Interview with Fabiana October 21

Fabiana had transsphenoidal surgery (pituitary) July 30th 2004.  She had a recurrence after seven years of being Cushing’s free.  A second pituitary surgery on 10/26/2011 was unsuccessful.

Another Golden Oldie, this bio was last updated 9/12/2015

interview

Fabiana will be our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Wednesday, October 21 at 6:00 PM eastern.  The Call-In number for questions or comments is (657) 383-0416.

The archived interview will be available after 7:00 PM Eastern through iTunes Podcasts (Cushie Chats) or BlogTalkRadio.  While you’re waiting, there are currently 88 other past interviews to listen to!

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Well it has taken me a year to write this bio…and just to give some hope to those of you just going thru this process…I have to say that after surgery I have not felt better! I am back to who i always knew I was….the depression and anxiety is gone and I am living life like a 24 year old should!

I guess it all started when i was sixteen (hindsight is 20-20 i guess). My periods stopped i was tired all the time and the depression started. We all kind of just chalked it up to being sixteen. But my mom insisted something was not right. we talked with my gyno…who said nothing was wrong, I had a fungus on my head (my hair was getting really thin) and sometimes girls who had normal periods (in my case three years of normal periods) just go awry.

My mom wasnt hearing that and demanded a script for an endo. I went….he did blood work…and metioned cushings. But nothing came back definitive…so they put me on birthcontol and gave me some hormones and the chushings was never mentioned again because that all seemed to work.

As time went on my depression got worse, the shape of my body started to change-my face and stomach was the most noticeable- and my energy level kept going down. I kept going back to the doctors asking to be tested for mono..or something. I went to a psycologist….but i knew there was no reason for my depression. Two of them told me “i had very good insight” and that I didnt need them. I started getting more anxiety..especially about going out socially.

High school ended and my typical optimistic personality started to decline. I put on a good act to my friends but my family was seeing me break down all the time. I went away for college (all the while gaining weight). My sophmore year I had a break down..I called my family crying that i needed help. I couldnt beat my depression. I didnt drink in college because i knew that would mean instant weight gain, i barely went out…i exercised everyday..hard….i joined weight watchers…i stuck with it. I was at 103 lbs….that crept up to 110…that crept up to 117…each time my weight goal would be “ohh if i could just get back to 108..112…115” with each weight gain my original weight goal would get higher and higher.

Internally i felt like I was constantly under a black cloud..i knew there was no reason why i shoudl feel this way..i was doing great in school, i had a supportive family, an amazing boyfriend and great friends…why was i depressed? I was becoming emotionally draining to the people closest to me…I would go home a lot on the weekends…i was diagnosed with PMDS….like severe PMS..and was given an antidepresant…i hated it it made me feel like a zombie…i stopped taking it and just made it apoint to work on fighting the depression….and the weight gain.

When i was done college i was about 120 lbs. My face was getting rounder and rounder..i was noticing more hair on my face and arms…and a hump between my shoulder blades and the bottom of my neck. My mom saw a tv show about Polycystic ovarian syndrome and felt that maybe that was what was going on with me…i went to my PCP with this and she said it was possible and that i should to talk to my gyno….I am 4’8 and at the time weighing close to 125..i talked to my gyno and she said I was not heavy..that i was just “itailan” ..i told her my periods were getting abnormal again even w/the birthcontrol and that i was so tired all the time and my arms and legs ached. I also told her that i was bruising very easily…and that the weight gain would not stop despite my exercising and following the atikins diet very strickly for over 6 weeks. My boyfriend and I decided to try the diet together..he lost 35 llbs in 6 weeks..i lost NOTHING! I went back to my PCP who ordered an ultra sound of my ovaries…..NOTHING.(i kept thinking i was going crazy and that it was all in my head)….she also decided to do some blood work…and as i was walking out the door she said..”you know what..i am going to give you this 24hr urine test too. Just so that we cover everything”. I just kept thinking please let something come back ….please dont let this be all my fault…please dont let this be all in my head…..please dont let me be crazy. When i got the test results back it turned out that the 24hr urine test was the one test i needed to get on the right track to finding what was wrong. My cortisol level was 3x’s the normal.

I went to an endo…by the time i got to the endocronoligist i was up to 130…i could not work a full day without needing a full day of sleep and my body was aching beyond description. I was crying all the time…in my room…and was becoming more and more of a recluse…i would only hang out with my boyfriend in our houses. I looked my symptoms up on the internet and saw cushings…that was it! I went to the endo and told him..i think it is cushings….he said he had only saw it one other time and that he wanted to do more tests. I got CAT scans, x-rays, MRI’s….my adrenals my pituitary my lungs….he did a CRH stimulation test which was getting blood work done every fifteen minutes for 90minutes….it took weeks to get that test scheduled..no one had ever heard of it and therefore did not know how to do it…..finally after 3 months of tests my dr. felt he had enough evidence to diagnos me with cushings disease (tumor on my pituitary) I was diagnosed in March of 2004. By this time i was about 137 lbs i had to work part time (i am an occupational therapist for children..i do home visits….i could not make it thru a whole day)

In April i had to change to office work…i could not lift the children and i could barely get up off the floor. I have to say i was one of the lucky people who worked for people who were very supportive and accomidating…my boss was very willing to work with me and willing to hold my job for me.

