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

Cushing’s Syndrome is Hazardous to Your Health

morbidity

People with Cushing’s syndrome, even when treated, have higher morbidity and mortality rates that comparable controls. That is the conclusion of a new study published in the June issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology Metabolism. The study by Olaf Dekkers et al, examined data records from the Danish National Registry of Patients and the Danish Civil Registration System of 343 patients with benign Cushing’s syndrome of adrenal or pituitary origin (i.e., Cushing’s disease) and a matched population comparison cohort (n=34,300).  Due to the lengthy delay of many patients being diagnosed with Cushing’s syndrome, morbidity was investigated in the 3 years before diagnosis while  morbidity and mortality were assessed during complete follow-up after diagnosis and treatment.

The study found that mortality was twice as high in Cushing’s syndrome patients (HR 2.3, 95% CI 1.8-2.9) compared with controls over a mean follow-up period of 12.1 years. Furthermore, patients with Cushing’s syndrome were at increased risk for:

  • venous thromboembolism (HR 2.6, 95% CI 1.5-4.7)
  • myocardial infarction (HR 3.7, 95% CI 2.4-5.5)
  • stroke (HR 2.0, 95% CI 1.3-3.2)
  • peptic ulcers (HR 2.0, 95% CI 1.1-3.6)
  • fractures (HR 1.4, 95% CI 1.0-1.9)
  • infections (HR 4.9, 95% CI 3.7-6.4).

The study also found that this increased multimorbidity risk was present before diagnosis indicating that it was due to cortisol overproduction rather than treatment.

Many of the Cushing’s syndrome patients underwent surgery to remove the benign tumor. For this group, the investigators performed a sensitivity analysis of the  long-term mortality and cardiovascular risk in this  subgroup (n=186)  considered to be cured after operation (adrenal surgery and patients with pituitary surgery in combination with a diagnosis of hypopituitarism in the first 6 months after operation).  The risk estimates for mortality (HR 2.31, 95% CI 1.62-3.28), venous thromboembolism (HR 2.03, 95% CI 0.75-5.48), stroke (HR 1.91, 95% CI 0.90-4.05), and acute myocardial infarction (HR 4.38, 95% CI 2.31-8.28) were also increased in this subgroup one year after the operation.

The standard treatment for endogenous Cushing’s syndrome is surgery. This past year, Signifor (pasireotide) was approved for treatment of adults patients with Cushing’s disease for whom pituitary surgery is not an option or has not been curative.  Cushing’s disease, which accounts for the majority of Cushing’s syndrome patients, is defined as the presence of an ACTH producing tumor on the pituitary grand. In the study by Dekker’s et al, the percentage of patients with Cushing’s disease is not known. We look forward to reexamination of this dataset in a few years following the introduction of more treatment options for Cushing’s disease as well as an analysis that explores the differences in mortality/morbidity rates in the different subsets of patients that make of Cushing’s syndrome (Cushing’s disease, ectopic Cushing’s syndrome, Exogenous Cyshing’s syndrome).

References

Dekkers OM, Horvath-Pujo, Jorgensen JOL, et al, Multisystem morbidity and mortality in Cushing’s syndrome: a cohort study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2013 98(6): 2277–2284. doi: 10.1210/jc.2012-3582

– See more at: http://www.raredr.com/medicine/articles/cushing%E2%80%99s-syndrome-hazardous-your-health-0

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