated reasons,” researchers reported.

AVS results indicated that all patients had bilateral cortisol-secreting adenomas.

“Surgical management was strongly influenced by adrenal mass size. However, AVS may have influenced surgical decision-making in some cases, particularly when minimal difference in size was noted in adrenal mass sizes,” they reported.

Six women underwent adrenalectomy: three had the gland with larger size mass removed (unilateral type of surgery); two had both glands removed; and one had the right gland removed followed by the left one, five months later, due to continuous hormonal overproduction without experiencing symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome.

Evidence suggests that removal of the larger adrenal mass in patients with bilateral cortisol-secreting adenomas improves Cushing’s syndrome presentation.

In theory, unilateral adrenalectomy reduces cortisol production through the removal of the oversecreting mass. Because of this, unilateral adrenalectomy of the larger adrenal mass was chosen in half of this study’s surgical cases, instead of bilateral adrenalectomy.

Tissue analysis revealed multiple-lump masses, also known as macronodular adrenal hyperplasia (MAH), in all six surgical cases.

In addition, computed tomography (CT) scan findings were predictive of bilateral MAH, with scans showing evidence of one or multiple nodules on one or both adrenal glands.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the second study to evaluate the utility of AVS in guiding management of patients with bilateral adrenal masses and AICS,” investigators said.

The first study was by Young and included 10 patients with a more severe presentation of Cushing’s syndrome and other individual characteristics, which contributed to the differences in results, compared to the current study. In Young’s study, half the subjects had unilateral adrenal masses.

Patients with bilateral cortisol-secreting masses frequently have a milder form of Cushing’s syndrome, which corroborates researchers’ findings.

Despite suggesting that adrenal venous sampling is useful in excluding a unilateral adenoma as the cause of AICS, this study’s sample size is small.

“More data are needed before AVS can be advocated as essential for management of patients with bilateral adrenal masses and AICS,” researchers concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/10/02/adrenal-venous-sampling-helps-surgical-decisions-type-cushings-syndrome/?utm_source=Cushing%27s+Disease+News&utm_campaign=a990429aad-RSS_WEEKLY_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_ad0d802c5b-a990429aad-72451321

Pregnancy Could Be Linked to Onset of Cushing’s Symptoms

More than 25 percent of women with Cushing’s disease experienced their first symptoms within one year of giving birth, a small study by the Pacific Neuroscience Institute found.

The findings suggest a possible causal relationship between the biological stress of pregnancy and Cushing’s disease (CD), with more than a two-fold risk of women developing the disease within one year of pregnancy.

The study, “Pregnancy-associated Cushing’s disease? An exploratory retrospective study,” was published in the journal Pituitary.

Eighty percent of Cushing’s disease cases are women, and most are of reproductive age.

Levels of the body’s main stress hormone, cortisol, normally increase during pregnancy. In the last weeks before birth, cortisol levels are two to three times higher than normal, similar to Cushing’s disease.

Because cortisol levels gradually increase during pregnancy, a diagnosis of Cushing’s disease within the gestation period is problematic.

Circumstantial “evidence suggests a higher incidence of CD immediately following pregnancy, in the peripartum period [a few weeks after childbirth],” the study’s authors wrote.

To shed additional light on the matter, researchers retrospectively investigated the frequency of Cushing’s disease onset related to pregnancy.

A total of 64 women with biochemically-diagnosed Cushing’s disease and treated at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, from July 2007 to December 2017 were included in this study.

For the analysis, patients were divided into three groups:

  1. Women with pregnancy-associated CD: “defined as symptom-onset within 1 year of pregnancy that was explicitly linked to the pregnancy by the patient’s own recollection of her pregnancy and subsequent symptoms related to CD”;
  2. Women of reproductive age: “defined as age 15–45 years, in whom CD onset was not associated temporally with pregnancy within the past year”;
  3. Women not of reproductive age at the time of CD onset.

Results showed that 64 percent of the patients were of childbearing age at the time of diagnosis. Of these, 27 percent (11 women) had pregnancy-associated Cushing’s disease. This might be due to small, slow-growing or dormant corticotroph pituitary adenomas that were stimulated by pregnancy-related hormonal changes; however, this hypothesis was not confirmed by the researchers.

On average, patients in group 1 had two pregnancies prior to Cushing’s disease onset, compared to zero for 30 other women with disease onset during reproductive age. This suggests that undergoing the biological stress of pregnancy more than once could play a role in Cushing’s development.

