Severe Trauma May Damage The Brain as Well as the Psyche

NOTE: This is only a portion of the article.  Read the entire post at http://www.nytimes.com/1995/08/01/science/severe-trauma-may-damage-the-brain-as-well-as-the-psyche.html?pagewanted=all

Cortisol is a major means the body uses, with adrenaline, to arouse itself so quickly; its action, for example, triggers an increase in blood pressure and mobilizes energy from fat tissue and the liver.

“The dark side of this picture is the neurological effects,” said Dr. Sapolsky. “It’s necessary for survival, but it can be disastrous if you secrete cortisol for months or years on end. We’ve known it could lead to stress-exacerbated diseases like hypertension or adult onset diabetes. But now we’re finding the hippocampus is also damaged by these secretions.”

Studies in animals show that when glucocorticoids are secreted at high levels for several hours or days, there is a detectable effect on memory, though no neuronal death. But with sustained release from repeated stress, “it eventually kills neurons in the hippocampus,” said Dr. Sapolsky. “This has been shown solidly in rats, with the cell biology well understood.”

A parallel effect has long been known among patients with Cushing’s disease, a hormonal condition in which tumors in the adrenal or pituitary glands or corticosteroid drugs used for a prolonged time cause the adrenal glands to secrete high levels of a hormone called ACTHm and of cortisol. Such patients are prone to a range of diseases “in any organ with stress sensitivity,” including diabetes, hypertension and suppression of the immune system, said Dr. Sapolsky.

Cushing’s patients also have pronounced memory problems, especially for facts like where a car was parked. “The hippocampus is essential for transferring such facts from short-term to long-term memory,” said Dr. Sapolsky.

In 1993, researchers at the University of Michigan reported that magnetic resonance imaging had shown an atrophy and shrinkage of the hippocampus in patients with Cushing’s disease; the higher their levels of cortisol, the more shrinkage.

In an apparent paradox, low levels of cortisol in post-trauma victims were found in a separate research report, also in the July issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry. Dr. Rachel Yehuda, a psychologist at Mount Sinai Medical School in New York City, found the lower levels of cortisol in Holocaust survivors who had been in concentration camps 50 years ago and who still had post-traumatic symptoms.

“There are mixed findings on cortisol levels in trauma victims, with some researchers finding very high levels and others finding very low levels,” said Dr. Sapolsky. “Biologically speaking, there may be different kinds of post-traumatic stress.”

In a series of studies, Dr. Yehuda has found that those post-trauma patients who have low cortisol levels also seem to have “a hypersensitivity in cell receptors for cortisol,” she said. To protect itself, the body seems to reset its cortisol levels at a lower point.

The low cortisol levels “seem paradoxical, but both too much and too little can be bad,” said Dr. Yehuda. “There are different kinds of cells in various regions of the hippocampus that react to cortisol. Some atrophy or die if there is too little cortisol, some if there is too much.”

Dr. Yehuda added, “In a brain scan, there’s no way to know exactly which cells have died.”

To be sure that the shrinkage found in the hippocampus of trauma victims is indeed because of the events they suffered through, researchers are now turning to prospective studies, where before-and-after brain images can be made of people who have not yet undergone trauma, but are at high risk, or who have undergone it so recently that cell death has not had time to occur.

Dr. Charney, for example, is planning to take M.R.I. scans of the brains of emergency workers like police officers and firefighters and hopes to do the same with young inner-city children, who are at very high risk of being traumatized over the course of childhood and adolescence. Dr. Pitman, with Dr. Yehuda, plans a similar study of trauma victims in Israel as they are being treated in emergency rooms.

Dr. Yehuda held out some hope for people who have suffered through traumatic events. “It’s not necessarily the case that if you’ve been traumatized your hippocampus is smaller,” she said. She cited research with rats by Dr. Bruce McEwen, a neuroscientist at Rockefeller University, showing that atrophied dendritic extensions to other cells in the hippocampus grew back when the rats were given drugs that blocked stress hormones.

Dr. Sapolsky cited similar results in patients with Cushing’s disease whose cortisol levels returned to normal after tumors were removed. “If the loss of hippocampal volume in trauma victims is due to the atrophy of dendrites rather than to cell death, then it is potentially reversible, or may be so one day,” he said.

