Cushing’s appears to begin its cardiovascular effects during childhood

– Cushing’s disease may begin to exert its harmful cardiovascular effects quite early, a small pediatric study has found.

Children as young as 6 years old with the disorder already may show signs of cardiovascular remodeling, with stiffer aortas and higher aortic pulse-wave velocity than do age-matched controls, Hailey Blain and Maya Lodish, MD, said at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society.

“The study, which included 10 patients, is small, but we continue to add new patients,” said Dr. Lodish, director of the pediatric endocrinology fellowship program at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Ten more children are being added to the cohort now, and she and Ms. Blain, a former research fellow at NIH, intend to grow the group and follow patients longitudinally.

Cushing’s disease has long been linked with increased cardiovascular risk in adults, but the study by Dr. Lodish and Ms. Blain is one of the first to examine the link in children. Their findings suggest that early cardiovascular risk factor management should be a routine part of these patients’ care, Dr. Lodish said in an interview.

“It’s very important to make sure that there is recognition of the cardiovascular risk factors that go along with this disease. Elevated levels of cholesterol, hypertension, and other risk factors that are in these individuals should be ameliorated as soon as possible from an early age and, most importantly, physicians should be diagnosing and treating children early, once they are identified as having Cushing’s disease. And, given that we are not sure whether these changes are reversible, we need to make sure these children are followed very closely.”

Indeed, Dr. Lodish has reason to believe that the changes may be long lasting or even permanent.

“We are looking at these children longitudinally and have 3-year data on some patients already. We want to see if they return to normal pulse wave velocity after surgical cure, or whether this is permanent remodeling. There is an implication already that it may be in a subset of individuals,” she said, citing her own 2009 study on hypertension in pediatric Cushing’s patients. “We looked at blood pressure at presentation, after surgical cure, and 1 year later. A significant portion of the kids still had hypertension at 1 year. This leads us to wonder if they will continue to be at risk for cardiovascular morbidity as adults.”

Ms. Blaine, an undergraduate at Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, worked on the study during a summer internship with Dr. Lodish and presented its results in a poster forum during meeting. She examined two indicators of cardiovascular remodeling – aortic pulse wave velocity and aortic distensibility – in 10 patients who were a mean of 13 years old. All of the children came to NIH for diagnosis and treatment of Cushing’s; as part of that, all underwent a cardiac MRI.

The patients had a mean 2.5-year history of Cushing’s disease Their mean midnight cortisol level was 18.8 mcg/dL and mean plasma adrenocorticotropic hormone level, 77.3 pg/mL. Five patients were taking antihypertensive medications. Low- and high-density lipoprotein levels were acceptable in all patients.

The cardiovascular measures were compared to an age-matched historical control group. In this comparison, patients had significantly higher pulse wave velocity compared with controls (mean 4 vs. 3.4 m/s). Pulse wave velocity positively correlated with both midnight plasma cortisol and 24-hour urinary free cortisol collections. In the three patients with long-term follow-up after surgical cure of Cushing’s, the pulse wave velocity did not improve, either at 6 months or 1 year after surgery. This finding echoes those of Dr. Lodish’s 2009 paper, suggesting that once cardiovascular remodeling sets in, the changes may be long lasting.

“The link between Cushing’s and cardiovascular remodeling is related to the other things that go along with the disease,” Dr. Lodish said. “The hypertension, the adiposity, and the high cholesterol all may contribute to arterial rigidity. It’s also thought to be due to an increase in connective tissue. The bioelastic function of the aorta may be affected by having Cushing’s.”

That connection also suggests that certain antihypertensives may be more beneficial to patients with Cushing’s disease, she added. “It might have an implication in what blood pressure drug you use. Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors increase vascular distensibility and inhibit collagen formation and fibrosis. It is a pilot study and needs longitudinal follow up and additional patient accrual, however, finding signs of cardiovascular remodeling in young children with Cushing’s is intriguing and deserves further study.”

Neither Ms. Blain nor Dr. Lodish had any financial disclosures.

Prednisolone May Raise Cholesterol in Adrenal Insufficiency

Prednisolone treatment of patients with adrenal insufficiency is associated with significantly elevated total-and low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels compared with use of an alternative glucocorticoid, hydrocortisone, new data suggest.

Real-world data from the European Adrenal Insufficiency Registry (EU-AIR) were presented on April 2 here at ENDO 2017: The Endocrine Society Annual Meeting by Robert D Murray, MBBS, consultant endocrinologist and honorary associate professor at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, United Kingdom.

In an interview, Dr Murray told Medscape Medical News, “In addition to previous data showing that prednisolone can cause lower bone mass, we’ve now shown that it may raise cholesterol to a higher degree than hydrocortisone.”

Asked to comment, session moderator Constantine A Stratakis, MD, chief medical officer of the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, Bethesda, Maryland, said: “These are significant findings. I think that the difference he’s seeing may be mostly due to the differences in how glucocorticoids are metabolized locally in the liver and fat tissues.”

Regarding clinical implications, Dr Stratakis said, “These data point to the need for using hydrocortisone. Clearly, at these doses anyway, you have increases in LDL and cholesterol with prednisolone.”

