Rare Case of Cushing’s Disease Diagnosed in 7-year-old Boy

A recent case report describes a 7-year-old boy with Cushing’s disease who had an unusual clinical presentation, which significantly delayed his diagnosis.

The study, “A variable course of Cushing’s disease in a 7 year old: diagnostic dilemma,” was published in the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Rare in children and adolescents, Cushing’s disease refers to overproduction of cortisol caused by excessive adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) secretion from a pituitary tumor. In pediatrics, early symptoms of excess cortisol include weight gain and delayed growth.

Despite being extremely unlikely in children younger than 7, some cases of Cushing’s disease in infancy have been reported.

“If undiagnosed or untreated it can lead to considerable morbidity and mortality, and the inability to detect a microadenoma [tumors smaller than 10 mm in diameter] on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can lead to a diagnostic dilemma leading to unnecessary delays in treatment initiation,” the researchers wrote.

Researchers from the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in New Delhi, India, described a 7-year-old boy who complained of excessive appetite and weight gain in the previous five months. The child weighed 46.8 kg, was 127 cm tall, and had a body mass index (BMI) of 29, indicating he was overweight.

The child’s excess fat was mainly in his abdomen plus he had a round, red, puffy face, which are both common features of Cushing’s disease. He had no history of acute or chronic steroid intake, mood swings, sleep disorders, or issues with eyesight.

Given his clinical presentation, the investigators suspected the boy had Cushing’s disease or pseudo-Cushing’s disease, which refers to situations where the overproduction of cortisol is caused by something unrelated to the disease, such as stress or uncontrolled diabetes mellitus.

Biochemical testing showed the patient had high levels of cortisol, which remained unchanged after a dexamethasone suppression test. In addition, his levels of “bad” cholesterol, referring to low-density lipoprotein, were extremely elevated at 194 mg/dL, where a normal range is defined as less than 110 mg/dL.

Imaging revealed no lesions in the pituitary gland.

The boy was sent home with dietary recommendations. Eight weeks later, he had lost 4 kg, while his height remained the same; he also complained of headaches and various episodes of double vision.

This confused the clinical team as hallmarks of Cushing’s disease include short stature and weight loss triggered by pharmacological therapy. Despite having lost weight, he did not take any medications to help him with it, plus the boy’s height was normal for his age.

Nonetheless, the patient was complaining of neurological symptoms, suggesting progression of Cushing’s disease.

An ophthalmologist did not observe anything abnormal with the child’s eyes that could explain his double vision episodes.

A new series of tests revealed slightly elevated 24-hour urinary cortisol levels, decreased concentration of ACTH, and mildly increased cortisol levels after a two-day dexamethasone suppression test.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed a small microadenoma in the right lobe of the pituitary gland.

Using Gamma Knife radiation therapy, a kind of high-precision radiation therapy, and surgery, doctors successfully removed the boy’s microadenoma. Six weeks post-procedure, his cortisol and ACTH concentrations returned to normal.

“MRI findings of the pituitary may be inconclusive in the beginning of the disease process and should be borne in mind during further follow-up. In cases where a clear-cut diagnosis may be difficult, a diligent follow-up is required to ascertain the course of the disease and to make timely diagnosis,” the investigators concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/10/25/rare-case-cushings-disease-diagnosed-7-year-old-boy-case-study/

Gene test for growth hormone deficiency developed

A new test developed by University of Manchester and NHS scientists could revolutionise the way children with growth hormone deficiency are diagnosed.

Children suspected of having GHD – which cause growth to slow down or stop and other serious physical problems—currently require a test involving fasting for up to 12 hours.

The fasting is followed by an intravenous infusion in hospital and up to 10 blood tests over half a day to measure growth hormone production.

Because the current test is unreliable, it often has to be done twice before growth hormone injections can be prescribed.

Now the discovery—which the team think could be available within 2 to 5 years -could reduce the process to a single blood test, freeing up valuable time and space for the NHS.

Dr. Adam Stevens from The University of Manchester and Dr. Philip Murray from Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, were part of the team whose results are published in JCI Insight today.

Dr. Stevens said: “We think this is an important development in the way doctors will be able to diagnose growth hormone deficiency – a condition which causes distress to many thousands of children in the UK

“This sort of diagnostic would not be available even a few years ago but thanks to the enormous computing power we have, and advances in genetics, it is now possible for this aspect of care to be made so much easier for patients – and the NHS.

“These volume of data involved is so huge and complicated that traditional data-processing application software is inadequate to deal with it.”

