Health Alert: Adrenal Crisis Causes Death in Some People Who Were Treated with hGH

Doctors conducting the follow-up study of individuals treated with hGH looked at causes of death among recipients and found some disturbing news. Many more people have died from a treatable condition called adrenal crisis than from CJD (MaryO’Note: Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease). This risk does not affect every recipient. It can affect those who lack other hormones in addition to growth hormone. Please read on to find out if this risk applies to you. Death from adrenal crisis can be prevented.

Adrenal crisis is a serious condition that can cause death in people who lack the pituitary hormone ACTH. ACTH is responsible for regulating the adrenal gland. Often, people are unaware that they lack this hormone and therefore do not know about their risk of adrenal crisis.

Most people who were treated with hGH did not make enough of their own growth hormone. Some of them lacked growth hormone because they had birth defects, tumors or other diseases that cause the pituitary gland to malfunction or shut down. People with those problems frequently lack other key hormones made by the pituitary gland, such as ACTH, which directs the adrenal gland to make cortisol, a hormone necessary for life. Having too little cortisol can be fatal if not properly treated.

Treatment with hGH does not cause adrenal crisis, but because a number of people lacking growth hormone also lack ACTH, adrenal crisis has occurred in some people who were treated with hGH. In earlier updates we have talked about how adrenal crisis can be prevented, but people continue to die from adrenal crisis, which is brought on by lack of cortisol. These deaths can be prevented. Please talk to your doctor about whether you are at risk for adrenal crisis.

  • Why should people treated with hGH know about adrenal crisis? Among the people who received hGH, those who had birth defects, tumors, and other diseases affecting the brain lacked hGH and often, other hormones made by the pituitary gland. A shortage of the hormones that regulate the adrenal glands can cause many health problems. It can also lead to death from adrenal crisis. This tragedy can be prevented.
  • What are adrenal hormones? The pituitary gland makes many hormones, including growth hormone and ACTH, a hormone which signals the adrenal glands to make cortisol, a hormone needed for life. If the adrenal gland doesn’t make enough cortisol, replacement medications must be taken. The most common medicines used for cortisol replacement are:
    • Hydrocortisone
    • Prednisone
    • Dexamethasone
  • What is adrenal crisis? Adrenal hormones are needed for life. The system that pumps blood through the body cannot work during times of physical stress, such as illness or injury, if there is a severe lack of cortisol (or its replacement). People who lack cortisol must take their cortisol replacement medication on a regular basis, and when they are sick or injured, they must take extra cortisol replacement to prevent adrenal crisis. When there is not enough cortisol, adrenal crisis can occur and may rapidly lead to death.
  • What are the symptoms of lack of adrenal hormones? If you don’t have enough cortisol or its replacement, you may have some of these problems:
    • feeling weak
    • feeling tired all the time
    • feeling sick to your stomach
    • vomiting
    • no appetite
    • weight loss

    When someone with adrenal gland problems has weakness, nausea, or vomiting, that person needs immediate emergency treatment to prevent adrenal crisis and possible death.

  • Why are adrenal hormones so important? Cortisol (or its replacement) helps the body respond to stress from infection, injury, or surgery. The normal adrenal gland responds to serious illness by making up to 10 times more cortisol than it usually makes. It automatically makes as much as the body needs. If you are taking a cortisol replacement drug because your body cannot make these hormones, you must increase the cortisol replacement drugs during times of illness, injury, or surgery. Some people make enough cortisol for times when they feel well, but not enough to meet greater needs when they are ill or injured. Those people might not need cortisol replacement every day but may need to take cortisol replacement medication when their body is under stress. Adrenal crisis is extremely serious and can cause death if not treated promptly. Discuss this problem with your doctor to help decide whether you need more medication or other treatment to protect your health.
  • How is adrenal crisis treated? People with adrenal crisis need immediate treatment. Any delay can cause death. When people with adrenal crisis are vomiting or unconscious and cannot take medicine, the hormones can be given as an injection. Getting an injection of adrenal hormones can save your life if you are in adrenal crisis. If you lack the ability to make cortisol naturally, you should carry a medical ID card and wear a Medic-Alert bracelet to tell emergency workers that you lack adrenal hormones and need treatment. This precaution can save your life if you are sick or injured.
  • How can I prevent adrenal crisis?
    • If you are always tired, feel weak, and have lost weight, ask your doctor if you might have a shortage of adrenal hormones.
    • If you take hydrocortisone, prednisone, or dexamethasone, learn how to increase the dose when you become ill.
    • If you are very ill, especially if you are vomiting and cannot take pills, seek emergency medical care immediately. Make sure you have a hydrocortisone injection with you at all times, and make sure that you and those around you (in case you’re not conscious) know how and when to administer the injection.
    • Carry a medical ID card and wear a bracelet telling emergency workers that you have adrenal insufficiency and need cortisol. This way, they can treat you right away if you are injured.

