Outcomes of endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery for Cushing’s disease

Abstract

Background

Transsphenoidal surgery (TSS) to resect an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-secreting pituitary adenoma is the first-line treatment for Cushing’s disease (CD), with increasing usage of endoscopic transsphenoidal (ETSS) technique. The aim of this study was to assess remission rates and postoperative complications following ETSS for CD.

Methods

A retrospective analysis of a prospective single-surgeon database of consecutive patients with CD who underwent ETSS between January 2012–February 2020. Post-operative remission was defined, according to Endocrine Society Guidelines, as a morning serum cortisol < 138 nmol/L within 7 days of surgery, with improvement in clinical features of hypercortisolism. A strict cut-off of < 50 nmol/L at day 3 post-op was also applied, to allow early identification of remission.

Results

A single surgeon (MJ) performed 43 ETSS in 39 patients. Pre-operative MRI localised an adenoma in 22 (56%) patients; 18 microadenoma and 4 macroadenoma (2 with cavernous sinus invasion). IPSS was carried out in 33 (85%) patients. The remission rates for initial surgery were 87% using standard criteria, 58% using the strict criteria (day 3 cortisol < 50 nmol/L). Three patients had an early repeat ETSS for persistent disease (day 3 cortisol 306-555 nmol/L). When the outcome of repeat early ETSS was included, the remission rate was 92% (36/39) overall. Remission rate was 94% (33/35) when patients with macroadenomas were excluded. There were no cases of CSF leakage, meningitis, vascular injury or visual deterioration. Transient and permanent diabetes insipidus occurred in 33 and 23% following first ETSS, respectively. There was one case of recurrence of CD during the follow-up period of 24 (4–79) months.

Conclusion

Endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery produces satisfactory remission rates for the primary treatment of CD, with higher remission rates for microadenomas. A longer follow-up period is required to assess recurrence rates. Patients should be counselled regarding risk of postoperative diabetes insipidus.

Peer Review reports

Introduction

With an estimated annual incidence of 1.7 per million [1], Cushing’s disease is rare. Untreated, it poses serious complications including osteoporosis, hypertension, dyslipidaemia, insulin resistance, and hypercoagulability [2] and is associated with a 4.8 fold increase in mortality rate [3,4,5]. Patients who are in remission from CD have a mortality rate which decreases towards (although not reaching) that of the general population [6]. Endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery (ETSS) offers patients potential remission from Cushing’s disease, although long term surveillance is required as recurrence rates range from 5 to 22%% [7,8,9,10,11,12].

Since the first report in 1997 [13], the selective removal of an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-secreting pituitary adenoma by endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery has gained popularity as the first line treatment for Cushing’s disease. The primary goal of ETSS treatment in Cushing’s disease is to produce disease remission and to provide long-term control, while minimising complications. Remission rates are dependent on tumour size, preoperative MRI, cavernous sinus invasion, intraoperative visualisation of the tumour and pre- and postoperative ACTH and cortisol concentration [11]. Several studies also report pituitary neurosurgeon experience as a major factor for operative success [21415].

Reported remission and recurrence rates after TSS for CD vary widely according to the criteria utilised to define remission [11], and in some studies due to limited patient numbers or short follow-up periods. Indeed, there is no clear consensus on how best to define post-operative remission; an early morning serum cortisol concentration < 138 nmol/L (5μg/dl) within 7 days of TSS is quoted in the 2015 Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline as indicative of remission [16]. A more strict day 3 cut-off of 50 nmol/L (1.8 μg/dl) has been reported in paediatric studies [17], and also included in the Endocrine Society Guideline [16]; the literature suggests this cut-off is associated with remission, and a low recurrence rate of approximately 10% at 10 years [14]. The main objective of this study was to assess the outcomes of endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery for Cushing’s disease in a tertiary pituitary centre; remission using two widely accepted criteria [16], recurrence and postoperative complications.

Methods

Study design

This is a retrospective analysis of a prospectively-maintained database of patients operated on by a single neurosurgeon (MJ), via image-guided endoscopic transsphenoidal approach for Cushing’s disease. Patient data was gathered over 8 years (January 2012 to February 2020) and identified from the institution’s prospective database. Clinical and biochemical data during the follow-up period was reviewed. Approval was granted by the Hospital Audit Committee.