July 30th 2004 i finally had transphenodial surgery to remove my tumor (they went thru my lip and nose because they felt my nose was too small). It is now over 1 year later….i am down to 108 lbs, i have so much energy…no depression….and i dont mind looking at myself in the mirror…i am enjoying my friends and my boyfriend…(who stayed with me thru it all) And my family. I feel healthy mentally, emptionally, and physically. And i just got back into my size 2 jeans!!!

It was a crappy time…(as i am sure you all can atest to) but i learned a lot…..most importantly i was bombarded by good wishes and prayers….friends requested masses for me…a nun in brazil prayed for me…people who i never thought i touched their lives…took the time to wish me well…send an email..or call….I got to experience the wonderful loving nature of human beings and i was lucky to be supported by my family (my mom, dad, and two younger brothers) and my boyfriend throughout this entire tough journey.

This experience taught me to realize the strength i have as well as to appreciate the good and the bad in life. I was on hydrocortizone for about 8 months…i was lucky that my tumor was in its own little sack so my pituitary gland was not touched. In the end in took about 7 years to diagnose me..i think that if the dr. at 16 would have pursued the cushings idea nothing would have been found because it took so long for my symptoms to really peak…needless to say i love my PCP and my endo ..and that i changed gyno’s…

I just want to let anyone out there going thru this disease to know..you are not alone….and to take each day is stride…when you need help ask for it….and that this road can lead to a happy ending. God Bless!

ps- it is ok to feel bad about what you are going thru…it is a tough thing to endure…and when the docotors tell you there is noting wrong…..follow your gut…and you keep searching for the doctor that will listen… If there is anyone in the philadelphis of south jersey area who needs someone to talk to please feel free to email me…fapadula@hotmail.com…i will help you out the best i can!

Update November 6, 2011

Well- here is an update, after seven years of being Cushings free it has returned.

With in those seven years I married my college boyfriend and we now have a son- Nicholas who will be 2 in Decemeber. It has been a blessed and wonderful seven years. However right around when my son was turning 1 I started to notice symptoms again. Increase facial hair, the whole “roundness” of my body, buffalo hump. I decided I was going to work out hard, eat right, and see – I didnt just want to jump to any conclusions. I stuck to it- and nothing…..my hair started thinning again and the acne was coming back and then the missed periods…..so I went to my PCP- told them i needed the 24hr urine and wouldnt you know…..427 cortisol level (on that 0-50 scale)……here we go again.

So back to endo- now at Penn Pituitary Center…..it was another journey b/c the tumor wasnt definative on MRI, and it seems to be cycling…..but I was diagnosed with Cushings again- with the option of 2nd pit surgery or BLA…….after some months of trying to make a decision I went with the 50/50 chance of the second pituitary surgery on 10/26/2011.

It didnt work- my levels never came down in the hospital and I went home w/ out of range cortisol levels and no need for medication……BLURG……Sooooo on to the next step…..after I recover from this surgery I will most likely have the BLA- with the hopes of not having to deal with Cushings ever again. This time around has been a little more difficult just with being a mom and feeling sick- but I still continue to be amazingly blessed with a supportive family and husband and we are surrounded by love and support and for that I am beyond greatful.

I keep all of you in my prayers for relief and health- as I ( we all) know this no easy journey.

Many Blessings!

Fabiana

Update September 12, 2015

So to bring this up to date. My second pituitary surgery in 2011 was unsuccessful. January of 2012 I had both of my adrenal glands removed. Going to adrenal insufficiency was a very difficult transition for me. It took me nearly 2 years before I felt functional. As time went on I felt more human, but I haven’t felt healthy since that day. I can and do function, but at a lower expectation of what I used to be capable of….my “new normal”.

My husband and I decided to try for a second child…my pituitary was damaged from the second surgery and we needed fertility…after 8 months of fertility I got pregnant and we had our second son January of 2015.

In April of 2015 we discovered that my ACTH was increasing exponentially. MRI revealed a macroadenoma invading my cavernous sinus. The tumor is sitting on my carotid artery and milimeterrs away from my optic chasim. I was not a candidate for another surgery due to the tumors proximity to.both of those vital structures.

So September 1st of this year I started daily radiation treatments. I spent my 34th birthday getting my brain zapped. I am receiving proton beam therapy at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. I am so lucky to live so close to an institute that has some of the rarest treatment options.

Again Cushing’s is disrupting our life, my husband goes with me every night to radiation while family takes turns watching the kids….I am now on my 18th year of fighting this disease. I never imagined it would get to this point.

But here we all are making the best of each day, fighting each day and trying to keep things as “normal” as possible. Blessings to all of you fighting this disease…my new go to saying is” ‘effing Cushing’s”! For you newbies…Fight, Advocate for yourselves, and find a doc who doesn’t dismiss you and hang on to them for dear life.

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Cushing’s Awareness Patient Day

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

San Francisco, California

Hosted by Kate Tully, R.N. and Katherine Waidner, R.N.

Cushing’s Patient Advocates – Corcept Therapeutics

Agenda and details to follow

The day will focus on endogenous Cushing’s, a condition caused by high cortisol in your body.

The day will not cover exogenous Cushing’s caused by steroids taken for various health conditions including asthma, arthritis or lupus.