“Another possible explanation of the association between CD and pregnancy is simply that patients are more likely to remember the onset of their CD symptoms in relation to a landmark life event such as pregnancy and childbirth, which leads to long-term physical changes in most women, irrespective of Cushing’s status,” the researchers noted.

In contrast, 19 of the 30 patients at reproductive age without pregnancy-associated disease had no pregnancies before being diagnosed, which weakens the association between pregnancy and Cushing’s and draws attention to various other factors that may also be involved in disease onset, apart from gestation-related hormonal changes.

The time from the onset of symptoms to diagnosis for women with pregnancy-related disease varied from two to six years.

“It was in fact weight gain or failure to lose weight post-pregnancy, which was the most frequent complaint and presentation in our patients with pregnancy-associated CD, and which often lead to an eventual diagnosis of CD,” the researchers stated.

“As such, appropriate biochemical testing may be indicated in women who 6–18 months after pregnancy, are still unable to lose the weight of pregnancy, continue to gain weight, have new, persistent or more [treatment-resistant] hypertension and diabetes mellitus, and/or other classical stigmata of CD,” they suggested.

All patients with biochemically-confirmed Cushing’s disease underwent surgery to remove pituitary adenoma. Sustained surgical remission rates for groups 1, 2, and 3 were 91%, 80%, and 83%, respectively.

“This possible association suggests a heightened degree of clinical suspicion and biochemical testing for CD may be warranted after childbirth. Further study of this possible link between pregnancy and CD is warranted,” the team concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/09/21/cushings-disease-symptoms-onset-pregnancy-could-be-linked-study-suggests/

8 medical conditions that could cause sudden weight gain

Weight gain can be associated with hormonal conditions, mood disorders, or other physiological factors. A sudden and unexplained weight gain could be your body’s way of signalling an underlying medical issue that needs to be addressed. For the sake of health and long-term well-being, it is important to differentiate between a few harmless extra kilos and a fluctuation that could be hiding a bigger problem. You can only be certain after consulting a healthcare practitioner.

If the weighing scale says your numbers are up but you haven’t changed your eating and exercise habits, you might consider any of the 8 medical conditions:

1.     Hypothyroidism The American Thyroid Association reveals that one in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime. Hypothyroidism refers to an underactive thyroid. The thyroid controls several body functions and your metabolism is one of them. If you’re not producing enough thyroid hormone your body can’t burn as much energy. Symptoms appear throughout your system. They include: weight gain, exhaustion, drier skin, thinner hair, bloating, muscle weakness, constantly feeling cold, and constipation. Once diagnosis is confirmed a doctor can prescribe an oral replacement for thyroid hormone that can relieve symptoms within weeks.

2.     Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) One in 10 women of childbearing age undergoes PCOS. It is an endocrine disorder characterised by an imbalance in the sex hormones oestrogen and testosterone.  This results in irregular periods, acne and even facial hair growth. The disorder also disrupts the way the body uses insulin — which is the hormone responsible for converting carbohydrates into energy. As a result the sugars and starches you consume are stored as fat instead of energy, thus, weight gain. PCOS has no cure but women who have it can manage their symptoms with lifestyle changes and medication. A doctor’s consultation will help you find an appropriate method.

3. Insomnia Avoid fake news! Subscribe to the Standard SMS service and receive factual, verified breaking news as it happens. Text the word ‘NEWS’ to 22840 Sleep deprivation can negatively impact both your metabolism and your hunger hormones. Sleeping too little increases ghrelin, the hormone that signals the body that it’s time to eat, while lowering leptin, the hormone that says you are full. The result: increased cravings and snacking to get more energy through the day. Insomnia increases impulsive eating. A 2018 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the right amount of sleep could mean consuming up to 10 fewer grams of sugar throughout the day.

4.     Tumours Weight gain around your belly as opposed to your lower body or other areas can be more dangerous to your health. Large pelvic area tumours like uterine or ovarian tumours can inflate the abdomen the way excess fat does. In some cases they can also be cancerous. In addition to weight gain, symptoms of ovarian or uterine tumours include vaginal bleeding, lower back pain, constipation and painful intercourse. But these signs are common for other conditions as well so it‘s worth confirming with a doctor to rule out any possible complications.

