Endocrine Society issues new guidelines on hypopituitarism

The Endocrine Society today issued a Clinical Practice Guideline that recommends treating insufficient hormone levels in individuals with hypopituitarism by replacing hormones at levels as close to the body’s natural patterns as possible.

The guideline, titled “Hormonal Replacement in Hypopituitarism in Adults: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline,” was published online and will appear in the November 2016 print issue of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM), a publication of the Endocrine Society.

Hypopituitarism, or pituitary insufficiency, occurs when the pituitary gland does not produce sufficient amounts of hormones–the chemical signals that regulate respiration, reproduction, growth, metabolism, sexual function and other important biological functions. The pituitary gland is often called the master gland because the hormones it produces impact many bodily functions. As a result, hypopituitarism can cause a range of symptoms, according to the Hormone Health Network.

The rare disorder can occur due to abnormal development or later in life as a result of a tumor, traumatic brain injury, hemorrhage or autoimmune condition, according to the Society’s

“Hypopituitarism can manifest as low levels of a variety of hormones, including cortisol, thyroid hormone, estrogen, testosterone and growth hormone,” said Maria Fleseriu, MD, FACE, of Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, OR. Fleseriu chaired the task force that developed the guideline. “The goal of treatment should be to restore hormone levels as close to healthy levels as possible The interactions between these hormones also are very important, and patients might require dose changes of one or more of the replacement hormones after starting or discontinuing another one.”

In recommending treatment options, the guideline task force followed the overriding principle of using hormone replacement therapy dose size and timing to mimic the body’s natural functioning as closely as possible.

Accurate and reliable measurements of hormones play a central role in diagnosing hypopituitarism and monitoring the effectiveness of treatments, Fleseriu said. Healthcare providers need to keep in mind technical considerations to ensure the testing procedure is as accurate as possible.

The guideline addresses special circumstances that may affect the treatment of patients with hypopituitarism, including pregnancy care, post-surgical care following pituitary or other operations, treatment in combination with anti-epilepsy medication, and care following pituitary apoplexy–a serious condition that occurs when there is bleeding into the gland or blood flow to it is blocked.

Recommendations from the guideline include:

  • Measurements of both free thyroxine and thyroid-stimulating hormone are needed to evaluate central hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones because it isn’t stimulated by the pituitary gland.
  • People who have central hypothyroidism should be treated with levothyroxine in doses sufficient to raise levels of the thyroid hormone free thyroxine to the upper half of the reference range.
  • Growth hormone stimulation testing should be used to diagnose patients with suspected growth hormone deficiency.
  • People who have proven cases of growth hormone deficiency and no contraindications should be offered growth hormone replacement as a treatment option.
  • Premenopausal women who have central hypogonadism, a condition where the sex glands produce minimal amounts or no hormones, can undergo hormone treatment, provided there are no contraindications.
  • People producing abnormally large volumes of dilute urine should be tested for central diabetes insipidus–a rare condition that leads to frequent urination–by analyzing the concentration of their blood and urine.
  • For patients who have low levels of glucocorticoid hormones, hydrocortisone can be given in a daily single or divided dose.
  • All hypopituitarism patients should be instructed to obtain an emergency card, bracelet or necklace warning about the possibility of adrenal insufficiency.
  • Patients who are suspected of having an adrenal crisis due to secondary adrenal insufficiency should receive an immediate injection of 50 to 100 milligrams of hydrocortisone.
  • People who have central adrenal insufficiency should receive the lowest tolerable dose of hydrocortisone replacement on a long-term basis to reduce the risk of metabolic and cardiovascular disease.
Source:

The Endocrine Society

From http://www.news-medical.net/news/20161013/Endocrine-Society-issues-new-guidelines-on-hypopituitarism.aspx

A Team Effort to Treat a Pea-Sized Gland

HYANNIS – Endoscopic surgery for pituitary tumors involves the use of small instruments, but neurosurgeon Nicholas Coppa, MD, FAANS, is quick to say it takes a big team to make the surgeries a success.

“It’s very much a collaborative effort among endocrinology, neurosurgery and otolaryngology specialties,” he said.

Dr. Coppa frequently works with endocrinologist Catalina Norman, MD, PhD, and ear, nose and throat surgeon Ross Johnston, MD.

The pituitary gland sits at the base of the brain. It makes important hormones that control several different systems in the body and help maintain normal body function.

“The overwhelming majority of patients with big tumors present with visual problems,” said Dr. Coppa. “They get tunnel vision from a tumor putting pressure on the vision nerves.

