Even in Remission, Cushing’s Patients Have Excess Mortality

Cushing’s disease patients in Sweden have a higher risk of death than the general Swedish population, particularly of cardiovascular complications, and that increased risk persists even in patients in remission, a large nationwide study shows.

The study, “Overall and disease-specific mortality in patients with Cushing’s disease: a Swedish nationwide study,” was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The outcomes of Cushing’s disease patients have improved with the introduction of several therapeutic approaches, such as minimally invasive surgery and cortisol-lowering therapies. However, mortality is still high, especially among those who do not achieve remission.

While currently patients in remission are thought to have a better prognosis, it is still unclear whether these patients still have a higher mortality than the general population. Understanding whether these patients are more likely to die and what risk factors are associated with increased mortality is critical to reduce death rates among Cushing’s patients.

A team of Swedish researchers thus performed a retrospective study that included patients diagnosed with Cushing’s disease who were part of the Swedish National Patient Registry between 1987 and 2013.

A total of 502 patients with Cushing’s disease were included in the study, 419 of whom were confirmed to be in remission. Most patients (77%) were women; the mean age at diagnosis was 43 years, and the median follow-up time was 13 years.

During the follow-up, 133 Cushing’s patients died, compared to 54 expected deaths in the general population — a mortality rate 2.5 times higher, researchers said.

The most common causes of death among Cushing’s patients were cardiovascular diseases, particularly ischemic heart disease and cerebral infarctions. However, infectious and respiratory diseases (including pneumonia), as well as diseases of the digestive system, also contributed to the increased mortality among Cushing’s patients.

Of those in remission, 21% died, compared to 55% among those not in remission. While these patients had a lower risk of death, their mortality rate was still 90% higher than that of the general population. For patients who did not achieve remission, the mortality rate was 6.9 times higher.

The mortality associated with cardiovascular diseases was increased for both patients in remission and not in remission. Also, older age at the start of the study and time in remission were associated with mortality risk.

“A more aggressive treatment of hypertension, dyslipidemia [abnormal amount of fat in the blood], and other cardiovascular risk factors might be warranted in patients with CS in remission,” researchers said.

Of the 419 patients in remission, 315 had undergone pituitary surgery, 102 had had their adrenal glands removed, and 116 had received radiation therapy.

Surgical removal of the adrenal glands and chronic glucocorticoid replacement therapy were associated with a worse prognosis. In fact, glucocorticoid replacement therapy more than twice increased the mortality risk. Growth hormone replacement was linked with better outcomes.

In remission patients, a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus or high blood pressure had no impact on mortality risk.

Overall, “this large nationwide study shows that patients with [Cushing’s disease] continue to have excess mortality even after remission,” researchers stated. The highest mortality rates, however, were seen in “patients with persistent disease, those who were treated with bilateral adrenalectomy and those who required glucocorticoid replacement.”

“Further studies need to focus on identifying best approaches to obtaining remission, active surveillance, adequate hormone replacement and long-term management of cardiovascular and mental health in these patients,” the study concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/02/28/even-in-remission-cushings-patients-have-excess-mortality-swedish-study-says/

Laparoscopic Removal of Adrenal Glands Safe for Obese Cushing’s Patients

Laparoscopic adrenalectomy — a minimally invasive procedure that removes the adrenal glands through a tiny hole in the abdomen — can be safely performed in obese patients with Cushing’s syndrome, a retrospective study reports.

The surgery resolved symptoms in 95% of cases, reducing cortisol levels, lowering blood pressure, and leading to a significant loss of weight in morbidly obese patients.

The study, “Minimally invasive approach to the adrenal gland in obese patients with Cushing’s syndrome,” was published in the journal Minimally Invasive Therapy & Allied Technologies.

Cushing’s syndrome results from the prolonged secretion of excess cortisol, the major glucocorticoid hormone. While most cases are caused by tumors in the pituitary gland, up to 27% result from tumors in the adrenal glands.

In these cases, the standard therapeutic strategy is to remove one or both adrenal glands, a surgical procedure called adrenalectomy. However, because glucocorticoids are key hormones regulating fat metabolism, Cushing’s syndrome patients are known to be prone to obesity, a feature that is often associated with post-operative complications.

In this study, researchers aimed to compare the outcomes of morbidly obese patients versus the mildly obese and non-obese who underwent a minimally invasive procedure to remove their adrenal glands.

The approach, called laparoscopic adrenalectomy, inserts tiny surgical tools through a small hole in the abdomen, along with a camera that helps guide the surgeon.