5. Peri menopause and menopause Perimenopause -the transition period to menopause can start as early as a woman’s mid-thirties, but usually starts in their forties. This period triggers hormones like oestrogen to rise and fall unevenly, which can cue weight gain in some women. Genetics are a good starting point on how your body experiences these changes, so it would be helpful to look into how it affected your mother and other older women in your family. Other signs of perimenopause are mood swings, irregular periods, hot flashes, and changes in libido. Age also contributes to loss of muscle mass and increase in body fat. An Ob-Gyn should be able to talk you through these changes and recommend management options.

6.     Mood disorders Depression and anxiety can result in fatigue, lack of focus and irritability. Some people cope with anxious or sad feelings by mindlessly munching on food they don’t really need. Additionally chronic stress throws your body into fight-or-flight mode, leading to a surge of adrenaline, as well as a heavy dose of the hormone cortisol –responsible for restoring energy reserves and storing fat.

7. Cushing syndrome Sometimes tumours on the pituitary or adrenal glands can contribute to a condition known as Cushing’s disease which is characterised by high levels of cortisol in the blood. Taking long term steroids could also result in this disease. Patients with Cushing syndrome will experience rapid weight gain in the face, abdomen and chest. They also display slender arms and legs compared to the heavy weight in the core of the body. Other symptoms include: high blood pressure, mood swings, osteoporosis, discoloured stretch marks, acne, and fragile skin. Depending on the cause, Cushing‘s disease can be treated in a different ways.

8. New medication Before starting on any new prescription medication, ask your doctor if weight gain is a possible side effect. Birth control pills may lead to weight gain depending on the brand, dosage, and the person’s hormonal levels. Psychiatric medications, especially for depression and bipolar disorder, have been known to cause weight gain, as they target the brain. Similarly, taking insulin to manage diabetes or medications that treat high blood pressure can also lead to extra kilos, so staying active and sticking to a strict meal plan can help you take insulin without unnecessarily weight gain.

Adapted from https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/lifestyle/article/2001297348/8-medical-conditions-that-could-cause-sudden-weight-gain

Bilateral Adrenalectomy Negatively Affects Quality of Life in Cushing’s Patients

Bilateral adrenalectomy, in which the adrenal glands are removed, has a bigger negative impact on the quality of life of patients with Cushing’s disease than other treatment options, a recent study suggests.

This may be due to the longer exposure to high levels of cortisol in these patients, which is known to greatly affect their quality of life, the authors hypothesize.

The study, “Bilateral adrenalectomy in Cushing’s disease: Altered long-term quality of life compared to other treatment options,” was published in the journal Annales d’Endocrinologie.

Cushing’s disease is caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland in the brain that secretes large amounts of adrenocorticotropic hormone, which, in turn, stimulates the adrenal glands to produce high levels of cortisol (a glucocorticoid hormone).

The gold standard for treating Cushing’s disease is the surgical removal of the pituitary gland tumor. However, 31% of these patients still require a second-line treatment — such as another surgery, radiotherapy, medical treatment, and/or bilateral adrenalectomy — due to persistent or recurrent disease.

Bilateral adrenalectomy is increasingly used to treat patients with Cushing’s disease, with high rates of success and low mortality rates. However, since the absence of adrenal glands leads to a sharp drop in cortisol, this treatment implies lifelong glucocorticoid replacement therapy and increases the risk of developing Nelson syndrome.

Nelson syndrome is characterized by the enlargement of the pituitary gland and the development of pituitary gland tumors, and is estimated to occur in 15-25% of Cushing’s patients who have a bilateral adrenalectomy.

Despite being cured with any of these treatment options, patients still seem to have a lower quality of life than healthy people. In addition, there is limited data on the impact of several of the treatment options on quality of life.

Researchers in France evaluated the long-term quality of life of Cushing’s disease patients who underwent bilateral adrenalectomy and compared it with other therapeutic options.

Quality of life was assessed through three questionnaires: one of general nature, the Short Form-36 Health Survey (SF-36); one on disease-specific symptoms, the Cushing QoL questionnaire; and the last focused on mental aspects, the Beck depression inventory (BDI).

Researchers analyzed the medical data, as well as the results of the questionnaires, of 34 patients with Cushing’s disease — 24 women and 10 men — at two French centers. The patients’ mean age was 49.3, and 17 had undergone bilateral adrenalectomy, while the remaining 17 had surgery, radiotherapy, or medical treatment.