Many patients’ pituitary problems are detected incidentally while the physician is trying to diagnose a set of symptoms, most commonly headaches, he added. A variety of asymptomatic tumors are detected this way.

A subset of pituitary tumors secrete excess hormones, which create syndromes characterized by whatever hormone is being secreted in excess, Dr. Coppa added. Oftentimes these problems are diagnosed by an endocrinologist.

Before coming to Neurosurgeons of Cape Cod – now known as Cape Cod Healthcare Neurosurgery – in 2013, Dr. Coppa was professor of skull base surgery at Oregon Health and Science University’s Northwest Pituitary Center. He has performed more than 200 endoscopic surgeries for pituitary tumors, sinonasal malignancies and anterior skull base encephaloceles. The procedure is fairly new on Cape Cod, he said.

The pituitary gland is about the size of a pea, so operating on it is a tricky and delicate procedure.

The surgeon commonly works with an endoscope inserted through one nostril, and microsurgical instruments through the other nostril. This allows him to maneuver to the surgical area.

According to the Northwest Pituitary Center’s web site, “The tube is connected to a TV monitor that helps your doctor see the surgical area even more clearly than with a microscope. Your doctor can also use intraoperative neuro-navigation to perform image-guided surgery, based on a pre-operative CT scan or MRI. This helps the doctor see exactly where the tumor is and avoid damaging healthy brain tissue that is nearby.”

Nasal endoscopy for the neurosurgeon has really taken off in the last 10 years, according to Dr. Coppa. The main reason for the increase is because the technique allows better visualization of the anatomy, he said.

“We find that it allows, at least in my experience, more maneuverability of your micro-surgical instruments. That’s been very satisfying for patients. The nasal morbidity [adverse effects] is lower compared to historic ways of doing it.”

Ear, nose and throat doctors use trans-nasal surgery to treat many sinus conditions, said Dr. Coppa. But the procedure is predominantly used by neurosurgeons for pituitary tumors, other tumors of the skull base and malignancies of the sinus cavity that often invade the brain.

After endoscopic pituitary surgery, patients are typically in the hospital for several days and resume day-to-day activities within that first week.

By BILL O’NEILL, OneCape Health News

 

From http://www.capecod.com/newscenter/a-team-effort-to-treat-a-pea-sized-gland/

Polycystic ovarian syndrome and Cushing’s syndrome: A persistent diagnostic quandary

European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 02/10/2014  Clinical Article

Brzana J, et al. – This study aims to retrospectively review institutional records of female patients of reproductive age with Cushing’s disease (CD) and determine if and how many had been previously diagnosed as having solely PCOS. To determine whether clinical patterns might be useful in identifying appropriate candidates for hypercortisolism screening in women suspected of PCOS. Prolonged exposure to hypercortisolism has been linked with increased mortality and morbidity. Tests for hypercortisolism in all the PCOS cases authors report led to an appropriate CD diagnosis. Future research should focus on when and which (if not all) women with suspected PCOS should be tested for hypercortisolism.

Methods

  • The study included 50 patients with pathologically proven CD at Oregon Health & Science University, Northwest Pituitary Center between 2006 and 2011.
  • Physical, clinical, and biochemical features for hypercortisolism were compared.

Results

  • Of 50 patients with pathologically proven CD, 26 were women of reproductive age.
  • Of these, half had previously been diagnosed with and treated initially solely for PCOS.
  • Hirsutism and menstrual abnormalities were more common in the group with an initial PCOS diagnosis than in the group with an initial CD diagnosis.

From http://www.mdlinx.com/endocrinology/newsl-article.cfm/5055779/ZZ4747461521296427210947/?news_id=2364&newsdt=021014&subspec_id=1509&utm_source=Focus-On&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_content=Top-New-Article&utm_campaign=article-section

No High-Quality Studies for Cushing’s Drugs

By Salynn Boyles, Contributing Writer, MedPage Today

Reviewed by Zalman S. Agus, MD; Emeritus Professor, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Dorothy Caputo, MA, BSN, RN, Nurse Planner

There is a paucity of clinical trial data supporting the efficacy of most drugs used to treat Cushing’s disease, researchers reported.

Just one drug — pasireotide — has been evaluated in a randomized, double-blind trial, but even it was judged by the researchers to have only a ‘moderate’ level of evidence supporting its effectiveness and safety.

The review of the literature evaluating drug treatments for Cushing’s disease, a rare pituitary disorder, is the first to employ a rigorous systematic approach with strict, predefined inclusion criteria and formal analysis of the quality of evidence using an established standard, researcher Monica Gadelha, MD, PhD, of Brazil’s Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and colleagues wrote in the journal Clinical Endocrinology.

