Most Subclinical Cushing’s Patients Don’t Require Glucocorticoids After Adrenalectomy

Patients with subclinical hypercortisolism, i.e., without symptoms of cortisol overproduction, and adrenal incidentalomas recover their hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function after surgery faster than those with Cushing’s syndrome (CS), according to a study.

Moreover, the researchers found that an HPA function analysis conducted immediately after the surgical removal of adrenal incidentalomas — adrenal tumors discovered by chance in imaging tests — could identify patients in need of glucocorticoid replacement before discharge.

Using this approach, they found that most subclinical patients did not require treatment with hydrocortisone, a glucocorticoid taken to compensate for low levels of cortisol in the body, after surgery.

The study, “Alterations in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal function immediately after resection of adrenal adenomas in patients with Cushing’s syndrome and others with incidentalomas and subclinical hypercortisolism,” was published in Endocrine.

The HPA axis is the body’s central stress response system. The hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) that acts on the pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), leading the adrenal gland to produce cortisol.

As the body’s defense mechanism to avoid excessive cortisol secretion, high cortisol levels alert the hypothalamus to stop producing CRH and the pituitary gland to stop making ACTH.

Therefore, in diseases associated with chronically elevated cortisol levels, such as Cushing’s syndrome and adrenal incidentalomas, there’s suppression of the HPA axis.

After an adrenalectomy, which is the surgical removal of one or both adrenal glands, patients often have low cortisol levels (hypocortisolism) and require glucocorticoid replacement therapy.

“Most studies addressing the peri-operative management of patients with adrenal hypercortisolism have reported that irrespective of how mild the hypercortisolism was, such patients were given glucocorticoids before, during and after adrenalectomy,” the researchers wrote.

Evidence also shows that, after surgery, glucocorticoid therapy is administered for months before attempting to test for recovery of HPA function.

For the past 30 years, researchers at the University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center have withheld glucocorticoid therapy in the postoperative management of patients with ACTH-secreting pituitary adenomas until there’s proof of hypocortisolism.

“The approach offered us the opportunity to examine peri-operative hormonal alterations and demonstrate their importance in predicting need for replacement therapy, as well as future recurrences,” they said.

In this prospective observational study, the investigators extended their approach to patients with subclinical hypercortisolism.

“The primary goal of the study was to examine rapid alteration in HPA function in patients with presumably suppressed axis and appreciate the modulating impact of surgical stress in that setting,” they wrote. Collected data was used to decide whether to start glucocorticoid therapy.

The analysis included 14 patients with Cushing’s syndrome and 19 individuals with subclinical hypercortisolism and an adrenal incidentaloma. All participants had undergone surgical removal of a cortisol-secreting adrenal tumor.

“None of the patients received exogenous glucocorticoids during the year preceding their evaluation nor were they taking medications or had other illnesses that could influence HPA function or serum cortisol measurements,” the researchers noted.

Glucocorticoid therapy was not administered before or during surgery.

To evaluate HPA function, the clinical team took blood samples before and at one, two, four, six, and eight hours after the adrenalectomy to determine levels of plasma ACTH, serum cortisol, and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S) — a hormone produced by the adrenal glands.

Pre-surgery assessment of both groups showed that patients with an incidentaloma plus subclinical hypercortisolism had larger adrenal masses, higher ACTH, and DHEA-S levels, but less serum cortisol after adrenal function suppression testing with dexamethasone.

Dexamethasone is a man-made version of cortisol that, in a normal setting, makes the body produce less cortisol. But in patients with a suppressed HPA axis, cortisol levels remain high.

After the adrenalectomy, the ACTH concentrations in both groups of patients increased. This was found to be negatively correlated with pre-operative dexamethasone-suppressed cortisol levels.

Investigators reported that “serum DHEA-S levels in patients with Cushing’s syndrome declined further after adrenalectomy and were undetectable by the 8th postoperative hour,” while incidentaloma patients’ DHEA-S concentrations remained unchanged for the eight-hour postoperative period.

Eight hours after surgery, all Cushing’s syndrome patients had serum cortisol levels of less than 2 ug/dL, indicating suppressed HPA function. As a result, all of these patients required glucocorticoid therapy for several months to make up for HPA axis suppression.

“The decline in serum cortisol levels was slower and less steep [in the incidentaloma group] when compared to that observed in patients with Cushing’s syndrome. At the 6th–8th postoperative hours only 5/19 patients [26%] with subclinical hypercortisolism had serum cortisol levels at ≤3ug/dL and these 5 were started on hydrocortisone therapy,” the researchers wrote.

Replacement therapy in the subclinical hypercortisolism group was continued for up to four weeks.