ARMC5 Mutations in Macronodular Adrenal Hyperplasia with Cushing’s Syndrome

adrenal-hyperplasia

 

Guillaume Assié, M.D., Ph.D., Rossella Libé, M.D., Stéphanie Espiard, M.D., Marthe Rizk-Rabin, Ph.D., Anne Guimier, M.D., Windy Luscap, M.Sc., Olivia Barreau, M.D., Lucile Lefèvre, M.Sc., Mathilde Sibony, M.D., Laurence Guignat, M.D., Stéphanie Rodriguez, M.Sc., Karine Perlemoine, B.S., Fernande René-Corail, B.S., Franck Letourneur, Ph.D., Bilal Trabulsi, M.D., Alix Poussier, M.D., Nathalie Chabbert-Buffet, M.D., Ph.D., Françoise Borson-Chazot, M.D., Ph.D., Lionel Groussin, M.D., Ph.D., Xavier Bertagna, M.D., Constantine A. Stratakis, M.D., Ph.D., Bruno Ragazzon, Ph.D., and Jérôme Bertherat, M.D., Ph.D.

N Engl J Med 2013; 369:2105-2114 November 28, 2013 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1304603

BACKGROUND

Corticotropin-independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia may be an incidental finding or it may be identified during evaluation for Cushing’s syndrome. Reports of familial cases and the involvement of both adrenal glands suggest a genetic origin of this condition.

METHODS

We genotyped blood and tumor DNA obtained from 33 patients with corticotropin-independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia (12 men and 21 women who were 30 to 73 years of age), using single-nucleotide polymorphism arrays, microsatellite markers, and whole-genome and Sanger sequencing. The effects of armadillo repeat containing 5 (ARMC5) inactivation and overexpression were tested in cell-culture models.

RESULTS

The most frequent somatic chromosome alteration was loss of heterozygosity at 16p (in 8 of 33 patients for whom data were available [24%]). The most frequent mutation identified by means of whole-genome sequencing was in ARMC5, located at 16p11.2. ARMC5 mutations were detected in tumors obtained from 18 of 33 patients (55%). In all cases, both alleles of ARMC5 carried mutations: one germline and the other somatic. In 4 patients with a germline ARMC5 mutation, different nodules from the affected adrenals harbored different secondary ARMC5 alterations. Transcriptome-based classification of corticotropin-independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia indicated that ARMC5 mutations influenced gene expression, since all cases with mutations clustered together. ARMC5 inactivation decreased steroidogenesis in vitro, and its overexpression altered cell survival.

CONCLUSIONS

Some cases of corticotropin-independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia appear to be genetic, most often with inactivating mutations of ARMC5, a putative tumor-suppressor gene. Genetic testing for this condition, which often has a long and insidious prediagnostic course, might result in earlier identification and better management. (Funded by Agence Nationale de la Recherche and others.)

Supported in part by grants from Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR-10-Blan-1136), Corticomedullosurrénale Tumeur Endocrine Network (Programme Hospitalier de Recherche Clinique grant AOM95201), Assistance Publique–Hôpitaux de Paris (Clinical Research Center Grant Genhyper P061006), Institut National du Cancer (Recherche Translationelle 2009-RT-02), the Seventh Framework Program of the European Commission (F2-2010-259735), INSERM (Contrat d’Interface, to Dr. Assié), the Conny-Maeva Charitable Foundation, and the intramural program of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Disclosure forms provided by the authors are available with the full text of this article at NEJM.org.

Drs. Assié, Libé, Espiard, Rizk-Rabin, Ragazzon, and Bertherat contributed equally to this article.

We thank Drs. J. Chelly and M. Delpech of the cell bank of Cochin Hospital and Dr. B. Terris of the tumor bank of Cochin Hospital for their help in sample collection; Dr. E. Clauser of the oncogenetic unit of Cochin Hospital for help in microsatellite analysis; Drs. J. Guibourdenche and E. Clauser of the hormone biology unit of Cochin Hospital for cortisol assays; Drs. F. Tissier and Pierre Colin for pathological analysis; Anne Audebourg for technical assistance; J. Metral and A. de Reynies of the Cartes d’Identité des Tumeurs program of Ligue Nationale contre le Cancer for help in genomics studies and fruitful discussions; Dr. P. Nietschke of the bioinformatics platforms of Paris Descartes University for helpful discussions; all the members of the Genomics and Signaling of Endocrine Tumors team and of the genomic platform of Cochin Institute for their help in these studies; and the patients and their families, as well as the physicians and staff involved in patient care, for their active participation.

SOURCE INFORMATION

From INSERM Unité 1016, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Unité Mixte de Recherche 8104, Institut Cochin (G.A., R.L., S.E., M.R.-R., A.G., W.L., O.B., L.L., S.R., K.P., F.R.-C., F.L., L. Groussin, X.B., B.R., J.B.), Faculté de Médecine Paris Descartes, Université Paris Descartes, Sorbonne Paris Cité (G.A., S.E., A.G., O.B., L.L., M.S., K.P., F.R.-C., L. Groussin, X.B., J.B.), Department of Endocrinology, Referral Center for Rare Adrenal Diseases (G.A., R.L., O.B., L. Guignat, L. Groussin, X.B., J.B.), and Department of Pathology (M.S.), Assistance Publique–Hôpitaux de Paris, Hôpital Cochin, and Unit of Endocrinology, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Hôpital Tenon (N.C.-B.) — all in Paris; Unit of Endocrinology, Centre Hospitalier du Centre Bretagne, Site de Kério, Noyal-Pontivy (B.T.), Unit of Endocrinology, Hôtel Dieu du Creusot, Le Creusot (A.P.), and Department of Endocrinology Lyon-Est, Groupement Hospitalier Est, Bron (F.B.-C.) — all in France; and the Section on Endocrinology and Genetics, Program on Developmental Endocrinology and Genetics and the Pediatric Endocrinology Inter-Institute Training Program, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD (C.A.S.).

