Largest-ever analysis of its kind finds Cushing’s syndrome triples risk of death

WASHINGTON–Endogenous Cushing’s syndrome, a rare hormonal disorder, is associated with a threefold increase in death, primarily due to cardiovascular disease and infection, according to a study whose results will be presented at ENDO 2021, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting.

The research, according to the study authors, is the largest systematic review and meta-analysis to date of studies of endogenous (meaning “inside your body”) Cushing’s syndrome. Whereas Cushing’s syndrome most often results from external factors–taking cortisol-like medications such as prednisone–the endogenous type occurs when the body overproduces the hormone cortisol, affecting multiple bodily systems.

Accurate data on the mortality and specific causes of death in people with endogenous Cushing’s syndrome are lacking, said the study’s lead author, Padiporn Limumpornpetch, M.D., an endocrinologist from Prince of Songkla University, Thailand and Ph.D. student at the University of Leeds in Leeds, U.K. The study analyzed death data from more than 19,000 patients in 92 studies published through January 2021.

“Our results found that death rates have fallen since 2000 but are still unacceptably high,” Limumpornpetch said.

Cushing’s syndrome affects many parts of the body because cortisol responds to stress, maintains blood pressure and cardiovascular function, regulates blood sugar and keeps the immune system in check. The most common cause of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome is a tumor of the pituitary gland called Cushing’s disease, but another cause is a usually benign tumor of the adrenal glands called adrenal Cushing’s syndrome. All patients in this study had noncancerous tumors, according to Limumpornpetch.

Overall, the proportion of death from all study cohorts was 5 percent, the researchers reported. The standardized mortality ratio–the ratio of observed deaths in the study group to expected deaths in the general population matched by age and sex–was 3:1, indicating a threefold increase in deaths, she stated.

This mortality ratio was reportedly higher in patients with adrenal Cushing’s syndrome versus Cushing’s disease and in patients who had active disease versus those in remission. The standardized mortality ratio also was worse in patients with Cushing’s disease with larger tumors versus very small tumors (macroadenomas versus microadenomas).

On the positive side, mortality rates were lower after 2000 versus before then, which Limumpornpetch attributed to advances in diagnosis, operative techniques and medico-surgical care.

More than half of observed deaths were due to heart disease (24.7 percent), infections (14.4 percent), cerebrovascular diseases such as stroke or aneurysm (9.4 percent) or blood clots in a vein, known as thromboembolism (4.2 percent).

“The causes of death highlight the need for aggressive management of cardiovascular risk, prevention of thromboembolism and good infection control and emphasize the need to achieve disease remission, normalizing cortisol levels,” she said.

Surgery is the mainstay of initial treatment of Cushing’s syndrome. If an operation to remove the tumor fails to put the disease in remission, other treatments are available, such as medications.

Study co-author Victoria Nyaga, Ph.D., of the Belgian Cancer Centre in Brussels, Belgium, developed the Metapreg statistical analysis program used in this study.

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From https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/tes-lao031621.php

Patients on Steroids With COVID-19 Might Need Rescue Steroids

 

Endocrinologists have underlined the importance that physicians consider “a stress dose” of glucocorticoids in the event of severe COVID-19 infection in endocrine, and other, patients on long-term steroids.

 

People taking corticosteroids on a routine basis for a variety of underlying inflammatory conditions, such as asthma, allergies, and arthritis, are at elevated risk of being infected with, and adversely affected by, COVID-19.

 

This also applies to a rarer group of patients with adrenal insufficiency and uncontrolled Cushing syndrome, as well as secondary adrenal insufficiency occurring in hypopituitarism, who also rely on glucocorticoids for day-to-day living.

 

In the event of COVID-19, all of these individuals may be unable to mount a normal stress response, and “in the case of adrenal suppression…such patients may run into severe difficulties, particularly if on intensive care units,” warns Paul Stewart, MD, University of Leeds, UK, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

 

As such, it is vitally important to recognize that “Injectable supplemental glucocorticoid therapy in this setting can reverse the risk of potentially fatal adrenal failure and should be considered in every case,” Stewart and colleagues emphasize in a newly published editorial in JCEM.

