Diagnostic pitfalls in Cushing’s disease impacting surgical remission rates; test thresholds and lessons learned in 105 patients

This article was originally published here

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2021 Sep 3:dgab659. doi: 10.1210/clinem/dgab659. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

CONTEXT: Confirming a diagnosis of Cushing’s disease (CD) remains challenging yet is critically important before recommending transsphenoidal surgery for adenoma resection.

OBJECTIVE: To describe predictive performance of preoperative biochemical and imaging data relative to post-operative remission and clinical characteristics in patients with presumed CD.

DESIGN, SETTING, PATIENTS, INTERVENTIONS: Patients (n=105; 86% female) who underwent surgery from 2007-2020 were classified into 3 groups: Group A (n=84) pathology-proven ACTH adenoma; Group B (n=6) pathology-unproven but with postoperative hypocortisolemia consistent with CD, and Group C (n=15) pathology-unproven, without postoperative hypocortisolemia. Group A+B were combined as Confirmed CD and Group C as Unconfirmed CD.

MAIN OUTCOMES: Group A+B was compared to Group C regarding predictive performance of preoperative 24-hour urinary free cortisol (UFC), late night salivary cortisol (LNSC), 1mg dexamethasone suppression test (DST), plasma ACTH, and pituitary MRI.

RESULTS: All groups had a similar clinical phenotype. Compared to Group C, Group A+B had higher mean UFC (p<0.001), LNSC(p=0.003), DST(p=0.06), ACTH(p=0.03) and larger MRI-defined lesions (p<0.001). The highest accuracy thresholds were: UFC 72 µg/24hrs; LNSC 0.122 µg/dl, DST 2.70 µg/dl, and ACTH 39.1 pg/ml. Early (3-month) biochemical remission was achieved in 76/105 (72%) patients: 76/90(84%) and 0/15(0%) of Group A+B versus Group C, respectively, p<0.0001. In Group A+B non-remission was strongly associated with adenoma cavernous sinus invasion.

CONCLUSIONS: Use of strict biochemical thresholds may help avoid offering transsphenoidal surgery to presumed CD patients with equivocal data and improve surgical remission rates. Patients with Cushingoid phenotype but equivocal biochemical data warrant additional rigorous testing.

PMID:34478542 | DOI:10.1210/clinem/dgab659

Cushing’s syndrome in a child

Abstract

Cushing’s syndrome is a rare entity in children. Adrenal tumour is the common cause of this syndrome in young children, whereas, iatrogenic causes are more common among older children. We report a 4 year old male child diagnosed with Cushing syndrome due to a right adrenal adenoma; the child presented with obesity and increase distribution of body hair. After thorough investigation and control of hypertension and dyselectrolytemia, right adrenalectomy was performed. The patient had good clinical recovery with weight loss and biochemical resolution of Cushing’s syndrome.

1. Introduction

Cushing’s syndrome (CS) is rarely encountered in children. The overall incidence of Cushing syndrome is approximately 2–5 new cases per million people per year. Only approximately 10% of the new cases each year occur in children [1]. Unlike in adults, a male-to-female predominance have been observed in infants and young toddlers [[1][2][3]]. Although iatrogenic causes are common in children above seven years of age, adrenal causes (adenoma, carcinoma or hyperplasia) are common in children of younger age [4]. We report a 4 year old boy diagnosed with Cushing syndrome caused by a right adrenal adenoma, who had presented with obesity and increase distribution of body hair. Right adrenalectomy was performed and clinical stabilization resulted in weight loss and biochemical resolution of Cushing’s syndrome. (see Fig. 5)

2. Case report

A 4 years old boy presented with complaints of excessive weight gain of 5 months duration and increase frequency of micturition and appearance of body hair for 4 months. There was no history of any other illness, medication or steroid intake. The child was first born at term by normal vaginal delivery and birth weight of 3 kg. Physical examination revealed a chubby boy with moon face, buffalo hump, protruding abdomen, increase body hair and appearance of coarse pubic hair (Fig. 1). His intelligent quotient (IQ) was appropriate for his age and sex. His younger sibling was in good health and other family members did not have any metabolic or similar problems.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1. The child with moon face, protruded abdomen and coarse body hair.

The patient’s body length was 92cm (between -2SD to -3SD), weight 20kg (between 1 SD and 2 SD), weight for height >3SD, and BMI was 23.6 (BMI for age >3 SD). His blood pressure on right arm in lying position was 138/76 mm Hg (above 99th percentile for height and age).

Investigations: Morning 8am serum cortisol level – 27.3 μg/dl (normal: 6–23 μg/dl).

with a concurrent plasma ACTH level of < 5 pg/ml (n value < 46 pg/ml).

