Bilateral Adrenocortical Adenomas Causing Adrenocorticotropic Hormone-Independent Cushing’s Syndrome

Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-independent Cushing’s syndrome (CS) is mostly due to unilateral tumors, with bilateral tumors rarely reported. Its common causes include primary pigmented nodular adrenocortical disease, ACTH-independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia, and bilateral adrenocortical adenomas (BAAs) or carcinomas. BAAs causing ACTH-independent CS are rare; up to now, fewer than 40 BAA cases have been reported. The accurate diagnosis and evaluation of BAAs are critical for determining optimal treatment options. Adrenal vein sampling (AVS) is a good way to diagnose ACTH-independent CS.

A 31-year-old woman had a typical appearance of CS. The oral glucose tolerance test showed impaired glucose tolerance and obviously increased insulin and C-peptide levels. Her baseline serum cortisol and urine free cortisol were elevated and did not show either a circadian rhythm or suppression with dexamethasone administration. The peripheral 1-deamino-8-D-arginine-vasopressin (DDVAP) stimulation test showed a delay of the peak level, which was 1.05 times as high as the baseline level. Bilateral AVS results suggested the possibility of BAAs. Abdominal computed tomography showed bilateral adrenal adenomas with atrophic adrenal glands (right: 3.1 cm × 2.0 cm × 1.9 cm; left: 2.2 cm × 1.9 cm × 2.1 cm). Magnetic resonance imaging of the pituitary gland demonstrated normal findings. A left adenomectomy by retroperitoneoscopy was performed first, followed by resection of the right-side adrenal mass 3 mo later. Biopsy results of both adenomas showed cortical tumors. Evaluations of ACTH and cortisol showed a significant decrease after left adenomectomy but could still not be suppressed, and the circadian rhythm was absent. Following bilateral adenomectomy, this patient has been administered with prednisone until now, all of her symptoms were alleviated, and she had normal blood pressure without edema in either of her lower extremities.

BAAs causing ACTH-independent CS are rare. AVS is of great significance for obtaining information on the functional state of BAAs before surgery.

World journal of clinical cases. 2019 Apr 26 [Epub]

Yu-Lin Gu, Wei-Jun Gu, Jing-Tao Dou, Zhao-Hui Lv, Jie Li, Sai-Chun Zhang, Guo-Qing Yang, Qing-Hua Guo, Jian-Ming Ba, Li Zang, Nan Jin, Jin Du, Yu Pei, Yi-Ming Mu

Department of Endocrinology, Chinese People’s Liberation Army General Hospital, Beijing 100853, China., Department of Endocrinology, Chinese People’s Liberation Army General Hospital, Beijing 100853, China. guweijun301@163.com., Department of Pathology, Chinese People’s Liberation Army General Hospital, Beijing 100853, China.

From https://www.urotoday.com/recent-abstracts/urologic-oncology/adrenal-diseases/112782-bilateral-adrenocortical-adenomas-causing-adrenocorticotropic-hormone-independent-cushing-s-syndrome-a-case-report-and-review-of-the-literature.html

Metoclopramide Can Mask Adrenal Insufficiency After Gland Removal in BMAH Patients

Metoclopramide, a gastrointestinal medicine, can increase cortisol levels after unilateral adrenalectomy — the surgical removal of one adrenal gland — and conceal adrenal insufficiency in bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia (BMAH) patients, a case report suggests.

The study, “Retention of aberrant cortisol secretion in a patient with bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia after unilateral adrenalectomy,” was published in Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management.

BMAH is a subtype of adrenal Cushing’s syndrome, characterized by the formation of nodules and enlargement of both adrenal glands.

In this condition, the production of cortisol does not depend on adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation, as usually is the case. Instead, cortisol production is triggered by a variety of stimuli, such as maintaining an upright posture, eating mixed meals — those that contain fats, proteins, and carbohydrates — or exposure to certain substances.

A possible treatment for this condition is unilateral adrenalectomy. However, after the procedure, some patients cannot produce adequate amounts of cortisol. That makes it important for clinicians to closely monitor the changes in cortisol levels after surgery.

Metoclopramide, a medicine that alleviates gastrointestinal symptoms and is often used during the postoperative period, has been reported to increase the cortisol levels of BMAH patients. However, the effects of metoclopramide on BMAH patients who underwent unilateral adrenalectomy are not clear.

Researchers in Japan described the case of a 61-year-old postmenopausal woman whose levels of cortisol remained high after surgery due to metoclopramide ingestion.

