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

Study Examines Therapy Options for Post-adrenalectomy Low Glucocorticoid Levels

Hydrocortisone and prednisone have comparable safety and effectiveness when used as glucocorticoid replacement therapy in patients with adrenal adenoma or Cushing’s disease who underwent adrenalectomy, a new study shows.

The study, “Comparison of hydrocortisone and prednisone in the glucocorticoid replacement therapy post-adrenalectomy of Cushing’s Syndrome,” was published in the journal Oncotarget.

The symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome are related to excessive levels of glucocorticoids in our body. Glucocorticoids are a type of steroid hormones produced by the adrenal gland. Consequently, a procedure called adrenalectomy – removal of the adrenal glands – is usually conducted in patients with Cushing’s syndrome.

Unfortunately, adrenalectomy leads to a sharp drop in hormones that are necessary for our bodies. So, post-adrenalectomy glucocorticoid replacement therapy is required for patients.

Hydrocortisone and prednisone are synthetic glucocorticoids that most often are used for glucocorticoid replacement therapy.

Treatment with either hydrocortisone or prednisone has proven effective in patients with Cushing’s syndrome. However, few studies have compared the two treatments directly to determine if there are significant advantages of one therapy over another.

Chinese researchers set out to compare the effectiveness and safety of hydrocortisone and prednisone treatments in patients with Cushing’s syndrome, up to six months after undergoing adrenalectomy.

Patients were treated with either hydrocortisone or prednisone starting at day two post-adrenalectomy. The withdrawal schedule varied by individual patients.

At baseline, both groups had similar responses to the adrenalectomy, including the correction of hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels), and hypokalemia (low potassium levels). Furthermore, most patients in both groups lost weight and showed significant improvement, as judged by a subjective evaluation questionnaire.

Hydrocortisone did show a significant advantage over prednisone in the improvement of liver function, but its use also was associated with significant swelling of the lower extremities, as compared to prednisone.

Patients in both groups went on to develop adrenal insufficiency (AI) during glucocorticoid withdrawal. However, there were no significant differences in the AI incidence rate – 35 percent in the hydrocortisone group versus 45 percent in the prednisone group. The severity of A also was not significantly different between the groups.

Furthermore, most of the AI symptoms were relieved by going back to the initial doses of the glucocorticoid replacement.

As there were no significant differences between the two treatments, the findings support “the use of both hydrocortisone and prednisone in the glucocorticoid replacement therapy post-adrenalectomy for patients of adrenal adenoma or Cushing’s disease,” researchers concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/01/11/post-adrenalectomy-glucocorticoid-replacement-therapy/

Intraoperative MRI improves complete resection of pituitary macroadenoma

A 63-year-old man was referred to the Massachusetts General Hospital Neuroendocrine & Pituitary Tumor Clinical Center for management of a pituitary macroadenoma. He experienced increasingly severe retro-orbital headaches in the past year. He reported no double vision, fatigue, orthostatic dizziness, change in beard growth or reduction in libido. An outside head CT scan showed an enlarged pituitary gland.

Imaging and laboratory tests

A pituitary MRI with magnified pituitary slices and gadolinium contrast was ordered. A well-circumscribed “snowman-shaped” sellar mass was identified, measuring 2.6 cm x 2 cm x 1.8 cm (anteroposterior x transverse x craniocaudal) with suprasellar extension (Figure 1). The lesion was heterogeneous on T1-weighted scans after enhancement with IV gadolinium contrast. An area of hypointensity in the superior margin was consistent with a small area of cystic or hemorrhagic degeneration.

Although the mass did not extend laterally into the cavernous sinus, the sellar mass extended upward into the suprasellar cistern through a hole in the dural, the diaphragma sellae, to compress the optic chiasm. The restriction of adenoma growth by the diaphragma sellae results in the snowman shape of the macroadenoma. The optic chiasm and infundibulum (pituitary stalk) could not be identified on coronal or sagittal images (Figure 1). Visual field on confrontation suggested lateral field deficits (bilateral lateral hemianopsia) that were confirmed on formal Goldmann kinetic perimetry visual fields.