Results showed that patients who underwent a bilateral adrenalectomy were exposed to high levels of cortisol significantly longer (6.1 years) than those on other treatment options (1.3 years). This corresponds with the fact that this surgery is conducted only in patients with severe disease that was not controlled with first-line and/or second-line treatment.

These patients also showed a lower quality of life — particularly in regards to the general health, bodily pain, vitality, and social functioning aspects of the SF-36 questionnaire, and the Cushing QoL questionnaire and BDI — compared with those who underwent other therapeutic options.

This and other studies support the hypothesis that these patients’ lower quality of life may be caused by longer exposure to high cortisol levels, and “its physical and psychological consequences, as well as the repeated treatment failures,” according to the researchers. Additionally, the presence of Nelson syndrome in these patients was associated with a significantly lower quality of life related to mental aspects.

The team also found that adrenal gland insufficiency was a major predictor of a lower quality of life in these patients, regardless of the therapeutic option, suggesting it may have a stronger negative impact than the type of treatment.

They noted, however, that additional and larger prospective studies are necessary to confirm these results.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/09/28/bilateral-adrenalectomy-lowers-cushing-patients-quality-life-study/

Fluconazole Found to Be Safe Alternative for Patient with Recurrent Cushing’s

Treatment with fluconazole after cabergoline eased symptoms and normalized cortisol levels in a patient with recurrent Cushing’s disease who failed to respond to ketoconazole, a case study reports.

The case report, “Fluconazole as a Safe and Effective Alternative to Ketoconazole in Controlling Hypercortisolism of Recurrent Cushing’s Disease: A Case Report,” was published in the International Journal of Endocrinology Metabolism.

Ketoconazole, (brand name Nizoral, among others) is an anti-fungal treatment used off-label for Cushing’s disease to prevent excess cortisol production, a distinct symptom of the disease. However, severe side effects associated with its use often result in treatment discontinuation and have led to its unavailability or restriction in many countries.

Consequently, there is a need for alternative medications that help manage disease activity and clinical symptoms without causing adverse reactions, and that could be given to patients who do not respond to ketoconazole treatment.

In this case report, researchers in Malaysia reported on a 50-year-old woman who fared well with fluconazole treatment after experiencing severe side effects with ketoconazole.

The woman had been in remission for 16 years after a transsphenoidal surgery — a minimally invasive brain surgery to remove a pituitary tumor — but went to the clinic with a three-year history of high blood pressure and gradual weight gain.

She also showed classic symptoms of Cushing’s disease: moon face, fragile skin that bruised easily, and purple stretch marks on her thighs.

Blood and urine analysis confirmed high cortisol levels, consistent with a relapse of the pituitary tumor. Accordingly, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of her brain showed the presence of a small tumor on the right side of the pituitary gland, confirming the diagnosis of recurrent Cushing’s disease.

Doctors performed another transsphenoidal surgery to remove the tumor, and a brain MRI then confirmed the success of the surgery. However, her blood and urine cortisol levels remained markedly high, indicating persistent disease activity.

The patient refused radiation therapy or adrenal gland removal surgery, and was thus prescribed ketoconazole twice daily for managing the disease. But after one month on ketoconazole, she experienced low cortisol levels.

Hydrocortisone — a synthetic cortisol hormone — was administered to maintain steady cortisol levels. However, she developed severe skin itching and peeling, which are known side effects of ketoconazole. She also suffered a brain bleeding episode, for which she had to have a craniotomy to remove the blood clot.

Since she experienced adverse effects on ketoconazole, which also hadn’t decreased her disease activity, the doctors switched her to cabergoline. Cabergoline (marketed as Dostinex, among others) is a dopamine receptor agonist that has been shown to be effective in managing Cushing’s disease.

But cabergoline treatment also did not lower the disease activity, and her symptoms persisted.

The doctors then added fluconazole (marketed as Diflucan, among others), an anti-fungal medication, based on studies that showed promising results in managing Cushing’s syndrome. Three months after the addition of fluconazole to her treatment plan, the patient’s clinical symptoms and cortisol levels had responded favorably.

At her next clinical visit 15 months later, her condition remained stable with no adverse events.

“This case demonstrates the long-term efficacy of fluconazole in tandem with cabergoline for the control of recurrent Cushing’s disease,” the researchers wrote.

The favorable outcome in this case also “supports the notion that fluconazole is a viable substitute for ketoconazole in the medical management of this rare but serious condition,” they concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/09/27/fluconazole-safe-effective-alternative-recurrent-cushings-patient-case-report/

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