Address reprint requests to Dr. Bertherat at Service des Maladies Endocriniennes et Métaboliques, Centre de Référence des Maladies Rares de la Surrénale, Hôpital Cochin, 27 rue du Faubourg St. Jacques, 75014 Paris, France, or at jerome.bertherat@cch.aphp.fr.

Access this article: Subscribe to NEJM | Purchase this article

 

The Man Unable to Feel Fear

Jordy is a British man who has been dealing with Cushing’s and many surgeries.

 


Jordy-Cernik

He finds rollercoasters boring, barely broke a sweat zip-wiring off the Tyne bridge and even a parachute jump did not raise his heart rate.

Just a few years ago even the thought of daredevil exploits would have terrified him, but now Jordy Cernik is frightened of nothing.

While that might sound an ideal scenario, the 38-year-old’s new-found bravery is actually the unexpected side-effect of surgery for a rare condition.

Cushing’s Syndrome resulted in the dad-of-two having an operation to remove the gland which produces adrenalin, the hormone which makes us feel scared.

He says: “I would never have had the guts to do any of this, but now nothing fazes me. I’m up for anything – I’m even thinking about doing a wing-walk on a plane too.

“I nearly did a bungee jump a few years ago, but I just couldn’t do it.

“Now I just take whatever is thrown at me and if a challenge helps me raise money for charity, the more daring the better.”

Over the past four months he has completed the parachute jump and zip-wired from the top of Newcastle’s Tyne Bridge and now he is getting ready to complete the last of a trio of challenges – next month’s Bupa Great North Run.

“The doctors didn’t tell me this could be one of the side-effects of the operation,” says Jordy. “But then the condition is so rare I don’t think they know everything about Cushing’s yet.

“Doing the skydive was the ultimate test. I thought that if I was ever going to get scared again then that would be the moment.

“But as we took off in the plane I felt nothing, and when I edged towards the door to jump I felt nothing, and even when I leapt out and pulled my parachute, I didn’t feel scared at all.

“It can be quite frustrating as well though.

“The first time I realised I had changed was when I went on the rides at a theme park with my kids and I just didn’t feel a thing. I just sat there, bored.”

However, the last of his hat-trick of challenges, the Run, will require him to push through the ever-present pain which he has endured for years as a result of Cushing’s.

Britain’s biggest mass participation event, for which The Daily Mirror is a media partner, takes place over a 13.1 mile course from Newcastle to South Shields.

But the syndrome has left Jordy, from Jarrow, near Newcastle, with arthritis, back problems and brittle bones. Worse still, the absence of adrenalin means he now lacks one of the body’s natural painkillers.

“I’m always in pain,” he says. “I’ve just had to learn to zone it out day-to-day and I’m going to have to do that even more when I’m on the run.”

Cushing’s affects around one in 50,000 people in Britain.

It causes a malfunction of the adrenal and pituitary glands which means increased amounts of corticosteroids are produced – often leading to massive, irregular weight gain.

In just three years 5ft 8in Jordy ballooned from 11st 5lb to almost 17st.

While his limbs remained slim, the former Territorial Army recruit saw the pounds pile around the major organs in his torso and head.

“I went through years of hell and I can only describe it as living in someone else’s body,” says the part-time radio presenter and events host.

“I developed this big round moon face and really quite large man boobs, which was so embarrassing.

“But there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I could go to the gym six days a week and still couldn’t lose any of the weight.

“One of the worst things was that people would stare.

“Sometimes they’d take the mickey – often to try and make me feel better, by making light of things – but it would almost always hurt my feelings.

“And my career as a presenter suffered. I tried to play up to the character of being a big, jolly chap but I always felt I was too fat for TV, which is what I would have liked to do a lot more of.”

But it was the effect on his home life with wife Tracy, 43, and daughters Aimee, seven, and four-year-old Eive that for him was far worse.

“I had other really difficult symptoms which included profuse sweating which meant I couldn’t even hold my kids without wrapping them in towels first,” he says.

“Anyone who has children knows how hard that is, not to be able to do normal things. I often used to be in tears.

“Another symptom was extreme grumpiness, so I would find myself suddenly getting really angry and just exploding at them, plus I was always too exhausted to play with them. It was terrible.”

Jordy believes he can trace his symptoms back 15 years although his Cushing’s was only diagnosed in 2005.

He had visited his local surgery with a string of complaints, but by chance saw a different doctor one day and the syndrome was diagnosed.

“I don’t have any ill-feeling about that,” he says, “because the syndrome can be tricky to spot, partly because it is so rare.”

He went on to have both his pituitary and adrenal glands removed but needed a total of seven operations between 2005 and 2010 and not all went smoothly.

During one to remove his pituitary gland, which is inside the skull, the lining of his brain burst due to the stress of repeated surgery.

And while removing a rib to access the adrenal gland in his torso, his lung was punctured.

That wasn’t the end of the complications. He later developed severe meningitis and ended up on a life-support machine.