Remember: Some people who lacked growth hormone may also lack cortisol, a hormone necessary for life. Lack of cortisol can cause adrenal crisis, a preventable condition that can cause death if treated improperly. Deaths from adrenal crisis can be prevented if patients and their families recognize the condition and are careful to treat it right away. Adrenal crisis is a medical emergency. Know the symptoms and how to adjust your medication when you are ill. Taking these precautions can save your life.

From https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/national-hormone-pituitary-program/health-alert-adrenal-crisis-causes-death-people-treated-hgh

Rare Malignant Tumor of Adrenal Gland Led to Cushing’s, Girl’s Death

While adrenocortical carcinoma — a malignant tumor of the adrenal gland — appears only rarely in children, the tumor may cause secondary Cushing’s syndrome in these patients, a new case report shows.

Early diagnosis of the causes of Cushing’s syndrome could improve the prognosis of these children, researchers say.

The study, “Cushing Syndrome Revealing an Adrenocortical Carcinoma,” was published in the Open Journal of Pediatrics.

Adrenocortical carcinoma is a malignant tumor that develops in the cortex of the adrenal gland. It usually is identified by increased amounts of hormones that are produced by the adrenal glands, like cortisol.

This tumor type is very rare in children, representing fewer than two in every 1,000 pediatric tumors.

Researchers at the University Hospital Center Souro Sanou, in Burquina Faso (West Africa), described the case of a 10-year-old girl who developed this rare cancer.

The patient’s first symptoms were loss of consciousness and recurrent seizures without fever. The patient also had experienced excessive weight gain in the preceding months. At admission she was in a light state of coma and showed obesity in the face and trunk.

An initial analysis of blood, urine, and cerebrospinal fluid failed to detect any alterations, with no diabetes, kidney damage, or infection identified. And, even though no lesions or alteration were seen in the pituitary gland region, brain swelling was detected.

While in the hospital, the patient’s condition continued to deteriorate. She developed fever and difficulty speaking, while showing persistent seizures.

In the absence of a diagnosis, physicians focused on the safeguard of major vital function, control of seizures, and administration of large-spectrum antibiotics. Her condition improved slightly, regaining consciousness and control of seizures.

One month later, however, the patient developed symptoms that are commonly associated with increased levels of cortisol and male sex hormones, including obesity and early development of pubic hair.

After confirming high cortisol levels, physicians examined the patient’s abdominal region,  which revealed a tumor in the left adrenal gland.

The patient received a ketoconazole treatment and a surgery to remove the tumor was planned. But her condition worsened, with development of malignant hypertension and convulsive illness, which led to her death before the tumor was removed.

“The delay in the diagnosis and the insufficiency of the therapeutic means darken the prognosis in our context,” the researchers wrote.

“[Adrenocortical carcinoma] diagnosis should be considered in presence of virilization and early signs of puberty,” the researchers suggested. “Early diagnosis and multidisciplinary management of adrenocortical carcinoma could improve the prognosis in children.”

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/05/04/rare-malignant-tumor-adrenal-gland-caused-cushings-case-report/

Case Report Shows Rare Adrenal Tumors Associated with Cushing’s Disease

Pituitary tumors that produce too much adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) have been associated with the development of rare tumors on the adrenal glands, called adrenal myelolipomas, for the first time in a case report.

The study, “Case report of a bilateral adrenal myelolipoma associated with Cushing disease,” was published in the journal Medicine.

Myelolipomas, composed of mature fat cells and blood-forming cells, are usually asymptomatic and do not produce hormones. In many cases, these tumors are detected by accident when patients undergo imaging scans for other conditions.

The cause of these tumors is unknown, but due to their benign nature, they do not spread to other parts of the body. However, they can grow up to 34 centimeters (about 13 inches), leading to tissue death and hemorrhage.

Researchers at Soon Chun Hyang University College of Medicine in Seoul, Korea, described the case of a 52-year-old man with myelolipoma possibly caused by an ACTH-secreting pituitary tumor.

During a routine checkup, researchers detected a mass in the patient’s spleen. Further abdominal evaluations identified tissue lesions in both adrenal glands consistent with myelolipoma. Besides the masses, the patient did not show any other Cushing-associated physical characteristics.