Indeed, the new findings support recent recommendations from the Endocrine Society to use hydrocortisone as first-line glucocorticoid replacement therapy for primary adrenal insufficiency.

But the huge cost difference between the two generic medications has led some to suggest otherwise. In 2014, the BMJ published editorials arguing both for and against the preferred use of prednisolone.

During his presentation, Dr Murray reported that in the United Kingdom, an annual supply of 5-mg prednisolone (one tablet a day) costs about £16 and 3 mg (three 1-mg tablets a day) about £48, compared with £1910 for a year’s supply of twice-daily 10-mg hydrocortisone.

(Hydrocortisone is also considerably more expensive than prednisolone in the United States, although the differential isn’t quite as dramatic.)

Dr Murray pointed out that about 75% of the patients in the database were taking 5 mg/day of prednisolone and that although that’s within the recommended range (3–5 mg/day), it might be too much. “I suspect this isn’t related to the steroid use, but that we may actually have gotten the doses wrong, and we may need a smaller dose of prednisolone. I think probably in reality the ideal dose is probably nearer to 3.5 to 4 mg. Therefore, I think we may be slightly overtreating these people and both the bone mass and the cholesterol may be a reflection of that.

“I think for now we have to stay with hydrocortisone as our mainstay of treating adrenal insufficiency, but I think more studies need to be done in patients taking 3.5 to 4.0 mg to then look at the effects on cholesterol, bone mass, and other markers….It would be quite a significant saving if we were able to move patients to prednisolone,” he added.

Dr Stratakis commented, “I have to say the price difference to me is amazing.” Asked about Dr Murray’s dose hypothesis, he responded, “It is possible we may be giving more prednisolone than we should. Also, there might be important differences in the handling of glucocorticoids at the tissue level, in fat and liver, specifically, that we don’t account for.”

Hydrocortisone vs Prednisolone

Beginning his presentation, Dr Murray noted that data on risk factors for cardiovascular disease in patients with adrenal insufficiency treated with prednisolone are scarce, despite this condition being the predominant cause of excess mortality, and so in this analysis he and his colleagues aimed to address this gap in the literature.

EU-AIR is a prospective, observational study, initiated in August 2012 to monitor the long-term safety of glucocorticoids in patients with adrenal insufficiency, and of 946 enrolled — in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom — 91.8% were using hydrocortisone for glucocorticoid replacement therapy compared to just 6.8% using prednisone, with marked heterogeneity in doses and frequency and timing of dosing (Endocrine Abstracts. 2015: DOI:10.1530/endoabs.37.EP39).

Other previous studies have found lower bone mass at the hip and spine with prednisolone compared with hydrocortisone-treated patients, but no quality-of-life difference between the two treatments, Dr Murray said.

The current study is the first patient-matched analysis of cardiovascular-risk-factor differences for the two glucocorticoid therapies. Patients were excluded if they were receiving more than one glucocorticoid, had congenital adrenal hyperplasia, were receiving modified-release hydrocortisone, or were receiving prednisolone or hydrocortisone doses outside the Endocrine Society’s recommended ranges.

Prior to matching, the 909 hydrocortisone patients were significantly more likely to be female, to have primary adrenal insufficiency, to be older, and to have longer disease duration. After matching three hydrocortisone patients for every one taking prednisolone, the 141 hydrocortisone and 47 prednisolone patients were similar for those factors: 62% were female, 40% had primary adrenal insufficiency, average age was around 59 years, and disease duration 23 years.

Both total cholesterol and LDL levels were significantly higher, at 6.3 and 3.9 mmol/L, respectively, in the prednisolone group compared with 5.4 and 3.2 mmol/L for hydrocortisone (both P < .05). However, there were no significant differences in rates of hypertension, diabetes (of either type), blood pressure, triglycerides, or HDL cholesterol.

In subgroup analysis, both total and LDL cholesterol were elevated among patients with primary adrenal insufficiency taking prednisolone, but among those with only secondary adrenal insufficiency, just total cholesterol was elevated with prednisolone.

Dr Stratakis told Medscape Medical News, “It is peculiar for me to see that the only difference he found from all the parameters he measured were in lipids, and specifically total cholesterol and LDL. I think the difference is tissue-specific.”

Dr Murray said it’s certainly plausible that the current prednisolone dosing is too high for two reasons: First, in the United Kingdom prednisolone comes in 1-mg and 5-mg tablets, so taking 5 mg/day is simpler than taking the lower end of the recommended range.

Second, “hydrocortisone is cortisol, so you know what the body produces and about what your levels should be, but you can’t do that with prednisone because it’s an analog. So, we’re guessing, and I think we’ve guessed too high.”

Dr Murray is a speaker and consultant to Shire. Disclosures for the coauthors are listed in the abstract. Dr Stratakis has no relevant financial relationships.   

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ENDO 2017. April 2, 2017; Orlando, Florida. Abstract OR03-5

 

From http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/878097

Why Was This Woman Gaining Weight Despite Her Diet?