The study included 228 patients (mean age 53.4 years). Of them, 62 were non-obese, 87 were moderately obese, and 79 were considered morbidly obese. There were 121 patients with tumors in the right adrenal gland, 96 in the left gland, and 11 in both glands.

High blood pressure was the most common symptom, affecting 66.7% of the participants.

Surgery lasted 101 minutes on average, and patients remained in the hospital for a median 4.3 days afterward. Six patients had to be converted into an open surgery because of uncontrollable loss of blood or difficulties in the procedure. Post-surgery complications, most of which were minor, were seen in seven patients.

One patient had blood in the peritoneal cavity and had to have surgery again; another patient had inflammation of the pancreas that required a longer admission.

The analysis showed no statistical differences among the three groups regarding the length of surgery, length of stay in the hospital, or the rate of conversion into open surgery.

However, in obese women, surgeons chose a different surgical incision when removing the left adrenal gland, “suggesting that the distribution of visceral fat in these patients could constitute a drawback for the [standard] approach,” researchers said.

After the surgery, 95% of patients saw their symptoms resolve, including cortisol levels, high blood pressure, and glucose metabolism, and none had a worsening of symptoms in the 6.3 years of follow-up. Obese patients also showed a significant reduction in their weight — 2 kg by 18 months, and 5 kg by the end of follow-up.

Overall, “laparoscopic adrenalectomy is safe and feasible in obese patients affected with Cushing’s disease and it can lead to the resolution of the related symptoms,” researchers said.

The benefits of the surgery in patients with Cushing’s syndrome “could be extended to the improvements and in some cases to the resolution of hypercortisolism related symptoms (i.e. hypertension or even morbid obesity),” the study concluded.

Adapted from https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/02/07/laparoscopic-removal-of-adrenal-glands-safe-for-obese-cushings-patients/

Cushing’s Syndrome Patients at More Risk of Blood-clotting Problems After Adrenal Surgery

Cushing’s syndrome patients who undergo adrenal surgery are more likely to have venous thromboembolism — blood clots that originate in the veins — than patients who have the same procedure for other conditions, a study suggests.

Physicians should consider preventive treatment for this complication in Cushing’s syndrome patients who are having adrenal surgery and maintain it for four weeks after surgery due to late VTE onset.

The study, “Is VTE Prophylaxis Necessary on Discharge for Patients Undergoing Adrenalectomy for Cushing Syndrome?” was published in the Journal of Endocrine Society.

Cushing’s syndrome is a condition characterized by too much cortisol in circulation. In many cases, it is caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland, which produces greater amounts of the cortisol-controlling adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). In other cases, patients have tumors in the adrenal glands that directly increase cortisol production.

When the source of the problem is the pituitary gland, the condition is known as Cushing’s disease.

The imbalance in cortisol levels generates metabolic complications that include obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular complications. Among the latter, the formation of blood clots in the deep veins of the leg, groin or arm — a condition called venous thromboembolism (VTE) — is higher in both Cushing’s disease and Cushing’s syndrome patients.

VTE is believed to be a result of excess coagulation factors that promote blood clot formation, and is thought to particularly affect Cushing’s disease patients who have pituitary gland surgery.

Whether Cushing’s syndrome patients who have an adrenalectomy — surgical removal of one or both adrenal glands — are at a higher risk for VTE is largely unknown. This is important for post-operative management, to decide whether they should have preventive treatment for blood clot formation.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland did a retrospective analysis of a large group of patients in the American College of Surgeons National Quality Improvement Program database.

A total of 8,082 patients underwent adrenal gland surgery between 2005 and 2016. Data on these patients included preoperative risk factors, as well as 30-day post-surgery mortality and morbidity outcomes. Patients with malignant disease and without specified adrenal pathology were excluded from the study.

The final analysis included 4,217 patients, 61.8% of whom were females. In total, 310 patients had Cushing’s syndrome or Cushing’s disease that required an adrenalectomy. The remaining 3,907 had an adrenal disease other than Cushing’s and were used as controls.

The incidence of VTE after surgery — defined as pulmonary embolism (a blockage of an artery in the lungs) or deep-vein thrombosis — was 1% in the overall population. However, more Cushing’s patients experienced this complication (2.6%) than controls (0.9%).

Those diagnosed with Cushing’s syndrome were generally younger, had a higher body mass index, and were more likely to have diabetes than controls. Their surgery also lasted longer — 191.2 minutes versus 142 minutes — as did their hospital stay – 2.4 versus two days.