“But I still consider myself lucky,” he says. “The doctors told me, ‘You died twice really, you shouldn’t even be here’.”

Things have begun to look up in the past few years, however. The Cushing’s is in remission and Jordy has lost four stone.

His life hasn’t returned to normal entirely – he still has to take 30 pills a day, a cocktail of painkillers and hormones, plus drugs to slow the corrosion of his bones.

He has also been diagnosed with another rare condition, sarcoidosis, which creates nodules of irregular cells in the body and can cause serious complications. He’s convinced he has always had it but it has lain dormant until his body was at its most vulnerable.

At present the nodules can only be found on his skin and he’s being monitored to ensure that it doesn’t spread to his internal organs.

Thanks to the surgery, his life has improved enormously since 2010.

In July he had a breast reduction op which not only improved his appearance but also removed the dangerous accumulation of fat around his heart.

Part of this new chapter involves taking part in the Great North Run and raising money for the Cash for Kids appeal run by his local radio station Metro Radio.

The appeal aims to help children and young people in the North East who are disabled or have special needs, or those who suffer from abuse or neglect.

Jordy’s fundraising goal is a relatively modest £1,000, but for him joining the half marathon’s 56,000 participants on September 15 will be as rewarding as hitting his target.

“I really don’t know if I’ll be able to complete the course.” he says. “But I’m looking forward to it and I’m going to give it my best shot.

“Not feeling fear may feel like the power of a superhero, but what I really need for the Great North Run is superhero strength.”

The Bupa Great North Run is Britain’s biggest mass participation event and is organised by Nova International.

It will include world class athletes Mo Farah, Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele – plus 56,000 other runners.

The event is live on BBC One on Sunday 15th September between 9.30am to 13.30

For more information, visit www.greatrun.org

From  http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/jordy-cernik-man-unable-fear-2208002#ixzz2cny6XeFr 

Improved Quality of Life After Bilateral Laparoscopic Adrenalectomy for Cushing’s Disease

Ann Surg. 2007 May; 245(5): 790–794.
A 10-Year Experience
Sarah K. Thompson, MD,* Amanda V. Hayman, MD, MPH,* William H. Ludlam, MD, PhD,† Clifford W. Deveney, MD,* D Lynn Loriaux, MD, PhD,† and Brett C. Sheppard, MD*

Objective:

To determine long-term quality of life after bilateral adrenalectomy for persistent Cushing’s disease after transsphenoidal pituitary tumor resection.

Summary Background Data:

Bilateral adrenalectomy for symptomatic relief of persistent hypercortisolism appears to be an effective treatment option. However, few studies have examined long-term outcomes in this patient population.

Methods:

Retrospective review of 39 patients treated by bilateral laparoscopic adrenalectomy for Cushing’s disease from 1994 to 2004. Patients completed a follow-up phone survey, including our Cushing-specific questionnaire and the SF-12v2 health survey. Patients then refrained from taking their steroid replacement for 24 hours, and serum cortisol and ACTH levels were measured.

Results:

Three patients died at 12, 19, and 50 months following surgery from causes unrelated to adrenalectomy. The remaining 36 patients all responded to the study questionnaire (100% response rate). Patients were between 3 months and 10 years post-adrenalectomy. We had zero operative mortalities and a 10.3% morbidity rate. Our incidence of Nelson’s syndrome requiring clinical intervention was 8.3%; 89% of patients reported an improvement in their Cushing-related symptoms, and 91.7% would undergo the same treatment again. Twenty of 36 (55%) and 29 of 36 (81%) patients fell within the top two thirds of the national average for physical and mental composite scores, respectively, on the SF-12v2 survey. An undetectable serum cortisol level was found in 79.4% of patients.

Conclusions:

Laparoscopic bilateral adrenalectomy for symptomatic Cushing’s disease is a safe and effective treatment option. The majority of patients experience considerable improvement in their Cushing’s disease symptoms, and their quality of life equals that of patients initially cured by transsphenoidal pituitary tumor resection.

harvey-cushing-memorial

Harvey Cushing first described Cushing’s disease (hypercortisolism caused by an ACTH-secreting pituitary adenoma) in 1912 in his book entitled: The Pituitary Body and its Disorders. Endogenous glucocorticoid excess causes devastating sequelae in the patient, including marked central obesity, facial fullness, proximal muscle weakness, hypertension, diabetes, hypogonadism, osteoporosis, mood disorders, and cognitive impairment.1–4 Transsphenoidal pituitary tumor resection is without dispute the best first line treatment option for these patients. Unfortunately, 10% to 30% of patients will fail to achieve long-term remission of their Cushing’s disease.5 Four treatment options exist for these patients: 1) repeat transsphenoidal resection, 2) medical therapy, 3) radiation therapy, and 4) bilateral laparoscopic adrenalectomy. Optimum treatment or sequence of different treatments has not yet been established in the literature and often presents a considerable challenge to both the patient and the physician.5

Few studies examine long-term outcomes, including quality of life, in patients requiring additional therapy for persistent Cushing’s disease.6,7 At our institution, patients who fail repeated transsphenoidal adenomectomy are offered bilateral laparoscopic adrenalectomy in the hopes of minimizing the adverse effects caused by chronic hypercortisolism.

The purpose of this study was to determine the safety, efficacy, and long-term outcomes in patients who underwent bilateral laparoscopic adrenalectomy for persistent Cushing’s disease. We assessed all patients for biochemical cure of their Cushing’s disease and evaluated their quality of life with both a general and a Cushing-specific questionnaire.