NOTE: This is only a portion of the article.  Read the entire post at http://www.nytimes.com/1995/08/01/science/severe-trauma-may-damage-the-brain-as-well-as-the-psyche.html?pagewanted=all

Cushing’s disease best treated by endocrinologist

Dear Dr. Roach: I was told that I have Cushing’s disease, which has caused diabetes, high blood pressure, hunger, weight gain and muscle loss. I was never sick before this, and I did not have any of those things. I am told I have a tumor on my right adrenal gland. I have been to numerous doctors, but most have not been too helpful. They seem to try to treat the diabetes or blood pressure, but nothing else. They seem not to be familiar with Cushing’s. I tell them which medication works, but they still give me new medication. I have an endocrinologist and am scheduled to meet a urologist.

I have managed to go to physical therapy, exercise every day and lose over 50 pounds. I am not happy with the advice I’m getting. I was told that surgery to remove the tumor will fix everything, but that I would need to take steroids for either a short term or for life. My body is already making too much cortisol. I have 50 more pounds to lose. I work hard to keep the weight down. I feel like a science experiment. Within a week, I have had three different medications. I could not tell which was causing the side effects and making me dehydrated. I am not sure surgery is right for me, because they said it can be done laparoscopically, but if they can’t do it that way, they will have to cut me all the way across, which may take a long time to heal and may get infected.

Do you know what tests will confirm the diagnosis? Would surgery fix all these problems? I had the 24-hour urine test, the saliva test and blood tests. I want to know if it may be something else instead of Cushing’s. I’m not on anything for the high cortisol levels.

– A.L.

A: It sounds very much like you have Cushing’s syndrome, which is caused by excess cortisone, a hormone that has many effects. It is called Cushing’s disease when the underlying cause is a pituitary tumor that causes the adrenal gland to make excess cortisone. (Cortisone and cortisol are different names for the same chemical, also called a glucocorticoid.) Cushing’s syndrome also may be caused by an adenoma (benign tumor) of the adrenal gland, which sounds like the case in you.

The high amounts of cortisone produced by the adrenal tumor cause high blood pressure, glucose intolerance or frank diabetes, increased hunger, obesity (especially of the abdomen – large bellies and skinny limbs are classic), dark-colored striae (stretch marks), easy bruising, a reddish face and often weakness of arm and leg muscles. When full-blown, the syndrome is easy to spot, but many people don’t have all the characteristics, especially early in the course of the disease.

Your endocrinologist is the expert in diagnosis and management, and has done most of the tests. I am somewhat surprised that you haven’t yet seen a surgeon to have the tumor removed. Once it is removed, the body quickly starts to return to normal, although losing the weight can be a problem for many.

I have seen cases in my training where, despite many tests, the diagnosis was still uncertain. The endocrinologist orders a test where the blood is sampled from both adrenal veins (which contain the blood that leaves the adrenal glands on top of the kidneys). If the adrenal vein on the side of the tumor has much more cortisone than the opposite side, the diagnosis is certain.

By DR. KEITH ROACH For the Herald & Review at http://herald-review.com/news/opinion/editorial/columnists/roach/dr-roach-cushing-s-disease-best-treated-by-endocrinologist/article_38e71835-464d-5946-aa9c-4cb1366bcee3.html

Screening tool accurately predicts Cushing’s syndrome in most at-risk patients

León-Justel A, et al. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2016;doi:10.1210/jc.2016-1673.

A scoring system based on clinical signs and a late-night salivary cortisol test accurately predicted Cushing’s syndrome in at-risk patients, with only one missed case, according to recent findings.

In a prospective, multicenter study, Antonio León-Justel, PhD, of the biochemistry department at the Hospital Universitario Virgen del Rocío in Seville, Spain, and colleagues analyzed data from 353 patients treated in endocrinology units in 13 university hospitals in Spain between 2012 and July 2013. All participants had at least two of five features compatible with Cushing’s syndrome, including obesity, hypertension, poorly controlled diabetes,hirsutism with menstrual disorders and osteoporosis; none of the included patients was referred to clinic with the suspicion of Cushing’s syndrome. All patients underwent late-night salivary cortisol and serum cortisol measurements after a low-dose (1 mg) dexamethasone test; those with discordant results were followed until December 2014 (mean follow-up time, 22.2 months).