Comparing data from 72 patients with GHD and 26 healthy children, they used high powered computers to examine 30,000 genes—the full gene expression- of each child.

A sophisticated mathematical technique called Random Forest Analysis analysed around three million separate data points to compare different gene patterns between the children with and without GHD.

The research identified 347 genes which when analysed with the computer algorithm can determine whether a child has GHD or not and thus whether they will benefit from treatment.

Growth hormone deficiency (GHD) occurs when the pituitary gland—which is size of a pea- fails to produce enough growth hormone. It more commonly affects children than adults.

Many teenagers with GHD have poor bone strength, fatigue and lack stamina as well as depression, lack of concentration, poor memory and anxiety problems.

GHD occurs in roughly 1 in 5,000 people. Since the mid-1980s, synthetic growth hormones have been successfully used to treat children—and adults—with the deficiency.

Dr. Murray added: “This study provides strong proof of concept, but before it is in a position to be adopted by the NHS, we must carry out a further validation exercise which will involve comparing our new diagnostic with the existing test.

“Once we have crossed that hurdle, we hope to be in a position for this to be adopted within 2 to 5 years – and that can’t come soon enough for these children.”

Child Growth Foundation manager Jenny Child’s daughter has Growth Hormone Deficiency.

She said: Growth Hormone Deficiency isn’t just about growth, as lack of growth hormone impacts the child in many ways, such as lack of strength and they can find it difficult to keep up physically with their peers. It impacts the child’s self-esteem as they are often treated as being much younger, because of their size. Growth hormone treatment allows the child to grow to their genetic potential.

“A growth hormone stimulation test can be very daunting for both child and parents. The test can make the child feel quite unwell and they can experience headaches, nausea and unconsciousness through hypoglycaemia.”

 Explore further: Northern climes make a difference with growth hormone treatment

More information: Philip G. Murray et al. Transcriptomics and machine learning predict diagnosis and severity of growth hormone deficiency, JCI Insight (2018). DOI: 10.1172/jci.insight.93247

Adrenal Gland Lump Led to 5-year-old Developing Cushing’s, Starting Puberty

Non-cancerous adrenal gland tumors can lead to rare cases of Cushing’s syndrome in young children and puberty starting years before it should, a case study of a 5-year-old boy shows.

Removing his right adrenal gland eliminated the problems, the Saudi Arabian researchers said.

Their report dealt with tumors in epithelial cells, which line the surface of many of the body’s structures and cavities.

The research, “Testosterone- and Cortisol-secreting Oncocytic Adrenocortical Adenoma in the Pediatric Age-group,” appeared in the journal Pediatric and Developmental Pathology.

Most tumors in adrenal gland epithelial cells are benign and generate normal levels of hormones. But there are cases when the tumors over-produce steroids and other kinds of hormones, including sex hormones. Sometimes the over-production can lead to Cushing’s syndrome.

The 5-year-old boy’s over-production of adrenal gland hormones led to both symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome and signs that he was starting puberty, the researchers said.

One reason the case was rare is that the average age when Cushing’s develops is 40, doctors say. Another is that epithelial adrenal gland tumors account for only 0.2 percent of all tumors in children, the researchers said.

Signs that the boy was starting puberty began appearing eight months before his parents took him for treatment. Doctors discovered he had the weight gain and rounded face associated with Cushing’s, but a battery of tests detected no other problems. No family members were experiencing the symptoms he was, doctors added.

Biochemical tests showed that the boy had a high level of cortisol in his blood, which doctors were unable to lower with the corticosteroid suppression medication dexamethasone.

Physicians also discovered that the boy had elevated levels of the male hormone testosterone, the cortisol precursor 17-hydroxyprogestrone, the cortisol-releasing hormone adrenocorticotropin, and another male hormone that the adrenal gland produces — dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate

In contrast, doctors discovered a below-normal level of luteinising, a sex hormone that the pituitary gland generates.

Another unusual manifestation of the boy’s condition was that his bone growth was that of a child a year older than he.

Doctors discovered a non-cancerous tumor in his right adrenal gland that they decided to remove. When they did, they discovered no evidence of bleeding, tissue scarring or cell death.

They put the boy on a hydrocortisone supplement, which they reduced over time and finally ended.

Twenty-eight months after the surgery, the boy showed no signs of Cushing’s disease or early puberty. And his weight, cortisol and adrenocorticotropin hormone levels were normal.

“To the best of our knowledge, our patient represents the first male patient” with a benign epithelial-cell adrenal gland tumor “in the pediatric population, with clinical presentation of precocious [early] puberty and Cushing’s syndrome,” the researchers wrote.