Study population

Patients were screened for Cushing’s syndrome by the presence of typical clinical features, together with failure to adequately suppress cortisol to < 50 nmol/L following overnight dexamethasone suppression test (ONDST) and/or elevated late night salivary cortisol (LNSF) concentration and/or elevated 24 h urinary free cortisol measurements. As per standard guidelines, Cushing’s disease was diagnosed on the basis of elevated serum ACTH measurements, along with confirmatory hormone responses to peripheral corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) test and inferior petrosal sinus sampling (IPSS). Patients with previous TSS prior to the study period were excluded.

Surgical procedure

A single neurosurgeon subspecialising in endoscopic pituitary and anterior skull base surgery, M.J, carried out all ETSS surgical procedures. The surgical technique has been described in detail in publications by Cappabianca et al. (1998, 1999) and Jho et al. (1997, 2000, 2001) [1318,19,20,21]. In summary, the procedure consists of a binostril endoscopic transsphenoidal approach. A selective adenomectomy was performed on patients with adenomas noted on pre-operative MRI. In cases of negative pre-operative MRI, exploration of the pituitary gland was performed. To confirm the diagnosis of ACTH-secreting adenoma or hyperplasia, all specimens removed underwent histopathological and immunohistochemical staining for pituitary hormones.

Postoperative assessment

Patients received empiric oral hydrocortisone on day 1 and on the morning of day 2 post-operatively, prior to assessment of 0800 h serum cortisol on day 3. A blood sample for serum cortisol was drawn at 0800 h on the morning of day 3, if clinically stable, prior to administration of hydrocortisone. The Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline define post-operative biochemical remission as morning serum cortisol < 138 nmol/L (5μg/dl) within 7 days postoperatively [16], ‘standard criteria’. In our institution, we also apply a biochemical cut-off of < 50 nmol/L (1.8 μg/dl) at day 3 postoperatively to allow early indication of biochemical remission, ‘strict criteria’. If serum cortisol on day 3 is 50–138 nmol/L, serial measurements are taken daily to determine if cortisol will fall further, and assessment for improvement/resolution of clinical sequalae of hypercortisolaemia made (such as improvement in blood pressure or glycaemic control), before repeat endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery is considered.

Transient cranial diabetes insipidus (DI) was defined as the development of hypotonic polyuria postoperatively requiring at least one dose of desmopressin [22], which resolved prior to discharge. Permanent DI was confirmed by water deprivation test according to standard criteria [23]. Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) deficiency was defined by low fT4 with either low or inappropriately normal TSH. Growth hormone (GH) deficiency was confirmed using either Insulin Tolerance Test or Glucagon Stimulation Test [24]. Gonadotrophin deficiency was defined in premenopausal women as amenorrhoea with inappropriately low FSH and LH concentration, and in postmenopausal patients as inappropriately low FSH and LH concentration.

Recovery of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis was assessed by short synacthen (250 μg) test or insulin tolerance test 3 months post-operatively, and every 3–6 months thereafter in cases of initial fail or borderline result. Patients were assessed annually for recurrence of Cushing’s disease, recurrence was defined by failure to suppress cortisol to < 50 nmol/L following an 1 mg overnight dexamethasone suppression test, an elevated late night salivary cortisol (LNSF) or urinary free cortisol (UFC) in patients no longer taking hydrocortisone.

Laboratory analysis

Prior to 2019, serum cortisol was measured using a chemiluminescent immunoassay with the Beckman Coulter UniCel Dxl 800. Intra-assay CV for serum cortisol was 8.3, 5 and 4.6% at concentrations of 76, 438 and 865 nmol/L, respectively. From January 2019 onwards, serum cortisol was measured using Elecsys® Cortisol II assay on the Roche Cobas e801; intra-assay precision for serum cortisol was 1.2, 1.1 and 1.6% at concentrations of 31.8, 273 and 788 nmol/L, respectively.

Statistics

Data are expressed as median (range) and number (%). The Fishers Exact test was used to compare categorical variables between groups. All p-values were considered statistically significant at a level < 0.05. Statistical analysis was performed using GraphPad Prism 8 statistical software (GraphPad Software, La Jolla, California, USA).