Although without statistical significance, the researchers observed a tendency for longer surgery time for patients with Cushing’s syndrome than controls with VTE. They saw no difference in the time for blood coagulation between Cushing’s and non-Cushing’s patients, or postoperative events other than pulmonary embolism or deep-vein thrombosis.

In addition, no differences were detected for VTE incidence between Cushing’s and non-Cushing’s patients according to the type of surgical approach — laparoscopic versus open surgery.

These results suggest that individuals with Cushing syndrome are at a higher risk for developing VTE.

“Because the incidence of VTE events in the CS group was almost threefold higher than that in the non-CS group and VTE events occurred up to 23 days after surgery in patients with CS undergoing adrenalectomy, our data support postdischarge thromboprophylaxis for 28 days in these patients,” the researchers concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/02/14/cushings-syndrome-patients-blood-clots-adrenal-surgery/

Faster Adrenal Recovery May Predict Cushing’s Disease Recurrence

A shorter duration of adrenal insufficiency — when the adrenal gland is not working properly — after surgical removal of a pituitary tumor may predict recurrence in Cushing’s disease patients, a new study suggests.

The study, “Recovery of the adrenal function after pituitary surgery in patients with Cushing Disease: persistent remission or recurrence?,” was published in the journal Neuroendocrinology.

Cushing’s disease is a condition characterized by excess cortisol in circulation due to a tumor in the pituitary gland that produces too much of the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). This hormone acts on the adrenal glands, telling them to produce cortisol.

The first-line treatment for these patients is pituitary surgery to remove the tumor, but while success rates are high, most patients experience adrenal insufficiency and some will see their disease return.

Adrenal insufficiency happens when the adrenal glands cannot make enough cortisol — because the source of ACTH was suddenly removed — and may last from months to years. In these cases, patients require replacement hormone therapy until normal ACTH and cortisol production resumes.

However, the recovery of adrenal gland function may mean one of two things: either patients have their hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis — a feedback loop that regulates ACTH and cortisol production — functioning normally, or their disease returned.

So, a team of researchers in Italy sought to compare the recovery of adrenal gland function in patients with a lasting remission to those whose disease recurred.

The study included 61 patients treated and followed at the Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico of Milan between 1990 and 2017. Patients had been followed for a median of six years (minimum three years) and 10 (16.3%) saw their disease return during follow-up.

Overall, the median time to recovery of adrenal function was 19 months, but while most patients in remission (67%) had not yet recovered their adrenal function after a median of six years, all patients whose disease recurred experienced adrenal recovery within 22 months.

Among those with disease recurrence, the interval from adrenal recovery to recurrence lasted a median of 1.1 years, but in one patient, signs of disease recurrence were not seen for 15.5 years.

Statistical analysis revealed that the time needed for adrenal recovery was negatively associated with disease recurrence, suggesting that patients with sorter adrenal insufficiency intervals were at an increased risk for recurrence.

“In conclusion, our study shows that the duration of adrenal insufficiency after pituitary surgery in patients with CD is significantly shorter in recurrent CD than in the persistent remission group,” researchers wrote.

“The duration of AI may be a useful predictor for CD [Cushing’s disease] recurrence and those patients who show a normal pituitary-adrenal axis within 2 years after surgery should be strictly monitored being more at risk of disease relapse,” they concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/01/29/faster-adrenal-recovery-may-predict-recurrence-cushings-disease/

How to avoid pitfalls in interpretation of adrenal imaging

By Philip Ward, AuntMinnieEurope.com staff writer

January 15, 2019 — A clear understanding of the pitfalls in the performance and interpretation of adrenal CT can help prevent incorrect and inappropriate investigations, award-winning researchers from a top London facility have found. It’s essential to keep aware of the full range of pseudolesions and mimics, they said.

“Evaluation of adrenal tumor function is limited on imaging, but may be inferred from imaging findings,” noted Dr. Gurinder Nandra and colleagues from the department of radiology at St. George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in an e-poster presentation that received a cum laude award at RSNA 2018 in Chicago.

Other adrenal pathology, including metastases and adrenocortical carcinoma, may be encountered, and this means it’s important to know about the imaging approaches to evaluate the adrenals, the authors pointed out.

Incidental adrenal nodules are identified in around 5% of patients who undergo CT. The prevalence of detecting incidentalomas increases with age, but most incidentally encountered adrenal pathology is benign and of little clinical relevance, they wrote. Adenomas are by far the most common adrenal pathology identified.