Results suggest that patients with an incidentaloma plus subclinical hypercortisolism did not have an entirely suppressed HPA axis, as they were able to recover its function much faster than the CS group after surgical stress.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/10/11/most-subclinical-cushings-patients-dont-need-glucocorticoids-post-surgery-study/?utm_source=Cushing%27s+Disease+News&utm_campaign=a881a1593b-RSS_WEEKLY_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_ad0d802c5b-a881a1593b-72451321

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

Study Examines Therapy Options for Post-adrenalectomy Low Glucocorticoid Levels

Hydrocortisone and prednisone have comparable safety and effectiveness when used as glucocorticoid replacement therapy in patients with adrenal adenoma or Cushing’s disease who underwent adrenalectomy, a new study shows.

The study, “Comparison of hydrocortisone and prednisone in the glucocorticoid replacement therapy post-adrenalectomy of Cushing’s Syndrome,” was published in the journal Oncotarget.

The symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome are related to excessive levels of glucocorticoids in our body. Glucocorticoids are a type of steroid hormones produced by the adrenal gland. Consequently, a procedure called adrenalectomy – removal of the adrenal glands – is usually conducted in patients with Cushing’s syndrome.

Unfortunately, adrenalectomy leads to a sharp drop in hormones that are necessary for our bodies. So, post-adrenalectomy glucocorticoid replacement therapy is required for patients.

Hydrocortisone and prednisone are synthetic glucocorticoids that most often are used for glucocorticoid replacement therapy.

Treatment with either hydrocortisone or prednisone has proven effective in patients with Cushing’s syndrome. However, few studies have compared the two treatments directly to determine if there are significant advantages of one therapy over another.

Chinese researchers set out to compare the effectiveness and safety of hydrocortisone and prednisone treatments in patients with Cushing’s syndrome, up to six months after undergoing adrenalectomy.

Patients were treated with either hydrocortisone or prednisone starting at day two post-adrenalectomy. The withdrawal schedule varied by individual patients.

At baseline, both groups had similar responses to the adrenalectomy, including the correction of hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels), and hypokalemia (low potassium levels). Furthermore, most patients in both groups lost weight and showed significant improvement, as judged by a subjective evaluation questionnaire.

Hydrocortisone did show a significant advantage over prednisone in the improvement of liver function, but its use also was associated with significant swelling of the lower extremities, as compared to prednisone.

Patients in both groups went on to develop adrenal insufficiency (AI) during glucocorticoid withdrawal. However, there were no significant differences in the AI incidence rate – 35 percent in the hydrocortisone group versus 45 percent in the prednisone group. The severity of A also was not significantly different between the groups.

Furthermore, most of the AI symptoms were relieved by going back to the initial doses of the glucocorticoid replacement.

As there were no significant differences between the two treatments, the findings support “the use of both hydrocortisone and prednisone in the glucocorticoid replacement therapy post-adrenalectomy for patients of adrenal adenoma or Cushing’s disease,” researchers concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/01/11/post-adrenalectomy-glucocorticoid-replacement-therapy/

Patients Undergoing Adrenalectomy Should Receive Steroid Substitutive Therapy

All patients who undergo removal of one adrenal gland due to Cushing’s syndrome (CS) or adrenal incidentaloma (AI, adrenal tumors discovered incidentally) should receive a steroid substitutive therapy, a new study shows.

The study, “Predictability of hypoadrenalism occurrence and duration after adrenalectomy for ACTH‐independent hypercortisolism,” was published in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation.

CS is a rare disease, but subclinical hypercortisolism, an asymptomatic condition characterized by mild cortisol excess, has a much higher prevalence. In fact, subclinical hypercortisolism, is present in up to 20 percent of patients with AI.

The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) is composed of the hypothalamus, which releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) that acts on the pituitary to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), that in turn acts on the adrenal gland to release cortisol.

To avoid excess cortisol production, high cortisol levels tell the hypothalamus and the pituitary to stop producing CRH and ACTH, respectively. Therefore, as CS and AI are characterized by high levels of cortisol, there is suppression of the HPA axis.

As the adrenal gland is responsible for the production of cortisol, patients might need steroid substitutive therapy after surgical removal of AI. Indeed, because of HPA axis suppression, some patients have low cortisol levels after such surgeries – clinically known as post-surgical hypocortisolism (PSH), which can be damaging to the patient.

While some researchers suggest that steroid replacement therapy should be given only to some patients, others recommend it should be given to all who undergo adrenalectomy (surgical removal of the adrenal gland).

Some studies have shown that the severity of hypercortisolism, as well as the degree of HPA axis suppression and treatment with ketoconazole pre-surgery in CS patients, are associated with a longer duration of PSH.

Until now, however, there have been only a few studies to guide in predicting the occurrence and duration of PSH. Therefore, researchers conducted a study to determine whether HPA axis activity, determined by levels of ACTH and cortisol, could predict the occurrence and duration of PSH in patients who undergo an adrenalectomy.