“I just can’t seem to lose weight,” the 59-year-old woman said quietly. She had tried everything, she told the young doctor, who was training to be an endocrinologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Weight Watchers. Exercise. She ate more vegetables, less fat, then fewer carbs. But still she was gaining weight, 30 pounds during the past seven months, including 12 in the past two weeks. She had never been skinny, she continued, but shapely. In her mid-40s, she started gaining weight, slowly at first, then rapidly. She was considering bariatric surgery, but she wanted to make sure she wasn’t missing something obvious. She had low thyroid hormones and had to take medication. Could her thyroid be off again?

The doctor asked her about symptoms associated with a low thyroid-hormone level. Fatigue? Yes, she was always tired. Changes in her hair or skin? No. Constipation? No. Do you get cold easier? Never. Indeed, these days she usually felt hot and sweaty.

It was probably not the thyroid, the doctor said. She asked if the woman had any other medical problems. She had high blood pressure and high cholesterol — both well controlled with medications. She also had obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder in which the soft tissue at the back of the throat collapse during sleep, cutting off air flow and waking the person many times throughout the night. She had a machine that helped keep her airway open, and she used it every night. She also had back pain, knee pain and carpal-tunnel syndrome. The pain was so bad that she had to retire from her job years before she was ready.

Big, Bigger, Biggest

The doctor examined her, then went to get Dr. Donald Smith, an endocrinologist and director of lipids and metabolism at Mount Sinai’s cardiovascular institute. After hearing a summary of the case, Smith asked the patient if she had anything to add. She did: She didn’t understand why she was getting so much bigger. Her legs were huge. She used to have nice ankles, but now you could hardly see them. Her doctor had given her a diuretic, but it hadn’t done a thing. Everything was large — her feet, her hands, even her face seemed somehow bigger. She hardly recognized the woman in the mirror. Her doctors just encouraged her to keep trying to lose weight.

Worth a Thousand Words

“Let me show you a picture,” she said suddenly and reached over to her purse. The patient’s sister had made a comment recently that led the patient to wonder whether the changes she saw in the mirror were more than simple aging. The patient pulled out a photograph of an attractive middle-aged woman and handed it to Smith. That was me eight years ago, she told him. Looking at the two faces, it was hard to believe they belonged to the same woman. Smith suspected this was something more than the extra pounds.

Two possibilities came to mind. Each was a disease of hormonal excess; each caused rapid weight gain. The first was Cushing’s disease, caused by overproduction of one of the fight-or-flight hormones, cortisol. The doctor looked at the patient, seeking clues. On her upper back, just below her neck, the woman had a subtle area of enlargement. This discrete accumulation of fat, called a buffalo hump, can occur with normal weight gain but is frequently seen in patients with Cushing’s. Do you bruise more easily these days? he asked. Cushing’s makes the skin fragile. No, she said. Did she have stretch marks on her stomach from the weight gain? The rapid expansion of the abdomen can cause the fragile skin to develop dark purple stretch lines. No. So maybe it wasn’t Cushing’s.

Find out the answer at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/04/17/magazine/17mag-diagnosis.html#/#7

The Role of Adrenal Scintigraphy in the Diagnosis of Subclinical Cushing’s Syndrome and the Prediction of Post-surgical Hypoadrenalism

World J Surg. 2014 Mar 11. [Epub ahead of print]

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Management of subclinical Cushing’s syndrome (SCS) remains controversial; it is not possible to predict which patients would benefit from adrenalectomy. In the present study we aimed to evaluate the role of adrenocortical scintigraphy (ACS) in the management of patients with SCS.

METHODS:

The medical records of 33 consecutive patients with adrenal “incidentaloma” and proven or suspected SCS who underwent 131I-19-iodocholesterol ACS between 2004 and 2010 were reviewed. Sixteen underwent laparoscopic adrenalectomy (surgical group-S-group) and 17 were medically managed (medical group-M-group). Follow-up evaluation was obtained by outpatient consultation.

RESULTS:

Overall 25 patients (15 in the S-group and 10 in the M-group) had concordant unilateral uptake at ACS (ACS+). In the S-group, the mean follow-up duration was 30.9 ± 16.1 months and, irrespective of the presence of hormonal diagnosis of SCS, in patients who were ACS+ adrenalectomy resulted in a significant increase in HDL cholesterol and decreases in body mass index, glycemia, and blood pressure (BP). One patient reduced antihypertensive medication and three others were able to discontinue it altogether. Prolonged postoperative hypoadrenalism (PH) occurred in 14 patients in the S-group. The overall accuracy in predicting PH was 93.7 % for ACS and 68.7 % for laboratory findings. In the M-group, the mean follow-up duration was 31.5 ± 26.3 months and no patient developed overt Cushing’s syndrome, although ACS+ patients experienced a worsening in glycemia and diastolic BP.

CONCLUSIONS:

Adrenal scintigraphy seems the most accurate diagnostic test for SCS. It is able to predict the metabolic outcome and the occurrence of PH, identifying the patients who could benefit from adrenalectomy irrespective of hormonal diagnosis.

PMID:
24615601
[PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

From http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24615601

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