Among the technical aspects that deserve special attention are the following:

  • The region of interest (ROI): Changing the size of the ROI can alter the perceived attenuation of the nodule. The ROI should cover at least two-thirds of the circumference of the nodule, and exclude tiny areas of heterogeneity from the ROI (e.g., flecks of calcification) that are not representative of the adrenal pathology. Unenhanced attenuation of less than 10 Hounsfield units (HU) can be used to diagnose lipid-rich adrenal adenoma (sensitivity 71%, specificity of 98%).
  • Attenuation values on unenhanced CT: A homogenously dense lesion on unenhanced CT suggests a lack of microscopic lipid content. If attenuation on unenhanced CT is greater than 20 to 30 HU, evaluate the enhancement kinetics with CT.
  • Effect of kVp on attenuation values in a dual energy study: To use threshold of less than 10 HU to diagnose a lipid-rich adrenal adenoma, the kVp should be 120. Changing kVp can alter the attenuation values of soft tissues and adrenal glands.
  • Timing of post-contrast acquisitions: “Imaging needs to be performed at the correct times to allow sufficient time for enhancement and washout of contrast. Post-contrast images should be obtained at 60 to 75 seconds and 15 minutes,” the authors stated.
  • Assessment of washout on nondedicated studies: Relative washout can be calculated on nondedicated studies if more than one acquisition is made within 15 minutes post-intravenous contrast.
  • Suspicious attenuation: Attenuation of more than 43 HU on noncontrast CT is suspicious for malignancy, regardless of washout characteristics. PET/CT is of more use than CT and MRI in such cases, and adrenal hemorrhage also is a consideration at this attenuation.
  • Evaluation of small nodules: Minor nodularity of less than 1 cm in diameter does not require further radiological investigation. Also, CT evaluation of small adrenal nodules is limited by partial volume artifacts. MRI evaluation of small adrenal nodules is limited by the India ink artifact, or black boundary artifact, on an out-of-phase sequence. This artifact may give the impression of signal loss and lead to an incorrect diagnosis of a lipid-rich adenoma.
  • Evaluation of large adrenal masses: Malignancy risk increases with size (over 4 cm, 70%; over 6 cm, 85%) when excluding myelolipoma. In the absence of known malignancy, an adrenal lesion of less than 4 cm with indeterminate imaging features is likely to be benign.
  • Enhancement characteristics of metastases: Enhancement/washout characteristics of adrenal metastases are variable, and they can be confused with pheochromocytoma.
  • Adrenal calcification: Calcification is seen in benign adrenal pathology, but also can be seen in cases of malignancy, including adrenocortical carcinoma. “Look for ancillary features of malignancy including size, heterogeneity and invasion,” the authors recommended. “Evaluation of a predominantly calcified adrenal lesion will be limited with chemical shift MRI.”
  • Heterogeneous signal loss: Heterogeneous signal loss is not typical for a small lipid-rich adenoma and raises the possibility of malignant pathology. It also can be seen in larger adenomas because of calcification/cystic change/myelolipomatous metaplasia.

In their RSNA 2018 exhibit, Nandra and colleagues also identified the following list of mimics that can crop up:

  • Mimics arising from gastrointestinal tract: Gastric pathology can extend into the left suprarenal space and mimic adrenal pathology. The most common mimics include gastrointestinal stromal tumors and gastric diverticula. Pathology elsewhere in the gastrointestinal tract can mimic adrenal pathology (e.g., a fluid-filled colon).
  • Mimics arising from solid viscera: Pathology from the spleen, pancreas, liver, and kidneys can extend into the suprarenal space and mimic adrenal pathology. This includes splenic lobulation, splenunculi, upper pole renal pathology, pancreatic tail pathology, and exophytic hepatic lesions.
  • Mimics arising from vessels: Dilated, tortuous, or aneurysmal vessels may extend into the suprarenal space and mimic adrenal pathology. The most common mimics include splenic varices and splenic artery pseudoaneurysms.
  • Mimics arising from retroperitoneal tissues: Various retroperitoneal lesions can extend into the suprarenal space and mimic adrenal pathology, and normal anatomy in the retroperitoneum also can mimic adrenal pathology (e.g., a thickened diaphragmatic crus).

From https://www.auntminnieeurope.com/index.aspx?sec=ser&sub=def&pag=dis&ItemID=616803

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