Within the cohort, 26 (7.4%) patients were diagnosed with Cushing’s syndrome (20 adrenocorticotropic hormone-dependent; six of adrenal origin). In univariate logistic regression analysis, researchers found that muscular atrophy (OR = 15.2), followed by osteoporosis (OR = 4.6), dorsocervical fat pad (OR = 3.32), absence of obesity (OR = 0.21) and absence of type 2 diabetes (OR = 0.26), were associated with Cushing’s syndrome; late-night salivary cortisol values were also related (OR = 1.26). However, after multivariable adjustment, researchers found that muscular atrophy (OR = 9.04; 95% CI, 2.36-34.65), osteoporosis (OR = 3.62; 95% CI, 1.16-11.35) and dorsocervical fat (OR = 3.3; 95% CI, 1.52-7.17) remained as independent variables with Cushing’s syndrome.

“Obesity and type 2 diabetes displayed a negative association with [Cushing’s syndrome],” the researchers wrote. “These results might seem paradoxical a priori, but we want to stress that in our analyzed cohort, the prevalence of obesity and diabetes was exceedingly high (likely reflecting the reasons for referral to endocrinology units).”

In receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis, researchers determined that a cutoff value of 9.17 nmol/L for late-night salivary cortisol provided the best results, with an area under the curve of 0.893 (P < .001), a sensitivity of 88.5% and specificity of 83.2%.

Researchers developed a risk-scoring system, determining cutoff values from a ROC curve. The estimated area under the ROC curve was 0.93 (P < .001), with a sensitivity of 96.2% and specificity of 82.9%.

“Selecting this cutoff value of four, 271 of 327 subjects (83%) without [Cushing’s syndrome] were correctly identified, while only 1 of 26 [Cushing’s syndrome] cases was missed,” the researchers wrote. “Our model yielded 56 false positives.

“Although all the assessments were performed by specialists (endocrinologists) in our study, this scoring system could be easily tested in independent cohorts and different settings such as primary care or hypertension clinics,” the researchers wrote. “At the very least, our diagnostic prediction model could be used as a framework for future studies and potential improvements in diagnostic performance.” – by Regina Schaffer

Disclosure: Leon-Justel and another researcher report receiving a research grant from Novartis Oncology, Spain.

From http://www.healio.com/endocrinology/adrenal/news/in-the-journals/%7B50d3d398-c8fe-41e9-b815-87626bfe8a4b%7D/screening-tool-accurately-predicts-cushings-syndrome-in-most-at-risk-patients

Six controversial issues on subclinical Cushing’s syndrome

Abstract

Subclinical Cushing’s syndrome is a condition of hypercortisolism in the absence of signs specific of overt cortisol excess, and it is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, fragility fractures, cardiovascular events and mortality.

The subclinical Cushing’s syndrome is not rare, being estimated to be between 0.2–2 % in the adult population. Despite the huge number of studies that have been published in the recent years, several issues remain controversial for the subclinical Cushing’s syndrome screening, diagnosis and treatment.

The Altogether to Beat Cushing’s syndrome Group was founded in 2012 for bringing together the leading Italian experts in the hypercortisolism-related diseases. This document represents the Altogether to Beat Cushing’s syndrome viewpoint regarding the following controversial issues on Subclinical Cushing’s syndrome (SCS):

(1) Who has to be screened for subclinical Cushing’s syndrome?
(2) How to screen the populations at risk?
(3) How to diagnose subclinical Cushing’s syndrome in patients with an adrenal incidentaloma?
(4) Which consequence of subclinical Cushing’s syndrome has to be searched for?
(5) How to address the therapy of choice in AI patients with subclinical Cushing’s syndrome?
(6) How to follow-up adrenal incidentaloma patients with subclinical Cushing’s syndrome surgically or conservatively treated?

Notwithstanding the fact that most studies that faced these points may have several biases (e.g., retrospective design, small sample size, different criteria for the subclinical Cushing’s syndrome diagnosis), we believe that the literature evidence is sufficient to affirm that the subclinical Cushing’s syndrome condition is not harmless and that the currently available diagnostic tools are reliable for identifying the majority of individuals with subclinical Cushing’s syndrome.