 

They note this advice must be considered alongside World Health Organization (WHO) guidance against prescribing therapeutic glucocorticoids to treat complications of COVID-19, based on prior experience in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome, as well as those affected by severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

 

The key difference here is not to use pharmacologic doses of glucocorticoids as treatment for COVID-19 (where they have no effect), but rather to prevent death from adrenal failure by using “stress” doses of replacement glucocorticoid, Stewart explained to Medscape Medical News.

 

“No patient with a history of prior exposure to chronic glucocorticoid therapy (> 3 months)…should die without consideration” for a stress dose of replacement glucocorticoid therapy.

“The intent here is to ensure that no patient with a history of prior exposure to chronic glucocorticoid therapy (> 3 months) by whatever route should die without consideration for parenteral glucocorticoid therapy,” the editorialists write.

 

He advises using physiological stress doses of hydrocortisone (50-100 mg intravenously tid).

 

Specific Advice for Adrenal Insufficiency: Follow Sick Day Rules

 

separate statement by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) also emphasizes that it is particularly important for patients with adrenal insufficiency to follow advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or similar guidance on preventing COVID-19 infection, including social distancing and frequent hand washing.

 

Such patients should continue to take medications as prescribed and ensure they have appropriate supplies of oral and injectable steroids, ideally for 90 days, AACE advises.

And if there is a shortage of hydrocortisone, the statement advises patients ask a pharmacist or physician about replacement hydrocortisone with different doses that might be available.

Stewart agrees that patients with adrenal insufficiency need to be hypervigilant, but says that “if they do become ill, for the most part they are well counseled to respond appropriately to intercurrent infections.”

Nevertheless, it is “invaluable to reiterate ‘sick day rules'” for suspected COVID-19 infection.

“Any patient who develops a dry continuous cough and fever should immediately double their daily oral glucocorticoid dose and continue on this regimen until the fever has subsided.”

If a patient still deteriorates on this regimen, develops diarrhea or vomiting, or is unable to take oral glucocorticoids for other reasons, they should contact their physicians or seek urgent medical care to receive parenteral treatment with a glucocorticoid.

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. Published online March 31, 2020. Position statement

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From https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/928072?nlid=134869_3901&src=wnl_newsalrt_200404_MSCPEDIT&uac=295048SY&impID=2335560&faf=1&fbclid=IwAR1zZe6fqDS3tKuHUYoFpbvBMkQYJ4JN59RzC93xdzVcGGkJIz5bnmmE4LY

AACE Position Statement: Coronavirus (COVID-19) and People with Adrenal Insufficiency and Cushing’s Syndrome

With the novel COVID-19 virus continuing to spread, it is crucial to adhere to the advice from experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help reduce risk of infection for individuals and the population at large. This is particularly important for people with adrenal insufficiency and people with uncontrolled Cushing’s Syndrome.

Studies have reported that individuals with adrenal insufficiency have an increased rate of respiratory infection-related deaths, possibly due to impaired immune function. As such, people with adrenal insufficiency should observe the following recommendations:

  • Maintain social distancing to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19
  • Continue taking medications as prescribed
  • Ensure appropriate supplies for oral and injectable steroids at home, ideally a 90-day preparation
    • In the case of hydrocortisone shortages, ask your pharmacist and physician about replacement with different strengths of hydrocortisone tablets that might be available. Hydrocortisone (or brand name Cortef) tablets have 5 mg, 10 mg or 20 mg strength
  • In cases of acute illness, increase the hydrocortisone dose per instructions and call the physician’s office for more details
    • Follow sick day rules for increasing oral glucocorticoids or injectables per your physician’s recommendations
      • In general, patients should double their usual glucocorticoid dose in times of acute illness
      • In case of inability to take oral glucocorticoids, contact your physician for alternative medicines and regimens
  • If experiencing fever, cough, shortness of breath or other symptoms, call both the COVID-19 hotline (check your state government website for contact information) and your primary care physician or endocrinologist
  • Monitor symptoms and contact your physician immediately following signs of illness
  • Acquire a medical alert bracelet/necklace in case of an emergency