METHODS

Selection of Patients and Variables

After approval from our Institutional Review Board, all patients who underwent a bilateral laparoscopic adrenalectomy for persistent Cushing’s disease were identified from Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU)’s centralized administrative hospital discharge database. As the first laparoscopic adrenalectomy was reported in 1992 by Gagner et al,8 our first patient dates back to November 1994. OHSU is an ideal setting for a study of this nature as there are large neuroendocrine and neurosurgical units subspecializing in Cushing’s disease management. Therefore, patients in this study were accrued from direct referral from these 2 units, and include patients from adjacent and remote states as well as from Oregon. Inclusion criteria included: confirmed diagnosis of Cushing’s disease, minimum of 3 months follow-up, and bilateral laparoscopic adrenalectomy (BLA) done at OHSU. Our surgical technique has been previously reported6 and is the standard transperitoneal approach in lateral decubitus position. Medical records were reviewed to obtain patient demographics, operative reports, pathologic data, and postoperative events.

A total of 39 patients qualified for our study. Their characteristics at study entry are listed in Table 1. The majority of patients were female (34 of 39), and mean age at time of BLA was 41.5 years. Our follow-up ranged from 3 months to 10 years, with a mean follow-up of 3.6 years following BLA. Three patients died at 12, 19, and 50 months after BLA from cardiac failure (1), pneumonia (1), and stroke (1) as reported by Hawn et al.6 These patients were more than 65 years of age at the time of BLA, and their deaths occurred well outside of the perioperative time period. Patients with Cushing’s disease have a high prevalence of atherosclerosis and maintain increased cardiovascular risk even 5 years after cure.2–4

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TABLE 1. Patient Characteristics

The remaining 36 patients all responded to our phone questionnaire (100% response rate). We achieved a 100% response rate by contacting patient’s primary physician, their endocrinologist, and/or their next-of-kin contact (in case of emergency) if a patient was not available at their listed phone number. Thirty-five of 36 patients complied with biochemical testing (97.2% of available study sample). All patients had undergone at least one transsphenoidal pituitary tumor resection, with the mean number of resections calculated at 1.5. Most patients had a time interval of at least 2 years between their last pituitary tumor resection and BLA. Four patients had had failed pituitary irradiation (10.3%).

Study Protocol

Once consented, patients were submitted to a two-step study:

Clinical Study

Patients were asked to complete a two-page phone questionnaire by an independent investigator (A.V.H.) that identified patient’s preoperative and postoperative body mass index (BMI), comorbidities, preoperative and postoperative Cushing’s disease symptoms, and satisfaction with surgery. Cushing’s disease-specific symptoms were subcategorized into 4 categories: physical appearance (9 items), hematologic/immunologic (3 items), comorbidities (3 items), and neuropsychiatric (10 items) (questionnaire available upon request). Patients were asked to describe their symptoms both preoperatively and currently on a linear scale from 1 point (no symptom) to 5 points (extreme symptom). We then calculated the increase or decrease in number of points from preoperatively to the present time. This was reported as a mean increase or decrease in the overall number of points for each category of symptoms. The SF-12v2 questionnaire (QualityMetric Inc, Lincoln, NE) was also administered during the same interview.

Biochemical Study

Patients were instructed to cease their steroid replacement for 24 hours, and then have a morning serum cortisol level drawn to confirm biochemical cure. A serum cortisol level less than 1 μg/dL was considered a “cure.” Any patient who had a level over 1 μg/dL was asked to change their steroid replacement regimen to dexamethasone (0.5 mg orally once a day) and to undergo repeat cortisol level testing. If their serum cortisol levels were still detectable (>1 μg/dL) after continuing on dexamethasone replacement for 3 days, the patients were deemed to have endogenous cortisol production.

Statistical Analysis

SPSS for Windows, version 11.0 (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL) was used to perform data analysis. Data were expressed as mean (range) or mean ± SD as appropriate. Results from the SF12v2 health survey were compared with published values for the U.S. population using t tests. Postoperative variables associated with an elevated cortisol level were evaluated by bivariate logistic regression.

RESULTS

Surgical outcomes are listed in Table 2. We had no surgical mortalities, and 4 of 39 (10.3%) patients had significant complications, including urosepsis, distal pancreatitis, and 2 conversions to an open procedure. One patient was converted for bleeding from a splenic injury, and the second patient was converted to an open procedure for hepatomegaly and inability to visualize the adrenal vein safely. One patient had a minor vena caval injury requiring only pressure to control. Mean operating time was 273 minutes (excluding 35 minutes of repositioning time), and estimated blood loss was less than 100 mL for 25 of 39 (75.8%) patients. Mean length of stay was 4.2 days. Twenty-seven of 39 (69%) adrenal glands showed diffuse or nodular hyperplasia on pathology, while 9 of 39 (25%) adrenal glands were hypertrophic only. Three adrenal glands (8.3%) were normal on pathology. More than 50% of patients had never experienced an adrenal crisis. Approximately 20% had had one adrenal crisis, and the rest had had more than one episode of cortisol insufficiency.

