Crooke’s changes common in patients with Cushing’s syndrome, high cortisol production


Evidence of Crooke hyaline changes in the pituitary gland points to a higher likelihood of Cushing’s syndrome in adults, with the changes in basophil cells occurring in 75% to 80% of patients with the hormonal disorder, according to research in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

In a retrospective review of hospital patient records from adults with Cushing’s syndrome who underwent pituitary surgery, researchers also found that a higher degree of cortisol production, as well as exposure to excess glucocorticoids, are often associated with Crooke’s changes in adults.

“The presence of Crooke’s changes is a clear indication of the presence of Cushing’s syndrome, although the absence of Crooke’s changes does not exclude it,” the researchers wrote.

Edward H. Oldfield, MD, FACS, of the department of neurological surgery at University of Virginia Health System, and colleagues analyzed electronic hospital data from 213 consecutive patients with Cushing’s syndrome who received pituitary surgery between 2008 and March 2014. Researchers reviewed analysis of the normal pituitary tissue included with the specimens obtained at surgery, as well as cortisol production measured by 24-hour urine.

Within the cohort, Crooke’s changes occurred in 74% of patients; Crooke’s changes occurred in 81% of patients with an adrenocorticotropic hormone tumor.

Researchers also found that 91% of patients with an adrenocorticotropic hormone-producing tumor and a urinary free cortisol test at least fourfold the upper limit of normal had evidence of Crooke’s changes vs. 74% of patients with a urine cortisol amount that was less than fourfold the upper limit of normal (P = .008).

“Our results clearly demonstrate a correlation between the degree of cortisol production and the presence of Crooke’s changes,” the researchers wrote. “Patients with cortisol production exceeding fourfold upper limit almost all had Crooke’s changes.”

Researchers said study results indicate that the presence of Crooke’s changes may be used to indicate that a patient has Cushing’s syndrome following a pituitary surgery in which no tumor is found.

“However, the absence of Crooke’s changes does not reliably indicate the absence of Cushing’s syndrome, as 19% of patients with a proven [adrenocorticotropic hormone-producing tumor] did not have Crooke’s changes,” the researchers wrote. by Regina Schaffer

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.


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