Individuals with uncontrolled Cushing’s Syndrome of any origin are at higher risk of infection in general. Although information on people with Cushing’s Syndrome and COVID-19 is scarce, given the rarity of the condition, those with Cushing’s Syndrome should strictly adhere to CDC recommendations:

  • Maintain social distancing to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19
  • If experiencing fever, cough, shortness of breath or other symptoms, call both the COVID-19 hotline (check your state government website for contact information) and your primary care physician or endocrinologist

In addition, people with either condition should continue to follow the general guidelines at these times:

  • Stay home as much as possible to reduce your risk of being exposed
    • When you do go out in public, avoid crowds and limit close contact with others
    • Avoid non-essential travel
  • Wash your hands with soap and water regularly, for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating or drinking and after using the restroom and blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing with a tissue or a flexed elbow, then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose when possible

From https://www.aace.com/recent-news-and-updates/aace-position-statement-coronavirus-covid-19-and-people-adrenal

Metoclopramide Can Mask Adrenal Insufficiency After Gland Removal in BMAH Patients

Metoclopramide, a gastrointestinal medicine, can increase cortisol levels after unilateral adrenalectomy — the surgical removal of one adrenal gland — and conceal adrenal insufficiency in bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia (BMAH) patients, a case report suggests.

The study, “Retention of aberrant cortisol secretion in a patient with bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia after unilateral adrenalectomy,” was published in Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management.

BMAH is a subtype of adrenal Cushing’s syndrome, characterized by the formation of nodules and enlargement of both adrenal glands.

In this condition, the production of cortisol does not depend on adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation, as usually is the case. Instead, cortisol production is triggered by a variety of stimuli, such as maintaining an upright posture, eating mixed meals — those that contain fats, proteins, and carbohydrates — or exposure to certain substances.

A possible treatment for this condition is unilateral adrenalectomy. However, after the procedure, some patients cannot produce adequate amounts of cortisol. That makes it important for clinicians to closely monitor the changes in cortisol levels after surgery.

Metoclopramide, a medicine that alleviates gastrointestinal symptoms and is often used during the postoperative period, has been reported to increase the cortisol levels of BMAH patients. However, the effects of metoclopramide on BMAH patients who underwent unilateral adrenalectomy are not clear.

Researchers in Japan described the case of a 61-year-old postmenopausal woman whose levels of cortisol remained high after surgery due to metoclopramide ingestion.

The patient was first examined because she had experienced high blood pressure, abnormal lipid levels in the blood, and osteoporosis for ten years. She also was pre-obese.

She was given medication to control blood pressure with no results. The lab tests showed high serum cortisol and undetectable levels of ACTH, suggesting adrenal Cushing’s syndrome.

Patients who have increased cortisol levels, but low levels of ACTH, often have poor communication between the hypothalamus, the pituitary, and the adrenal glands. These three glands — together known as the HPA axis — control the levels of cortisol in healthy people.

Imaging of the adrenal glands revealed they were both enlarged and presented nodules. The patient’s cortisol levels peaked after taking metoclopramide, and her serum cortisol varied significantly during the day while ACTH remained undetectable. These results led to the BMAH diagnosis.

The doctors performed unilateral adrenalectomy to control cortisol levels. The surgery was successful, and the doctors reduced the dose of glucocorticoid replacement therapy on day 6.

Eight days after the surgery, however, the patient showed decreased levels of fasting serum cortisol, which indicated adrenal insufficiency — when the adrenal glands are unable to produce enough cortisol.

The doctors noticed that metoclopramide was causing an increase in serum cortisol levels, which made them appear normal and masked the adrenal insufficiency.

They stopped metoclopramide treatment and started replacement therapy (hydrocortisone) to control the adrenal insufficiency. The patient was discharged 10 days after the surgery.

The serum cortisol levels were monitored on days 72 and 109 after surgery, and they remained lower than average. Therefore she could not stop hydrocortisone treatment.

The levels of ACTH remained undetectable, suggesting that the communication between the HPA axis had not been restored.