Figure 1. Preoperative MRI scan. A large “snowman-shaped” pituitary adenoma (green arrow) has heterogeneous enhancement after gadolinium contrast administration. A small hypodense area in the adenoma likely represented hemorrhage/cystic degeneration (yellow arrow). The tumor does not surround the carotid siphon, an S-shaped portion of the internal carotid artery (red arrows) within the cavernous sinus located laterally from the sella turcica where the pituitary gland resides. (A) Coronal image. (B) Sagittal image. Abbreviation: SS = spenoid sinus.

Source: Stephanie L. Lee, MD, PhD, ECNU. Reprinted with permission.

Initial hormonal evaluation was normal and included morning adrenocorticotropic hormone 18 pg/mL, cortisol 13.64 µg/dL, thyroid-stimulating hormone 2.14 uIU/mL, free thyroxine 1.2 ng/dL and prolactin 12.6 ng/mL. The patient’s morning testosterone level was normal at 324 ng/dL, with follicle-stimulating hormone 2.4 mIU/mL and luteinizing hormone 1.6 mIU/mL. His insulin-like growth factor I level was normal at 124 ng/mL.

Tumor resection

The patient was treated preoperatively with stress-dose hydrocortisone 50 mg. He then underwent transsphenoidal pituitary tumor resection. After the surgeon believed there was an adequate excision of the tumor, the extent of tumor resection was confirmed by an intraoperative MRI (Figure 2 on page 8).

Figure 2. Intraoperative MRI scan. The large macroadenoma is not seen after transsphenoidal surgery. The optic chiasm (yellow arrow) can be seen after removal of the tumor. (A) Coronal image. (B) Sagittal image. Abbreviation: SS = spenoid sinus.

The operation was concluded after the imaging confirmed the complete resection of the pituitary adenoma. The patient’s postoperative course was uneventful. Imaging 4 weeks after the resection confirmed complete resection of the suprasellar mass with residual enhancement of the resection bed and sphenoid sinuses (Figure 3 on page 8). The postoperative MRI revealed a normal optical chiasm and a downward tending of the infundibulum to the residual pituitary gland located inferiorly along the sella turcica (pituitary fossa) of the sphenoid bone. Pathology confirmed a pituitary adenoma. His anterior and posterior pituitary function were normal 6 weeks postoperatively, and his visual field deficit improved.

Intraoperative MRI

Imaging like that used in this case occurs in a specially designed operating room that allows MRI scans during surgery without moving the patient from the surgical table. The MRI is kept in a shielded enclosure during the procedure and then moved along a track into the operating room for imaging. Clinical indications for the use of intraoperative MRI in neurosurgery include resection of pituitary macroadenomas. In the past, these tumors underwent transsphenoidal resection, and the postoperative MRI was performed after 1 or more days after the procedure to check for complete removal. If residual tumor was found, the patients underwent watchful waiting, external radiation or repeat surgery.

The strategic advantage of an intraoperative MRI is that the imaging is performed during the operative procedure, and if there is any residual tumor, surgery can be resumed after the MRI is moved back into the shielded enclosure.

Figure 3. Four-week postoperative MRI scan. The large macroadenoma is not seen after the transsphenoidal survey. The optic chiasm and infundibulum (pituitary stalk) can be seen after resection of the tumor. The pituitary stalk is deviated to the left of the sella where the residual normal thyroid is locate along the sella turcica. The floor of the sella enhances with gadolinium infusion after surgery due to postoperative inflammation. (A) Coronal image. (B) Sagittal image. Abbreviation: SS = spenoid sinus.

It has been reported that the use of intraoperative MRI does not increase complication rates compared with conventional transsphenoidal surgery. Reports on the improvement of gross tumor resection using intraoperative MRI are variable, perhaps due to the expertise of the surgeon. Several reports suggest the use of intraoperative MRI allowed additional resection of noninvasive macroadenomas in 67% to 83% of the patients with a gross tumor resection. These results suggest that a substantial volume reduction and increased gross tumor resection of pituitary macroadenomas occurs with the use of intraoperative MRI compared with standard surgery. One study demonstrated that the gross tumor resection rates of invasive tumors was also improved with the use of intraoperative MRI compared with usual preoperative imaging and surgery (25% vs. 7%).