However, the patient’s ACTH levels were two times higher than the normal upper limit. Cortisol levels were also increased and unresponsive to low-dose dexamethasone treatment.

No additional lesions were found that could help explain the high ACTH and cortisol levels. But analysis of blood samples collected from the veins draining the pituitary glands revealed the right gland was producing too much ACTH, strongly suggesting Cushing’s disease.

Both the left adrenal gland and pituitary tumor were surgically removed. The samples collected during surgery confirmed the benign nature of the adrenal tumors, and the diagnosis of abnormal, ACTH-positive pituitary gland tissue.

Three days after the surgeries, hormone levels were back to normal. But a follow-up evaluation five months later again showed increased ACTH levels. Cortisol levels, however, were normal.

For the next seven years, the patient was evaluated every six months. During a five-year period, the size of the right adrenal gland was found to have grown. Imaging analysis confirmed the existence of small, new lesions in both pituitary glands.

“This case confers valuable information about the clinical course of adrenal myelolipoma associated with Cushing disease,” the researchers said. It also “supports the notion that ACTH can be associated with the development of bilateral adrenal myelolipomas.”

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/03/08/bilateral-adrenal-myelolipoma-associated-with-cushing-disease-case-report/

Pituitary Dysfunction as a Result of Traumatic Brain Injury

A victim of brain injury can experience many consequences and complications as a result of brain damage. Unfortunately, the problems caused by a traumatic brain injury can extend even beyond what most people think of as the standard symptoms of a brain injury, like mood change and cognitive impairment. One issue which can occur is pituitary dysfunction. If the pituitary gland is damaged due to injury to the brain, the consequences can be dramatic as the pituitary gland works together with the hypothalamus to control every hormonal aspect of a person’s body.

Pituitary dysfunction as a result of a brain injury can be difficult to diagnose, as you may not immediately connect your symptoms to the head injury you experienced. If you did suffer injury to the pituitary gland, you need to know about it so you can get proper treatment. If someone else caused your brain injury to occur, you also want to know about your pituitary dysfunction so you can receive compensation for costs and losses associated with this serious health problem.

The pituitary is a small area of the center of your brain that is about the size of the uvula. The pituitary is surrounded and guarded by bone, but it does hang down.  When it becomes damaged as a result of a brain injury, the damage normally occurs as a result of the fact the pituitary was affected by reduced by reduced blood flow. It can also be harmed directly from the trauma, and only a tiny amount of damage can cause profound consequences.

Many of the important hormones that your body needs are controlled by the pituitary working with the hypothalamus. If the pituitary is damaged, the result can include a deficiency of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). This deficiency can affect your heart and can impact bone development.  Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) can also be affected, which could result in hypothyroidism. Sex hormones (gonodotropin); Adrenocorticotopic hormone; and many other hormones could be impacted as well, causing fertility problems; muscle loss; sexual dysfunction; kidney problems; fatigue; or even death.

Unfortunately, problems with the pituitary gland may not always be visible on MRIs or other imaging tests because the pituitary is so small. Endocrinologists who handle hormone therapy frequently are not familiar with brain injuries, and may not make the connection that your brain injury was the cause of the problem.

If you begin to experience hormonal issues following an accident, you should be certain to get an accurate diagnosis to determine if your brain injury played a role. If it did, those responsible for causing the accident could be responsible for compensating you for the harm you have experienced to your pituitary and to the body systems which malfunction as a result of your new hormonal issues.

Nelson Blair Langer Engle, PLLC

From http://www.nblelaw.com/posts/pituitary-dysfunction-result-of-traumatic-brain-injury

Day 21, Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2016

Since I’m posting this on April 21, I had a built-in topic.

The image above is from our first local meeting, here in Northern VA – note the 6 Cushing St. sign behind us.  Natalie was the Cushie in the middle.

Today is the anniversary of Natalie’s death.  Last month was the anniversary of Sue’s death. I wrote about Janice earlier.

It’s just not right that this disease has been known for so many years, yet doctors still drag their feet diagnosing it and getting people into remission.

Why is it that we have to suffer so much, so long, and still there are so many deaths from Cushing’s or related to Cushing’s symptoms?

I know far too many people, good people, who suffered for many years from this disease that doctors said they didn’t have.  Then they died.  It’s time this stopped!

Speaking of death – what a cheery blog post this is turning out to be.  NOT!  Unfortunately, this seems to be one of the realities of Cushing’s.  Just last week we learned of another Cushie who died. 😦

 

Tomorrow will be cheerier – watch for it!

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