“As these tumors are exceptionally rare, reporting of additional cases and investigation of clinicopathological [disease] data are needed for better characterization of these tumors,” they wrote.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/02/16/cushings-syndrome-early-puberty-5-year-old-boy-case-study/

A 12-year-old boy died from Addison’s disease after the chance of lifesaving treatment was ‘missed’

The death of a 12-year-old boy who was suffering from undiagnosed Addison’s disease was preventable, an inquest heard.

Ryan Lee Morse had been unwell from July 2012, with his parents noticing his skin darkening and him becoming lethargic and losing weight.

His condition worsened over the following months and he died during the early hours of December 8, 2012.

During the time he was unwell, Ryan’s mother, Carol Ann Morse, took him to Abernant Surgery in Abertillery several times.

She said: “Ryan was rarely ill as a child. In June 2012, which was towards the end of Ryan’s first comprehensive school year, I noticed his skin colour changing.

“His skin seemed to be getting darker.”

She said his joint areas, including elbows and knees, were getting darker. Under his eyes, it looked as if he had not slept for a month. I don’t suppose it worried me at the time because it was gradual.”

A post mortem was held on December 12 by Dr E. J. Lazda, a consultant pathologist at University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff who concluded that Ryan died as a result of Addison’s disease.

An inquest into Ryan’s death was held at Newport Coroner’s Court on Thursday.

Dr Yvette Cloette, a consultant paediatrician since 2004, was called during the early hours of December 8, 2012, by a registrar where she was told the details of Ryan’s death.

She said: “Ryan’s parents told me he had been unwell since July.

“It was thought Ryan had been particularly unwell since the Thursday before he passed away. He had to be collected from school that day. On (the) Friday morning, she said he hallucinated. His temperature did settle that afternoon but then he had diarrhoea.

“As his mum was cleaning him, she noticed his genitalia were black.

“I then examined Ryan. At this time I formed the opinion that Ryan may have had Addison’s disease. I didn’t share this with the family at the time because I didn’t have enough evidence.

“I believe that Ryan’s death was preventable. Addison’s is a disease which, once recognised, can be treated.”

She said it was easier to put things together retrospectively, as opposed to when treating an acute illness as a GP.

David Bowen, senior coroner for Gwent, paid tribute to Ryan’s family during the hearing.

“Before summing up, I think it’s right that I pay tribute to the dignity that has been shown by Mrs Morse and her family.

“It can’t have been easy for them to rehear events that took place over five years ago.

“Please accept my belated condolences.”

Mr Bowen told the inquest that Ryan had been fit and well up until July 2012.

“However at about that time, his parents began to notice a gradual change in his skin and a fluctuation in his general health.”

He had been diagnosed with a viral infection and prescribed Paracetamol, he said.

Over the next six to eight weeks, he did not improve.

Mr Bowen said: “Consequently, his mother took him back to the doctor. The GP was more concerned about the rash, it seems to me, than any of the other symptoms.

“He prescribed tablets and cream for that condition.”

Mr Bowen said that during October and November 2012, “Ryan’s health became much more of a concern for his parents.”

He suffered from headaches, pains in his legs, and occasional episodes of projectile vomiting.

On November 7, Mrs Morse took Ryan back to the GP surgery, where she described symptoms to Dr Rudling, who took samples of blood.

On November 21, they returned to receive the blood test results.

The results revealed a “slightly lower than normal” white blood cell count. The inquest heard Ryan was told he was still suffering from a viral infection that had been diagnosed some months earlier.

Mr Bowen said: “It appears that about this time, there was an outbreak of Norovirus or vomiting and sickness in the area that may have confused the diagnosis.”

Mrs Morse said: “I’d been told to bring Ryan back in January so I thought I would just get Christmas out of the way and take him back. I’d been a carer for 9-10 years but my job didn’t give me any insight into what Ryan had.”

On November 29, 2012, Ryan returned to school, but around a week later on December 6 he was so ill that his mum had to collect him early.

The following day, on December 7, Mrs Morse rang Abernant Surgery saying she needed to speak to a doctor.

Between 8.50am and 8.55am, she received a call from Dr Lyndsey Elizabeth Thomas.

Mrs Morse said: “She asked if he’d been given Paracetamol and I explained he wouldn’t take it. She asked what his temperature was like.

“I’d said Ryan was awake (that morning) and talking rubbish.”

The inquest heard Mrs Morse was asked to take Ryan to the surgery, but she said she was unable to.

“She then told me to give Ryan some dissolvable Paracetamol and see how it goes until dinner. She said fetch him up if you need to.”