The use of intraoperative MRI, especially with transsphenoidal reoperations for invasive and noninvasive pituitary macroadenomas, leads to significantly higher “gross tumor resection” rates. This method prevents additional operations or treatment, such as radiation, because it reduces the number of patients with residual adenoma after surgery. This technology is usually found in specialized tertiary care hospitals but should be considered for reoperation for large pituitary macroadenomas or initial operation for large invasive pituitary macroadenomas.

Disclosures: Lee and Swearingen report no relevant financial disclosures.

From https://www.healio.com/endocrinology/neuroendocrinology/news/print/endocrine-today/%7B23183444-4d29-477b-844f-6eb995ac74f4%7D/intraoperative-mri-improves-complete-resection-of-pituitary-macroadenoma

Health Care Expenditure Burden High in Adrenal Insufficiency

Patients with adrenal insufficiency may accrue substantial health care costs and have more hospital stays and outpatient visits compared with healthy controls, according to findings published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society.

Candace Gunnarsson, PhD, vice president of health economics and outcomes research at CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting in Cincinnati, and colleagues evaluated data from a U.S.-based payer database on 10,383 patients with adrenal insufficiency to determine the estimated annual health care burden among them.

Participants were divided into groups based on their type of adrenal insufficiency: primary adrenal insufficiency (n = 1,014), adrenal insufficiency secondary to pituitary disease (n = 8,818) or congenital adrenal hyperplasia (n = 551). A group of matched controls was also evaluated for comparison.

Total annual health care expenditures were significantly higher in the primary adrenal insufficiency group ($18,624 vs. $4,320), adrenal insufficiency secondary to pituitary disease group ($32,218 vs. $6,956) and the congenital adrenal hyperplasia group ($7,677 vs. $4,203) compared with controls. The adrenal insufficiency secondary to pituitary disease group had the highest health care expenditure estimated with an incremental health care burden of $25,262, followed by the primary adrenal insufficiency group ($14,304) and the congenital adrenal hyperplasia group ($3,474).

Compared with controls, participants with adrenal insufficiency spent eight to 10 times more days in the hospital and had up to twice as many outpatient visits per year.

“When comparing [adrenal insufficiency] patients within each cohort based on their drug regimen, patients receiving prednisone therapy vs. hydrocortisone therapy had significantly higher total annual expenditures in the [primary adrenal insufficiency] and [congenital adrenal hyperplasia] and significantly lower total expenditures in the [pituitary disease] cohort,” the researchers wrote. “Patients taking only hydrocortisone and meeting the threshold of 50% adherence were found to have lower expenditures when medication adherence was 75% or higher.” – by Amber Cox

Disclosure: Gunnarsson reports being an employee of CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting. Please see the full study for a list of all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.

From http://www.healio.com/endocrinology/adrenal/news/in-the-journals/%7B8f92bd0c-0c72-4902-beb5-663c356a61cb%7D/health-care-expenditure-burden-high-in-adrenal-insufficiency

Exogenous Cushing’s syndrome due to a Chinese herbalist’s prescription of ointment containing dexamethasone

BMJ Case Reports 2017; doi:10.1136/bcr-2016-218721

Summary

Eczema in children is a chronic disabling condition. The impact of this condition on the lives of families is often underestimated by conventional physicians. As a consequence parents may investigate complementary treatment options. Close monitoring by a paediatrician is essential, considering that a variety of adverse effects can occur during the use of complementary treatment.

We present a 5-year-old girl with eczema. She visited a Chinese herbalist who prescribed an ointment. The parents noticed that the eczema resolved fast, itching decreased and she was finally sleeping well. However, her behaviour changed and appetite increased. Undetectable levels of serum cortisol were found, which was indicative of exogenous Cushing’s syndrome. Analysis of the ointment revealed the presence of dexamethasone.

Hydrocortisone substitution and subsequently a reduction schedule were implemented, after which endogenous cortisol production recovered after 4 months. Physicians should be aware that unregistered herbal medicine can contain potent drugs such as glucocorticoids.

Read more at http://casereports.bmj.com/content/2017/bcr-2016-218721.short?rss=1

 

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