Keywords

Subclinical hypercortisolism, Adrenal incidentalomas, Hypertension, Diabetes, Osteoporosis

Surgery Preferred Option in Cushing’s Disease for Best Survival

Patients with Cushing’s disease who have been in remission for more than 10 years still have an increased mortality risk compared with the general population, says an international team of researchers, who found the risk of early death was particularly increased in those with Cushing’s and accompanying circulatory disease.

Richard N Clayton, MD, department of medicine, Keele University, Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom, showed that Cushing’s disease, which is characterized by increased secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone by the anterior pituitary gland, is associated with an increased mortality risk of more than 60% and a median survival of around 40 years.

In patients who also had circulatory disease, the mortality risk was even higher, say Dr Clayton and colleagues.

However, patients who had undergone curative pituitary surgery had a long-term risk of death no different from that of the general population. US Endocrine Society guidelines published last August recommend that optimal treatment of Cushing’s syndrome involves direct surgical removal of the causal tumor.

But Dr Clayton and colleagues point out that even patients who undergo pituitary surgery will nevertheless “require lifelong follow-up at a center experienced in dealing with this condition, having regular checks for diabetes, hypertension, and other cardiovascular risk factors.”

The study was published online June 2 in Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

In an accompanying editorial, Rosario Pivonello, MD, PhD, department of clinical medicine and surgery, section of endocrinology, University of Naples Federico II, Italy, and colleagues write that, although surgery is not suitable for all patients, “Prompt pituitary surgery might be the preferred treatment for Cushing’s disease to guarantee the best mortality outcome.”

Calling for further research to better understand why one treatment “has a better effect on mortality than another,” they state: “The results from this study might also motivate rapid interventions, cure, and long-term follow-up in patients with Cushing’s disease — even for a long time after hypercortisolism resolution.”

Studying Those Who Have Survived More Than 10 Years

Dr Clayton and colleagues explain that previous studies have explored mortality in patients with Cushing’s disease during either active disease or remission. But the outcome of patients in remission, especially long-term remission, is still a matter of debate, and assessing long-term survival has been limited by various methodological differences. To overcome some of these issues, they performed a retrospective analysis of case records from specialist referral centers in the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.

They identified 320 patients diagnosed with Cushing’s disease and cured for a minimum of 10 years at enrollment and had no relapses during the study period. The ratio of women to men was 3:1.

Median patient follow-up was 11.8 years, yielding a total of 3790 person-years of follow-up 10 years after cure. There was no difference in follow-up between countries. And as there were no significant demographic and clinical differences between men and women, the data were pooled.

During the study 16% of patients died. Median survival was 31 years for women and 28 years for men, at approximately 40 years following remission. The overall standardized mortality ratio (SMR) for all-cause mortality compared with the general population was 1.61 (P = .0001).

Patients with Cushing’s and circulatory disease had an SMR vs the general population of 2.72 (P < .0001), but deaths from cancer among those who had survived Cushing’s disease were not higher than the general population, at an SMR of 0.79 (P = .41).

Patients with Cushing’s and diabetes also had an increased mortality risk, at a hazard ratio (HR) of 2.82 (P < .0096) compared with the general population, while hypertension was not significantly associated with increased mortality, at an HR of 1.59 (P = .08).

There was also an association between mortality and number of treatments, at an HR of 1.77 for two vs one treatment (P = .08) and an HR of 2.6 for three vs one treatment (P = .02).

Pituitary Surgery Alone Associated With No Increased Risk of Death

Pituitary surgery performed as the first and only treatment was associated with an SMR vs the general population of 0.94 compared with an SMR of 2.58 for other patients (P < .0005).

Patients who had pituitary surgery only had a median survival of 31 years compared with 24 years if surgery had been required at any time (P = 0.03).

The research team states: “For patients who have been cured of Cushing’s disease for 10 years or more, treatment complexity and an increased number of treatments, reflecting disease that is more difficult to control, appears to negatively affect survival.”

“Pituitary surgery alone achieves a mortality outcome that is not different from the normal population and should be performed in a center of excellence,” they conclude.

However, in the editorial, Dr Pivonello and colleagues point out that the surgical approach “is not a treatment option for some patients, either because of contraindications (eg, severe clinical complications) or because of an absence of clear indication for surgery (eg, tumor is not completely removable by surgery).”

The authors and editorialist have reported no relevant financial relationships.

Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. Published online June 2, 2016. Abstract, Editorial

From http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/865073#vp_2

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