Dr Lyndsey Elizabeth Thomas said her contact with Ryan was limited to a single telephone conversation with his mother on December 7.

She said: “I considered whether Ryan needed to be seen or admitted to hospital.

“I clearly recall explaining that if she had any concerns or if Ryan’s delirium or temperature didn’t improve in two hours, he would need to be seen, I would be able to go and visit him at the end of the morning surgery if necessary.”

Mrs Morse said she later noticed that her son’s genitals were black.

She rang the surgery and was put her through to Dr Rudling.

Mrs Morse said: “She said ‘it’s all to do with his hormones’. Phone Monday and we’ll fit him in. At this point I didn’t know what to think.

“I was thinking I’ll take him in on Monday and see what they say. There was no more temperature, no more sickness and no more diarrhoea.”

The inquest heard Dr Joanne Louise Rudling, who qualified in 1993, joined Abernant in August 2011.

She said her first contact with Ryan was in November 2012.

On December 7, Dr Rudling said the receptionist took a call from Ryan’s mother while she was in reception.

Dr Rudling said: “I decided to speak to Ryan’s mother in reception there and then.

“She also asked if this could be age related, I said it could be but I would have to examine him first.

“The impression I got was Ryan was improving. His mother was concerned about the darkening of his genitalia.”

Ryan’s father said goodnight around 10.15pm and went to bed. At around 11.10pm Mrs Morse could see Ryan had fallen asleep, and went to sleep herself at around 11.30pm.

She said: “I woke up and saw it was 4.10am and then I looked at Ryan and looking at his chest could see he wasn’t breathing.

“I started to do chest compressions, dialled 999, continued chest compressions until the paramedics arrived. They took over. They told me Ryan had died.”

Mr Bowen said: “This is a rare but natural disease, one which apparently GPs will not normally encounter.

“Unfortunately, neither doctor nor parents thought it necessary to refer Ryan to hospital, where the true nature of his illness may have been diagnosed.”

Recording a narrative conclusion, Mr Bowen said Ryan died of natural causes.

He said: “The opportunity to administer life-saving treatment was missed.”

Speaking after the inquest, Ryan’s sister Christina Morse said: “First of all I would like to thank everyone involved with Ryan and Ryan’s case.

“Today, after five long years, the coroner has come to the conclusion that Ryan’s death was due to natural causes and that Ryan’s death was preventable.”

From http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/boy-died-addisons-disease-after-13687355

Day 14, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2016

Way back when we first got married, my husband thought we might have a big family with a lot of kids.  He was from a family of 6 siblings, so that’s what he was accustomed to.  I am an only child so I wasn’t sure about having so many.

I needn’t have worried.

In January, 1974 I had a miscarriage.  I was devastated. My father revealed that my mother had also had a miscarriage.  I had no idea.

At some point after this I tried fertility drugs.  Clomid and another drug.  One or both drugs made me very angry/depressed/bitchy (one dwarf I left off the image)  Little did I know that these meds were a waste of time.

Eventually,  I did get pregnant and our wonderful son, Michael was born.  It wasn’t until he was seven that I was finally, actually diagnosed with Cushing’s.

When I had my early Cushing’s symptoms, I thought I was pregnant again but it was not to be.

I’ll never forget the fall when he was in second grade.  He was leaving for school and I said goodbye to him.  I knew I was going into NIH that day for at least 6 weeks and my future was very iffy.  The night before, I had signed my will – just in case.  He just turned and headed off with his friends…and I felt a little betrayed.

Michael wrote this paper on Cushing’s when he was in the 7th grade. From the quality of the pages, he typed this on typing paper – no computers yet!

Click on each page to enlarge.

When Michael started having headache issues in middle school, I had him tested for Cushing’s.  I had no idea yet if it could be familial but I wasn’t taking any chances.  It turned out that my father had also had some unnamed endocrine issues.  Hmmm…

I survived my time and surgery at NIH and Michael grew up to be a wonderful young man, if an only child.  🙂

After I survived kidney cancer (Day Twelve, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2015) Michael and I went zip-lining – a goal of mine after surviving that surgery.  This photo was taken in a treetop restaurant in Belize.

For the mathematically inclined, this is his blog.  Xor’s Hammer.  I understand none of it.  He also has a page of Math and Music, which I also don’t understand.

I know it doesn’t fit into a Cushing’s awareness post but just because I’m a very proud mama – Michael got a PhD in math from Cornell and his thesis was Using Tree Automata to Investigate Intuitionistic Propositional Logic

 

proud-mom

 

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