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TABLE 2. Surgical Outcomes

Nelson syndrome is characterized by: 1) growing residual pituitary adenoma, 2) ACTH concentration >300 mg/dL, and 3) hyperpigmentation of the skin following bilateral adrenalectomy.9,10 Twenty-six of 35 patients (74.3%) had a serum ACTH level less than 300 pg/mL and 9/35 patients (25.7%) had an elevated ACTH level (Table 3). Three of 35 patients (8.6%) had MRI evidence of growing residual pituitary adenoma, and 4 of 36 patients (11.1%) complained of significant skin darkening (and an additional 7 of 36 patients, 19.4%, noted mild skin darkening). In our patient population, 3 of 36 (8.3%) required further pituitary surgery or irradiation for some or all of these components of Nelson syndrome.

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TABLE 3. Nelson’s Syndrome

Postoperative Cushing’s disease symptom resolution postadrenalectomy is listed in Table 4. Thirty-three of 36 patients (92%) experienced weight loss following BLA, with a mean decrease in BMI from 35 to 29.6. The highest mean points improvement in Cushing symptoms was reported for physical appearance and neuropsychiatric complaints, 11.1 and 9.8 points, respectively. Patients also reported some improvement in their hematologic/immunologic complications and systemic comorbidities, 2.8 and 3.1 points, respectively. Twenty-eight of 36 patients (78%) reported a moderate or significant improvement in their symptoms, while 4 of 36 (11.1%) experienced only mild improvement, and 4 of 36 (11.1%) had no improvement or were worse.

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TABLE 4. Postoperative Symptom Resolution

Thirty-one of 36 patients (86.1%) were either satisfied or very satisfied with their BLA (Table 5). Four patients (11.1%) were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with BLA. An overwhelming 33 of 36 patients (91.7%) said they would undergo the same treatment again if needed. The mean Physical Composite Score for the SF-12v2 was 36 (range, 16–60) compared with 48 for U.S. women 45 to 54 years of age. The mean Mental Composite Score was 45 (range, 14–64) compared with 49 for U.S. women 45 to 54 years of age. Six of 36 patients (16.7%) were above the 50th percentile for U.S. population in physical categories, while 16 of 36 patients (44.4%) were above the 50th percentile in mental categories. Twenty of 36 (56%) and 29 of 36 (81%) patients fell within the top two thirds of the national average for physical and mental composite scores, respectively. By comparison with another chronic disease, namely diabetes, 23 of 36 (64%) and 28 of 36 (78%) of the BLA patients fell within the top two thirds of the diabetic patient average for physical and mental composite scores, respectively.

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TABLE 5. Postoperative Quality of Life

Postoperative biochemical results are listed in Table 6. Twenty-seven of 34 patients (79.4%) had no detectable endogenous cortisol after ceasing exogenous steroids for 24 hours. Seven of 34 patients (20.6%) were confirmed to have endogenous cortisol production with a detectable serum cortisol level after both cessation of steroids for 24 hours and after 3 days of dexamethasone.

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TABLE 6. Postoperative Biochemical Outcomes

DISCUSSION

The main objective of this study was to evaluate quality of life (QOL) after bilateral laparoscopic adrenalectomy for persistent Cushing’s disease. Thirty-nine patients have had this therapy for chronic hypercortisolism over the past 10 years at OHSU and, of those patients still alive, we had a 100% response rate. To our knowledge, this is the largest series of long-term follow-up of patients with persistent Cushing’s disease treated by BLA. The degree of willingness of this patient group to assist the medical community in studying this disease likely reflects the impact Cushing’s disease has had on these patients and the enormity of the decisions they have had to make regarding their health over the course of their disease.

Our center published preliminary QOL results on our initial 18 patients.6 In this study, there was a 66% response rate, and scores on all 8 parameters of the SF-36 were significantly reduced from general population values. We significantly improved our response rate by doing telephone surveys as opposed to mail-out questionnaires, and by contacting all those necessary to locate a “missing patient.” In the present study, we though it would be more representative to compare our patient’s SF-12 values to U.S. women 45 to 54 years of age as well as to patients with diabetes (a patient population also with a chronic disease). In both cases, Cushing’s disease patients that are treated with BLA have significant improvement in their Cushing-related problems and most have regained a relatively normal QOL. Furthermore, we created a Cushing-specific symptom questionnaire as there is no disease-specific QOL questionnaire available for Cushing’s disease. This Cushing-specific questionnaire shows that 89% of patients experience improvement in their symptoms after BLA and, consequently, marked improvement in their QOL.

The results of this study show that, while the mean physical composite score was significantly lower than that of age- and gender-matched U.S. citizens (36 vs. 48), the mean mental composite score was close to that of U.S. women 45 to 54 years of age (45 vs. 49). A recent paper by van Aken et al7 reports similar findings in patients successfully treated by transsphenoidal surgery. They found, using 4 different questionnaires including the SF-36, that several aspects of QOL are reduced, particularly in areas of physical ability. It would seem, therefore, that patients who undergo BLA for persistent Cushing’s disease have, at the very least, an equal QOL to those patients who are successfully treated by initial transsphenoidal pituitary tumor resection.