His serum cortisol following low dose dexamethasone suppression test (1mg dexamethasone at 11pm) at 8 am next morning was 22.1 μug/dl and his 24 hours urine catecholamine fraction was within normal limit.

HB % — 10.3 gm/dl; LDDST — 25 μg/dl; FBS — 106 mg/dl.

Serum Na+ – 140.6mmol/l; K+ – 2.83mmol/l; Ca+ – 8.7 mg/dl.

S. Creatinine −0.3 mg/dl.

Ultrasonography of abdomen revealed a heterogenous predominantly hypoechoic right supra renal mass. Contrast enhanced CT abdomen revealed well defined soft tissue density lesion (size −5.2 cm × 5.2 cm x 5.7cm) in right adrenal gland with calcifications and fat attenuations showing mild attenuation on post contrast study (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2

Fig. 2. CECT shows right adrenal mass with calcification and mild attenuation on post-contrast study.

The child was started on oral amlodipine 2.5mg 12hourly; after 5days blood pressure became normal. For hypokalemia oral potassium was given @20 meq 8 hourly and serum potassium value became normal after 4 days. Right laparoscopic adrenalectomy was planned. but due to intra operative technical problems it was converted to an open adrenalectomy with right subcostal incision. A lobulated mass of size 9 cm × 5 cm x 4 cm with intact capsule was excised. The tumour weighed 230 gm. There was no adhesion with adjacent organs, three regional nodes were enlarged but without any tumour tissue. Inferior vena cava was spared. Histopathology report was consistent with adrenal adenoma (Fig. 3) (see Fig. 4).

Fig. 3

Fig. 3. Cut section of tumour shows fleshy mass with fatty tissue.

Fig. 4

Fig. 4. Microphotograph (100 × 10) showing intact capsule and adrenal tumour cells, which are larger in size with nuclear pleomorphism, inconspicuous nucleoli, cytoplasm of the tumour cells are abundant, eosinophilic and vacuolated.

Fig. 5

Fig. 5. Physical appearance 4 months after adrenalectomy.

Post operative management: during post operative period hypokalemia and flaxuating blood sugar level was managed with oral potassium and oral glucose supplement. patient developed mild cough and respiratory distress on post op day 2, it was managed with salbutamol nebulization and respiratory physio therapy. Patient developed minor ssi and discharged on 10 th post operative day with oral prednisolone supplementation.

Follow up: the patient was followed up 2week after discharge and then every monthly, the oral prednisolone was gradually tapered and completely withdrawn on 2nd month after surgery.The patient experienced no post-surgical complications. After 4 months of surgery he reduces 6 kgs of his body weight with BMI of 16.5 (between median and 1SD) & BP 100/74 mm hg (within normal range), the moon face, buffalo hump, central obesity disappeared, morning 8am serum cortisol level was found within normal range 14 μg/dl (n value 6–23 μg/dl).

3. Discussion

Cushing’s syndrome is caused by prolonged exposure to supraphysiological levels of circulating glucocorticoids, which may be endogenously or exogenously derived. During infancy, CS is usually associated with McCune-Albright syndrome; adrenocortical tumours most commonly occur in children under four years of age and Cushing’s disease (ACTH dependent) is the commonest cause of CS after five years of age [5]. Primary adrenocortical tumours (ACTs) account for only 0.3–0.4% of all childhood neoplasms. Almost a third of these tumours manifests as Cushing syndrome and over 70% of the unilateral tumours in young children are often malignant [2,3,6,7]. There seems to be a bimodal incidence of these tumours, with one peak at under 5 years of age and the second one in the fourth or fifth decades of life. ACTs may be associated with other syndromes, such as, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Beckwith-wiedemann syndrome, isolated hemihypertrophy, or even a germline point mutation of P53 tumour suppressor gene as reported in a series from Brazil [8]. In comparison to adult CS, growth failure with associated weight gain is one of the most reliable indicators of hypercortisolaemia in pediatric CS. The parents often fail to notice facial changes and growth failure and hence the diagnosis is often delayed. In one study, the mean time from appearing symptoms to diagnosis in 33 children with Cushing’s disease was 2.5 years [5]. More recently the comparison of height and BMI SDS measurements provided a sensitive diagnostic discriminator in pediatric patients with CD and those with simple obesity [9]. In the present case, the parents observed noticeable changes in his face and presence of body hair, which made them to bring the child to medical attention. A review of 254 children on the International Pediatric Adrenocortical Tumour Registry identified virilization as the most common manifestation [10]. About 10% of the tumours can be non-functional at presentation, and approximately one third of pediatric patients present with hypertension. Majority of patients (192/254) in the Registry had localized disease and metastatic disease was found in less than 5% of cases. Older children with CS or mixed androgen and cortisol secreting adrenocortical tumours had a worse prognosis compared to younger children [10]. The present case had mild hypertension as well as dyselectrolytemia at presentation, which could be controlled with medication. He had a single adenoma confined to the adrenal gland and there was no evidence of malignancy. After surgical excision of the tumour and the right adrenal gland, the patient made rapid improvement in clinical condition and has been on follow up for last 7 months.