Researchers studied 80 patients who underwent adrenalectomy for either CS or AI. Prior to the surgery, researchers measured levels of ACTH, urinary free cortisol (UFC), and serum cortisol after 1 mg dexamethasone suppression test (1 mg-DST).

After the surgery, all patients were placed on steroid replacement therapy and PSH was determined after two months. For those with PSH, levels of cortisol were determined every six months for at least four years.

Results showed that PSH occurred in 82.4 percent of CS patients and 46 percent of AI patients. PSH lasted for longer than 18 months in 50 percent of CS and 30 percent of AI patients. Furthermore, it lasted longer than 36 months for 35.7 percent of CS patients.

In all patients, PSH was predicted by pre-surgery cortisol levels after the 1 mg-DST, but with less than 70 percent accuracy.

In AI patients, a shorter-than-12-month duration of PSH was not predicted by any HPA parameter, but was significantly predicted by an absence of pre-surgery diagnosis of subclinical hypercortisolism.

So, this study did not find any parameters that could significantly predict with high sensitivity and specificity the development or duration of PSH in all patients undergoing adrenalectomy.

Consequently, the authors concluded that “the PSH occurrence and its duration are hardly predictable before surgery. All patients undergoing unilateral adrenalectomy should receive a steroid substitutive therapy.”

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2017/12/08/therapy-cushings-patients-adrenalectomy/

Ectopic Cushing’s syndrome associated with thoracic tumors

Results of a retrospective review conducted in southern India demonstrate that ectopic Cushing’s syndrome occurred most commonly in association with thoracic tumors.

Researchers added that early control over hypercortisolemia was necessary to prevent metabolic complications and infections, both of which had the potential to be life-threatening.

“As compared to patients with pituitary-dependent Cushing’s syndrome, patients with [ectopic Cushing Syndrome] present with a rapid progression of symptoms,” Nihal Thomas, MD, MNAMS, DNB, FRACP, professor in the department of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at Christian Medical College, Vellore, India, and colleagues wrote. “It is also associated with typical features of proximal muscle weakness, severe hypokalaemic metabolic alkalosis, hyperpigmentation, edema, hypertension and glucose intolerance. Early diagnosis and localization of the ectopic source of [adrenocorticotrophic hormone] is crucial, because the treatment of choice in most of these patients is complete excision of the tumor. Localizing the source of excess ACTH continues to be a challenge in most patients.”

Thomas and colleagues reviewed the records of 21 patients treated at a tertiary care center in southern India from 2006 to 2015. The researchers documented patients’ clinical features, history and images from radiological findings and PET scans, as well as details of management, follow-up and outcomes. They also compared those with ectopic Cushing’s syndrome with 20 patients who had Cushing’s disease.

Median age was 34 years. Thomas and colleagues reported that one patient demonstrated “an occult source of ACTH.” The rest had a variety of tumors: bronchial carcinoid (n = 7), thymic carcinoid (n = 7), lung malignancies (n = 3), medullary thyroid carcinoma (n = 2) and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (n = 1).

At presentation, muscle weakness was the most common clinical feature (95%), followed by hyperpigmentation (90%), facial puffiness (76%), easy bruising (61%), edema (57%) and striae (52%). Slightly less than half (43%) showed extensive acne. Central obesity in ectopic Cushing’s syndrome was uncommon and occurred in 14% of patients (n = 3), according to Thomas and colleagues; however, it was more prevalent (n = 18) in those with Cushing’s disease.

Median cortisol at 8 a.m. was 55.5 mcg/dL, the researchers wrote, while median 8 a.m. ACTH was 207 pg/mL. The median 24-hour urinary free cortisol level was 2,484 mcg.

Compared with patients with Cushing’s disease, those with ectopic Cushing’s syndrome had “markedly higher” midnight cortisol and ACTH, as well as basal cortisol and ACTH.

During follow-up, more than half of patients (12 of 21) with ectopic Cushing’s syndrome developed life-threatening infections. Although nine patients received surgery for their tumors, only one patient achieved a complete cure during the study period, the researchers wrote.

“In our series, patients with [ectopic Cushing’s syndrome] have more profound hypokalemia, and hypercortisolemia with higher levels of ACTH,” Thomas and colleagues wrote. “The prognosis of patients with [ectopic Cushing’s syndrome] was dependent on tumor histology. The role of a timely adrenalectomy needs to be considered in patients with hypercortisolemia unresponsive to medical management, and in patients with metastatic or recurrent disease.” – by Andy Polhamus

Disclosure: Endocrine Today was unable to confirm any relevant financial disclosures.

From https://www.healio.com/endocrinology/adrenal/news/in-the-journals/%7Be42c81a5-fd5b-4313-9b2b-9bcbdec7f8ce%7D/ectopic-cushings-syndrome-associated-with-thoracic-tumors

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