Two other findings are worthy of discussion in this study. First, the surgical outcomes for these patients were favorable, with zero mortalities, and a 10% morbidity rate. Our operative times (mean, 273 minutes), and length of stay (mean, 4.2 days) were longer than most other series of laparoscopic adrenalectomies.11,12 However, this can be explained by a Canadian study that compared surgical outcomes in 3 different categories of patients13: 1) Cushing’s disease, 2) pheochromocytoma, and 3) unilateral adrenalectomy for nonpheochromocytoma. Poulin et al13found that patients in the first group had longer operating time (median, 255 minutes) and a long postoperative stay (median, 4 days). This is likely secondary to the high BMI of this patient population and the added operative time inherent in repositioning the patient. The extended postoperative stay is in part due to the need to establish homeostasis in fluids and electrolytes following removal of both adrenal glands. It is also due to the need for steroid taper and regulation, as well as the delayed healing these patients experience due to the catabolic nature of cortisol. Our results show that this is a safe, effective option for patients with persistent Cushing’s disease after transsphenoidal pituitary tumor resection.

Second, approximately 20% of our study sample had evidence of endogenous cortisol production following BLA. Evidence of detectable cortisol levels after BLA is reportedly rare; however, there is a paucity of literature on this subject. Possible etiologies include incomplete adrenal resection or functional ectopic adrenal remnants in the adrenal fossa or elsewhere. In 2 patients undergoing BLA for Cushing’s disease (from this current series), we have documented extracortical adrenal tissue remote from the adrenal gland in the retroperitoneal fat. Since then, we have changed our operative conduct to include complete removal of the retroperitoneal fat in the adrenal bed to avoid inadvertently leaving behind extracortical adrenal tissue. Since changing our technique, we have identified one other patient with an extracortical adrenal rest in the left adrenal fossa.

We have also done reoperative laparoscopic explorations in 2 of 7 patients with detectable serum cortisol levels, clinical evidence of hypercortisolism (and subsequent loss of postoperative need for steroid replacement), and positive NP-59 radioscintigraphy scans. The source of alleged endogenous cortisol production, as directed by NP-59 scanning, was in the adrenal fossa in one patient and on the left ovary in the second patient. Pathology demonstrated only fibrous tissue. The source of cortisol production following BLA remains to be determined and will be the subject of future investigation. We currently do not advise routine reexploration for symptomatic endogenous cortisol production without a positive NP-59 scan.

The present study does have one important limitation. We do not have preoperative QOL surveys on the majority of our patients. Therefore, we are relying on patients to remember their preoperative status and compare it with their current state of health. However, bias toward the patient feeling obliged to report a positive outcome was avoided by using an independent investigator (A.V.H.) with no involvement in the patient’s perioperative care to complete all telephone questionnaires. As well, there was no variation in response according to time interval between BLA and our study or between number of preoperative transsphenoidal treatments and BLA, suggesting that memory (or lack thereof) is not an independent predictor of postoperative improvement.

CONCLUSION

Our study shows that BLA for persistent Cushing’s disease provides patients with considerable improvement in their Cushing-related symptoms with concordant increase in their quality of life. After BLA, patients may attain the same (or better) quality of life as patients initially cured by transsphenoidal pituitary tumor resection. We think that BLA is a safe and effective treatment of the 10% to 30% of patients who fail initial therapy for Cushing’s disease, and should be considered preferentially over other available therapies.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The authors thank Karin Miller and Chris Yedinak for all their help in coordinating and collecting biochemical data on our patients.

Footnotes

Reprints: Brett C. Sheppard, MD, Department of Surgery, Oregon Health & Science University, Mail Code: L223A, Portland, OR 97239. E-mail: sheppard@ohsu.edu.

REFERENCES

1. Di Somma C, Pivonella R, Loche S, et al. Effect of 2 years of cortisol normalization on the impaired bone mass and turnover in adolescent and adult patients with Cushing’s disease: a prospective study. Clin Endocrinol. 2003;58:302–308. [PubMed]
2. Colao A, Pivonello R, Spiezia S, et al. Persistence of increased cardiovascular risk in patients with Cushing’s disease after five years of successful cure. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1999;84:2664–2672. [PubMed]
3. Faggiano A, Pivonello R, Spiezia S, et al. Cardiovascular risk factors and common carotid artery caliber and stiffness in patients with Cushing’s disease during active disease and 1 year after disease remission. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003;88:2527–2533. [PubMed]
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7. van Aken MO, Pereira AM, Biermasz NR, et al. Quality of life in patients after long-term biochemical cure of Cushing’s disease. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2005;90:3279–3286. [PubMed]
8. Gagner M, Lacroix A, Prinz RA, et al. Early experiences with laparoscopic approach for adrenalectomy. Surgery. 1993;114:1120–1124. [PubMed]
9. van Aken MO, Pereira AM, van den Berg G, et al. Profound amplification of secretory-burst mass and anomalous regularity of ACTH secretory process in patients with Nelson’s syndrome compared with Cushing’s disease. Clin Endocrin. 2004;60:765–772. [PubMed]
10. Assie G, Bahurel H, Bertherat J, et al. The Nelson’s syndrome … revisited. Pituitary. 2004;7:209–215. [PubMed]
11. Zeh HJ, Udelsman R. One hundred laparoscopic adrenalectomies: a single surgeon’s experience. Ann Surg Oncol. 2003;10:1012–1017. [PubMed]
12. Gagner M, Pomp A, Heniford BT, et al. Laparoscopic adrenalectomy: lessons learned form 100 consecutive procedures. Ann Surg. 1997;226:238–246. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
13. Poulin EC, Schlachta CM, Burpee SE, et al. Laparoscopic adrenalectomy: pathologic features determine outcome. Can J Surg. 2003;46:340–344. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from Annals of Surgery are provided here courtesy of Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins
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