4. Conclusion

Pediatric adrenocortical tumours (ACTs) are most commonly encountered in females and in children less than four years. But our case being an 4-year-old boy forms a rare presentation of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome due to adrenal adenoma. Cushing’s syndrome in this child was controlled after right adrenalectomy.

Patient consent

Informed written consent was taken.

Funding

No funding or grant support.

Authorship

All authors attest that they meet the current ICMJE criteria for authorship.

Declaration of competing interest

The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.

References

Temozolomide Effective Against Cushing’s Caused by Aggressive Tumors

The oral chemotherapy temozolomide might be an effective treatment for Cushing’s disease caused by aggressive tumors in the pituitary gland that continue to grow after surgery and taking other medications, a case report suggests.

The study, “Successful reduction of ACTH secretion in a case of intractable Cushing’s disease with pituitary Crooke’s cell adenoma by combined modality therapy including temozolomide,” was published in the journal J-Stage.

Cushing’s disease is often caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland that secretes high levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), leading to high levels of cortisol and other symptoms.

Macroadenomas are aggressive, fast-growing tumors that reach sizes larger than 10 millimeters. Crooke’s cell adenoma is a type of macroadenoma that does not respond to conventional therapies, but has deficient mechanisms of DNA repair. That is why chemotherapeutic agents that damage the DNA, such as temozolomide, might be potential treatments.

Researchers in Japan reported the case of a 56-year-old woman with Cushing’s disease caused by a Crooke’s cell adenoma in the pituitary gland who responded positively to temozolomide.

The patient was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease at age 39 when she went to the hospital complaining of continuous weight gain. She also had excessive production of urine and a loss of vision in the right eye.

The lab tests showed high levels of cortisol and ACTH, and the MRI detected a tumor of 4.5 centimeters in the pituitary gland. The doctors removed a part of the tumor surgically, which initially reduced the levels of ACTH and cortisol.

However, the hormone levels and the size of the residual tumor started to increase gradually after the surgery, despite treatment with several medications.

By the time the patient was 56 years old, she went to the hospital complaining of general fatigue, leg edema (swelling from fluid), high blood pressure, and central obesity (belly fat).

Further examination showed a 5.7 cm tumor, identified as a Crooke’s cell macroadenoma. The patient underwent a second surgery to remove as much tumor as possible, but the levels of ACTH remained high. She took temozolomide for nine months, which normalized the levels of ACTH and cortisol. After the treatment, the patient no longer had high blood pressure or leg edema.

The tumor shrunk considerably in the year following temozolomide treatment. The patient started radiation therapy to control tumor growth. The levels of cortisol and ACHT remained normal, and the tumor did not grow in the seven years following temozolomide treatment.

“These clinical findings suggest that [temozolomide] treatment to patients with Crooke’s cell adenoma accompanied with elevated ACTH may be a good indication to induce lowering ACTH levels and tumor shrinkage,” researchers wrote.

Other cases of Cushing’s disease caused by aggressive macroadenomas showed positive results, such as reduction of tumor size and decrease in plasma ACTH, after temozolomide treatment. However, more studies are needed to establish the ideal course of chemotherapy to treat these tumors, the researchers noted.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/06/18/temozolomide-effective-cushings-disease-aggressive-tumors-case-report/

Surgical Removal of Pituitary Adenomas Through the Nose Remains an Effective Treatment for Pediatric Patients

Removal of pituitary adenomas by inserting surgical instruments through the nose (transsphenoidal resection) remains the best treatment option for pediatric patients, despite its inherent technical difficulties, a new study shows.

The study, “Transsphenoidal surgery for pituitary adenomas in pediatric patients: a multicentric retrospective study,” was published in the journal Child’s Nervous System.

Pituitary adenomas are rare, benign tumors that slowly grow in the pituitary gland. The incidence of such tumors in the pediatric population is reported to be between 1% and 10% of all childhood brain tumors and between 3% and 6% of all surgically treated adenomas.

Characteristics of patients that develop these pituitary adenomas vary significantly in different studies with regards to their age, gender, size of adenoma, hormonal activity, and recurrence rates.