The patient was first examined because she had experienced high blood pressure, abnormal lipid levels in the blood, and osteoporosis for ten years. She also was pre-obese.

She was given medication to control blood pressure with no results. The lab tests showed high serum cortisol and undetectable levels of ACTH, suggesting adrenal Cushing’s syndrome.

Patients who have increased cortisol levels, but low levels of ACTH, often have poor communication between the hypothalamus, the pituitary, and the adrenal glands. These three glands — together known as the HPA axis — control the levels of cortisol in healthy people.

Imaging of the adrenal glands revealed they were both enlarged and presented nodules. The patient’s cortisol levels peaked after taking metoclopramide, and her serum cortisol varied significantly during the day while ACTH remained undetectable. These results led to the BMAH diagnosis.

The doctors performed unilateral adrenalectomy to control cortisol levels. The surgery was successful, and the doctors reduced the dose of glucocorticoid replacement therapy on day 6.

Eight days after the surgery, however, the patient showed decreased levels of fasting serum cortisol, which indicated adrenal insufficiency — when the adrenal glands are unable to produce enough cortisol.

The doctors noticed that metoclopramide was causing an increase in serum cortisol levels, which made them appear normal and masked the adrenal insufficiency.

They stopped metoclopramide treatment and started replacement therapy (hydrocortisone) to control the adrenal insufficiency. The patient was discharged 10 days after the surgery.

The serum cortisol levels were monitored on days 72 and 109 after surgery, and they remained lower than average. Therefore she could not stop hydrocortisone treatment.

The levels of ACTH remained undetectable, suggesting that the communication between the HPA axis had not been restored.

“Habitual use of metoclopramide might suppress the hypothalamus and pituitary via negative feedback due to cortisol excess, and lead to a delayed recovery of the HPA axis,” the researchers said.

Meanwhile, the patient’s weight decreased, and high blood pressure was controlled.

“Detailed surveillance of aberrant cortisol secretion responses on a challenge with exogenous stimuli […] is clinically important in BMAH patients,” the study concluded. “Caution is thus required for assessing the actual status of the HPA axis.”

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/05/07/metoclopramide-conceals-adrenal-insufficiency-after-gland-removal-bmah-patients-case-report/

Cyclic Cortisol Production May Lead to Misdiagnosis in Cushing’s

Increased cortisol secretion may follow a cyclic pattern in patients with adrenal incidentalomas, a phenomenon that may lead to misdiagnosis, a study reports.

Since cyclic subclinical hypercortisolism may increase the risk for heart problems, researchers recommend extended follow-up with repeated tests to measure cortisol levels in these patients.

The study, “Cyclic Subclinical Hypercortisolism: A Previously Unidentified Hypersecretory Form of Adrenal Incidentalomas,” was published in the Journal of Endocrine Society.

Adrenal incidentalomas (AI) are asymptomatic masses in the adrenal glands discovered on an imaging test ordered for a problem unrelated to adrenal disease. While most of these benign tumors are considered non-functioning, meaning they do not produce steroid hormones like cortisol, up to 30% do produce and secrete steroids.

Subclinical Cushing’s syndrome is an asymptomatic condition characterized by mild cortisol excess without the specific signs of Cushing’s syndrome. The long-term exposure to excess cortisol may lead to cardiovascular problems in these patients.

While non-functioning adenomas have been linked with metabolic problems, guidelines say that if excess cortisol is ruled out after the first evaluation, patients no longer need additional follow-up.

However, cortisol secretion can be cyclic in Cushing’s syndrome, meaning that clinicians might not detect excess amounts of cortisol at first and misdiagnose patients.

In an attempt to determine whether cyclic cortisol production is also seen in patients with subclinical Cushing’s syndrome and whether these patients have a higher risk for metabolic complications, researchers in Brazil reviewed the medical records of 251 patients with AI — 186 women, median 60 years old — followed from 2006 to 2017 in a single reference center.

Cortisol levels were measured after a dexamethasone suppression test (DST). Dexamethasone is used to stop the adrenal glands from producing cortisol. In healthy patients, this treatment is expected to reduce cortisol levels, but in patients whose tumors also produce cortisol, the levels often remain elevated.

Patients were diagnosed with cyclic subclinical Cushing’s syndrome if they had at least two normal and two abnormal DST tests.

From the 251 patients, only 44 performed the test at least three times and were included in the analysis. The results showed that 20.4% of patients had a negative DST test and were considered non-functioning adenomas.