“This systematic review indicates that the majority of medical therapies currently used in the treatment of Cushing’s disease are supported by a low level of evidence,” the researchers wrote. “Further well-designed prospective studies of medications in Cushing’s disease would help to inform clinical practice further.”

Cushing’s disease is the most common form of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome, a hormonal disorder resulting from persistent exposure to abnormally high levels of the hormone cortisol. In the case of Cushing’s disease, the cortisol is secreted by a pituitary adenoma.

Prolonged exposure to high levels of cortisol raises the risk for diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and nephrolithiasis. Patients with persistent Cushing’s disease have a 3- to 5-fold higher mortality than the general population.

Surgery to remove the pituitary adenoma is the first-line treatment for Cushing’s disease in the U.S., and when the procedure is performed by an experienced surgeon, remission rates in patients with smaller tumors range from 65% to 90%. The long-term remission rate is lower, however, because many patients develop recurrent disease.

Several medical therapies are widely used to treat patients who are not candidates for surgery or who experience relapse following surgery.

Novartis Oncology’s somatostatin analog drug pasireotide (Signifor) became the only drug approved for this indication in December of last year. And the progesterone-blocking drug mifepristone, best known as the abortion pill once called RU-486, was approved in February of 2012 for the treatment of Cushing’s disease-associated hyperglycemia.

Other drugs — including metyrapone, mitotane, cabergoline, and ketoconazole — are also used off-label in the treatment of Cushing’s, and several have shown better response rates than pasireotide in small studies.

In their systematic review, Gadelha and colleagues identified 15 studies that included at least 10 adults with Cushing’s disease and reported treatment responses as the proportion of patients reaching a specified definition of response. Studies examining combinations of medications were excluded from the analysis, as were studies with indefinite diagnoses of Cushing’s disease.

For medications other than mifepristone, studies had to report the proportion of patients with normalized urinary free cortisol (UFC), midnight salivary cortisol or midnight serum cortisol.

The studies were scored according to the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) system for rating quality of evidence.

Ten of the 15 included studies reported outcomes specifically for patients with Cushing’s disease and the remaining five included patients with other forms of Cushing’s syndrome.

The researchers reported that:

  • Pasireotide was the only treatment assessed in a randomized trial, and it was judged to have a ‘moderate’ level of evidence supporting its use. Response rates from three prospective studies of the drug ranged from 17% to 29%.
  • The remaining medications were supported by a ‘low’ or ‘very low’ level of evidence.
  • The highest response rates were reported in a small retrospective studies of metyrapone (75%, one study) and mitotane (72%, one study).
  • Response rates were 25% to 50% for cabergoline (four studies) and 45% for ketoconazole (one study).
  • Among studies that included patients with other forms of Cushing’s syndrome, response rates were 53% to 88% for ketoconazole (three studies), 70% for mitotane (one study), 57% for metyrapone (one study), and 38% to 60% for mifepristone (one study).

 

But the researchers urged caution in comparing the drugs, citing the variability in the study designs and patient selection endpoints, among other limitations in the research literature.

“The wide variation in the time-frames over which response to treatment was measured makes comparison a challenge,” they wrote. “Comparison of response rates reported in the included studies is also complicated by the variation in methodology used to assess response.”

They noted that well-designed clinical trials are needed to determine which drugs or drug combinations are most effective in the treatment of Cushing’s disease patients.

“Combinations of medical therapies with different modes of action might aid in optimizing the balance of efficacy and safety,” they wrote. “Investigational medications, such as bexarotene, LC1699 and retinoic acid, may help to expand the range of future therapeutic options.”

Maria Fleseriu, MD, who was not involved in the review, agreed that more drug treatments are needed. But she added that Cushing’s patients today have many more drug options than they did just a few years ago.

Fleseriu directs the Pituitary Center at Oregon Health & Science University, where she is an associate professor of medicine and endocrinology.

In a recently published analysis, Fleseriu wrote that pituitary-targeted medical therapies should soon play a more prominent role in treating Cushing’s disease, and may become first-line treatments when surgery fails or is contraindicated.

“We now have one drug approved for Cushing’s and another approved for diabetes symptoms associated with the disease,” she told MedPage Today. “We are moving forward, but we are not where we would like to be. Combination therapy is probably where we are heading, but further studies are needed.”

Financial support for this research was provided by Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

Researcher Monica Gadelha reports receiving speaker fees and participating on advisory boards for Novartis. Gadelha and co-author Leonardo Vieira Neto were investigators in Novartis’ clinical trials of pasireotide.

 

From http://www.medpagetoday.com/Endocrinology/GeneralEndocrinology/42043

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

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