As the pituitary gland is responsible for hormonal balance, alterations in hormone function due to a pituitary adenoma can significantly affect the quality of life of a child. In most cases, pituitary adenomas can be removed surgically. A common removal method is with a transsphenoidal resection, the goal of which is to completely remove the growing mass and cause the least harm to the surrounding structures.

In this study, the researchers report the surgical treatment of pediatric pituitary adenomas at three institutions. They collected data from 27 children who were operated for pituitary adenoma using one of two types of transsphenoidal surgeries — endoscopic endonasal transsphenoidal surgery (EETS) and transsphenoidal microsurgery (TMS) — at the University Cerrahpasa Medical Faculty in Istanbul, Turkey, at San Matteo Hospital in Pavia, and at the University of Insubria-Varese in Varese, Italy.

The study included 11 males (40.7%) and 16 females (59.3%), with a mean age of 15.3 (ranging between 4 and 18). Medical records indicated that 32 surgical procedures were performed in the 27 patients, as six children required a second operation. Among the patients, 13 had Cushing’s disease, while the rest had growth-hormone-secreting adenomas, prolactinomas, or non-functional adenomas.

The researchers found that most patients underwent remission following their surgery. Among the 27 patients, 22 patients (81.4%) underwent remission while five patients (18.5%) did not. Four patients underwent remission after a second operation.

Based on these findings, the team believes that the transsphenoidal surgical approach adequately removes pituitary tumors and restores normal hormonal balance in the majority of pediatric patients with pituitary adenomas.

“Satisfactory results are reported with both EETS and TMS in the literature,” they wrote. “Despite the technical difficulties in pediatric age, transsphenoidal resection of adenoma is still the mainstay treatment that provides cure in pediatric patients.”

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/05/30/transsphenoidal-surgery-effective-remove-pituitaty-adenomas-children-study/

Transsphenoidal Surgery Recommended for Cushing Disease With Inconclusive or Normal MRI

In patients with a diagnosis of Cushing disease in whom magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) shows either no abnormalities or nonspecific abnormalities, surgery is preferable to medical treatment, according to study results published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

There is a consensus that the first line of treatment for Cushing disease is transsphenoidal surgery to remove the pituitary adenoma causing the disease, with an 80% remission rate following the intervention. However, in the absence of clear evidence of a pituitary adenoma on imaging, there is some controversy regarding the best treatment.

The goal of this retrospective single-center study was to assess the outcomes of surgery in patients with Cushing disease with clear evidence of a pituitary adenoma on MRI compared with outcomes in patients with inconclusive or normal MRI.

The cohort included 195 patients treated with transsphenoidal surgery between 1992 and 2018 (156 women; mean age at surgery, 41 years) classified into 4 MRI groups: 89 patients were found to have microadenoma, 18 had macroadenoma, 44 had nonspecific/inconclusive abnormalities on MRI results, and 44 had normal imaging results.

The researchers reported that MRI performance in their neuroradiology department improved with time; the proportion of inconclusive or normal MRI results decreased from 60% in 1992 to 1996 to 27% in 2012 to 2018 (P =.037).

In analyzing the influence of MRI findings on remission rates, the researchers found no significant difference among the 4 groups: remission rate was 85% for microadenomas, 94% for macroadenomas, 73% for inconclusive MRI, and 75% for negative MRI (P =.11). This finding indicates the overall percentage of patients in remission after transsphenoidal surgery is only slightly lower in those with normal or inconclusive MRI results compared with patients with clear evidence of microadenoma or macroadenoma.

There was no difference in remission rate after a microscopic vs endoscopic surgical approach (P =.16). The researchers found that endoscopic-assisted surgery allowed a higher visualization rate than microscopic-assisted surgery. Although the neurosurgeon had a better visualization rate than MRI (100% vs 72%, respectively), there were some false-positive findings; thus, positive predictive value was similar (84% vs 78%, respectively).

The study had several limitations including the retrospective design. In addition, in light of the long study duration, the researchers noted that changes in MRI technology and surgical procedures occurred over time.

The researchers proposed that after exclusion of nonneoplastic hypercortisolism, patients with Cushing disease, an inconclusive or normal MRI, and a pituitary adrenocorticotropic hormone gradient at bilateral inferior petrosal sampling be directed to an expert neurosurgeon for transsphenoidal surgery rather than treated medically.

 

Reference

Cristante J, Lefournier V, Sturm N, et al. Why we should still treat by neurosurgery patients with Cushing’s disease and a normal or inconclusive pituitary MRI [published online May 14, 2019]. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. doi:10.1210/jc.2019-00333

From https://www.endocrinologyadvisor.com/home/topics/adrenal/transsphenoidal-surgery-recommended-for-cushing-disease-with-inconclusive-or-normal-mri/

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