An additional 20.4% had elevated cortisol levels in all DST tests and received a diagnosis of sustained subclinical Cushing’s syndrome.

The remaining 59.2% had discordant results in their tests, with 18.3% having at least two positive and two negative test results, matching the criteria for cyclic cortisol production, and 40.9% having only one discordant test, being diagnosed as possibly cyclic subclinical Cushing’s syndrome.

Interestingly, 20 of the 44 patients had a normal cortisol response at their first evaluation. However, 11 of these patients failed to maintain normal responses in subsequent tests, with four receiving a diagnosis of cyclic subclinical Cushing’s syndrome and seven as possibly cyclic subclinical Cushing’s.

Overall, the findings suggest that patients with adrenal incidentalomas should receive extended follow-up with repeated DST tests, helping identify those with cyclic cortisol secretion.

“Lack of recognition of this phenomenon makes follow-up of patients with AI misleading because even cyclic SCH may result in potential cardiovascular risk,” the study concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/04/11/cyclic-cortisol-production-may-lead-to-misdiagnosis-in-cushings-study-finds/

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/

Study Supports Midnight Salivary Cortisol Test to Diagnose Cushing’s in Chinese Population

A simple test that measures free cortisol levels in saliva at midnight — called a midnight salivary cortisol test — showed good diagnostic performance for Cushing’s syndrome among a Chinese population, according to a recent study.

The test was better than the standard urine free cortisol levels and may be an alternative for people with end-stage kidney disease, in whom measuring cortisol in urine is challenging.

The study, “Midnight salivary cortisol for the diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome in a Chinese population,” was published in Singapore Medical Journal.

Cushing’s syndrome, defined by excess cortisol levels, is normally diagnosed by measuring the amount of cortisol in bodily fluids.

Traditionally, urine free cortisol has been the test of choice, but this method is subject to complications ranging from improper collection to metabolic differences, and its use is limited in people with poor kidney function.

Midnight salivary cortisol is a test that takes into account the normal fluctuation of cortisol levels in bodily fluids. Cortisol peaks in the morning and declines throughout the day, reaching its lowest levels at midnight. In Cushing’s patients, however, this variation ceases to exist and cortisol remains elevated throughout the day.

Midnight salivary cortisol was first proposed in the 1980s as a noninvasive way to measure cortisol levels, but its efficacy and cutoff value for Cushing’s disease in the Chinese population remained unclear.

Researchers examined midnight salivary cortisol, urine free cortisol, and midnight serum cortisol in Chinese patients suspected of having Cushing’s syndrome and in healthy volunteers. These measurements were then combined with imaging studies to make a diagnosis.

Overall, the study included 29 patients with Cushing’s disease, and 19 patients with Cushing’s syndrome — 15 caused by an adrenal mass and four caused by an ACTH-producing tumor outside the pituitary. Also, 13 patients excluded from the suspected Cushing’s group were used as controls and 21 healthy volunteers were considered the “normal” group.

The team found that the mean midnight salivary cortisol was significantly higher in the Cushing’s group compared to both control and normal subjects. Urine free cortisol and midnight serum cortisol were also significantly higher than those found in the control group, but not the normal group.

The optimal cutoff value of midnight salivary cortisol for diagnosing Cushing’s was 1.7 ng/mL, which had a sensitivity of 98% — only 2% are false negatives — and a specificity of 100% — no false positives.

While midnight salivary cortisol levels correlated with urine free cortisol and midnight serum cortisol — suggesting that all of them can be useful diagnostic markers for Cushing’s — the accuracy of midnight salivary cortisol was better than the other two measures.

Notably, in one patient with a benign adrenal mass and impaired kidney function, urine free cortisol failed to reach the necessary threshold for a Cushing’s diagnosis, but midnight salivary and serum cortisol levels both confirmed the diagnosis, highlighting how midnight salivary cortisol could be a preferable diagnostic method over urine free cortisol.

“MSC is a simple and non-invasive tool that does not require hospitalization. Our results confirmed the accuracy and reliability of [midnight salivary cortisol] as a diagnostic test for [Cushing’s syndrome] for the Chinese population,” the investigators said.

The team also noted that its study is limited: the sample size was quite small, and Cushing’s patients tended to be older than controls, which may have skewed the results. Larger studies will be needed to validate these results in the future.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/01/10/midnight-salivary-cortisol-test-helps-diagnose-cushings-chinese-study-shows/

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