“Habitual use of metoclopramide might suppress the hypothalamus and pituitary via negative feedback due to cortisol excess, and lead to a delayed recovery of the HPA axis,” the researchers said.

Meanwhile, the patient’s weight decreased, and high blood pressure was controlled.

“Detailed surveillance of aberrant cortisol secretion responses on a challenge with exogenous stimuli […] is clinically important in BMAH patients,” the study concluded. “Caution is thus required for assessing the actual status of the HPA axis.”

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/05/07/metoclopramide-conceals-adrenal-insufficiency-after-gland-removal-bmah-patients-case-report/

Medical ID Jewelry Often Lacks Clear Instructions For Adrenal Insufficiency

Rushworth RL, et al. Clin Endocrinol. 2019;doi:10.1111/cen.13985.

Only 4.8% of patients with adrenal insufficiency who use medical identification jewelry clearly indicate on their emblem the need for urgent parenteral hydrocortisone in the event of an adrenal crisis, potentially jeopardizing the ability to receive proper assistance in an emergency, according to a cross-sectional analysis published in Clinical Endocrinology.

“Although the use of medical identification jewelry is recommended for patients with adrenal insufficiency to assist in the prevention and treatment of an adrenal crisis, the results of this study indicate that this advice is taken up by only a modest proportion of patients,” R. Louise Rushworth, MBBS, PhD, FAFPHM, an adjunct professor and medical epidemiologist at the School of Medicine, Sydney, and the University of Notre Dame Australia, told Endocrine Today. “Patients with secondary adrenal insufficiency have a lower uptake than those with primary adrenal insufficiency despite their risk of an adrenal crisis approaching that people with primary adrenal insufficiency.”

In a cross-sectional analysis, Rushworth and colleagues analyzed data from 1,955 patients with adrenal insufficiency aged at least 20 years with an active subscription to a large medical jewelry provider (MedicAlert) as of September 2018. The researchers calculated subscription rates by adrenal insufficiency subtype, geographic area, age and sex using relevant population data.

The overall subscription rate was 105.79 per million, representing approximately one-third of the estimated 300 per million patients with adrenal insufficiency in the population, according to researchers. Among subscribers, 57.4% had primary adrenal insufficiency and 15.1% had a diagnosis of congenital adrenal hyperplasia. The overall subscription rate for patients with primary adrenal insufficiency was 61.72 per million, or 61.7% of the approximately 100 per million patients with primary adrenal insufficiency in the Australian population, according to researchers.

Researchers observed considerable differences in subscription rates based on geographic region, patient age and sex. Western Australia had an overall subscription rate (247 per million) that was more than four times higher than Victoria, the state with the lowest subscription rate (60.87 per million; P < .0001). Patients aged 60 to 69 years had the highest subscription rate (165.15 per million), whereas patients aged 30 to 39 years had the lowest rate (47.23 per million; P < .001). Additionally, most subscribers reporting primary adrenal insufficiency were women (69%).

The researchers found that hydrocortisone was the most common replacement therapy (41.6%), followed by cortisone acetate (25.6%) and prednisone (16.3%). They noted that few patients — only 4.8% — clearly mentioned the need for urgent parenteral hydrocortisone in the event of severe illness.

Rushworth said most patients who used medical identification jewelry did not have clear emergency instructions inscribed on the emblem, and that this may lead to delays in administration of hydrocortisone in an emergency.

“Guidelines recommend that patients with adrenal insufficiency who are at risk for adrenal crisis should wear medical identification jewelry as a form of nonverbal communication in an emergency,” Rushworth said. “These should be recommended by the treating doctor, and adherence should be encouraged and reviewed regularly. The jewelry should be inscribed with clear instructions for emergency treatment, for example: ‘Adrenal insufficiency. Give IM 100 mg hydrocortisone.’” – by Regina Schaffer

From https://www.healio.com/endocrinology/adrenal/news/online/%7Be7eef183-09a5-46aa-96e1-1feb7c8f1e05%7D/medical-id-jewelry-often-lacks-clear-instructions-for-adrenal-insufficiency?page=2

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