Results

Demographics

Forty-three endoscopic transsphenoidal procedures were performed in 39 patients. Demographics are summarised in Table 1. Median (range) age was 37 years (8–75), 30 were female. Median (range) duration of symptoms was 24 months (6–144), 72% (28/39) had hypertension, and 28% (11/39) had type 2 diabetes.

Table 1 Summary of demographics and post-operative outcomes

Preoperative imaging and IPSS

Pre-operative MRI localised an adenoma in 22 (56%) patients; 18 microadenoma and 4 macroadenoma (2 with cavernous sinus invasion). No adenoma was identified in 17 patients (44%). IPSS was carried out in 33 (85%) patients.

Postoperative remission

Post-operative outcomes are summarised in Table 1 and Fig. 1. Using standard criteria (0800 h serum cortisol < 138 nmol/l within 7 days of operation and improvement in clinical features of hypercortisolism), postoperative remission rates for initial surgery were 87% (34/39) for the entire group and 89% (31/35) when patients with macroadenomas were excluded, Fig. 1. Three patients had an early repeat ETSS for persistent disease; day 3 serum cortisol ranged from 306 to 555 nmol/L and interval to repeat ETSS from 10 days–3 months. When the outcome of early repeat ETSS was factored in, overall remission rate was 92% (36/39) overall, and 94% (33/35) when patients with macroadenomas were excluded.

Fig. 1
figure1

Schema of patients who underwent ETSS. *Day 3 cortisol was not measured in one patient due to intercurrent illness requiring treatment with intravenous glucocorticoids

Using strict criteria of early remission (day 3 serum cortisol concentration < 50 nmol/L), postoperative remission rates were 58% (22/38) overall, and 62% (21/34) excluding macroadenomas. Including the three patients with early repeat ETSS, remission rate was 61% (23/38) overall, and 65% excluding macroadenomas (22/34). Day 3 cortisol was not measured in one patient due to intercurrent illness requiring treatment with intravenous glucocorticoids.

Eleven patients (28%) had a cortisol measurement between 50 and 138 nmol/L on day 3, seven of whom had received metyrapone therapy prior to ETSS. Six patients had serial measurements of 0800 h cortisol up to a maximum follow-up of 14 days post-op, serum cortisol concentration fell after day 3 in all six patients. Ten (91%) were glucocorticoid-dependent at 3 months based on synacthen/ITT; 0800 h cortisol had fallen to < 50 nmol/L in six patients.

Predictors of remission

No statistical difference was found in the rates of remission in those patients with or without tumour target on preoperative MRI, using either strict criteria for remission (12/21 target vs 10/17 no target, p > 0.99) or standard criteria (19/22 target vs 15/17 no target, p > 0.99). Similar results were found when the four patients with macroadenoma were excluded.

Persistent disease

Five patients (13%) had persistent hypercortisolaemia after the initial endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery (Table 2). Three patients underwent a repeat early endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery, Fig. 1. Remission rate after repeat early ETSS was 67% (2/3) using standard criteria, and 33% (1/3), using the strict criteria. Of the patients with persistent disease following repeat ETSS, one received radiosurgery, while the other has been commenced on medical therapy, with a view to refer for radiotherapy.

Table 2 Outcome of five patients with persistent hypercortisolaemia after initial ETSS

Postoperative complications

The rate of transient diabetes insipidus after first ETSS was 33% (13/39), while permanent diabetes insipidus occurred in 23% (9/39). Postoperatively, there were five cases of new thyroid stimulating hormone deficiency (13%) and four cases of gonadotrophin deficiency (10%) (in pre-menopausal females). There were no cases of postoperative CSF leak, no cases of meningitis and no visual complications. There were no other complications.

Recurrence

No patients were lost to follow-up. Over a median (range) duration of follow-up of 24 (4–79) months, one patient had recurrence of Cushing’s disease. Pre-operative MRI had shown a macroadenoma; serum cortisol on day 3 after the initial ETSS was 71 nmol/L, which fulfilled standard criteria for remission, but not the more strict criteria. The patient underwent a second ETSS 13 months later. No tumour was visible intra-operatively so no tissue was removed, day 3 serum cortisol concentration was 308 nmol/L and the patient was commenced on a trial of metyrapone.

Recovery of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis

Recovery of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis occurred in nine patients (27%), at median 13 (3–27) months post-operatively. There was no statistical difference in rates of recovery of HPA axis in patients with day 3 cortisol < 50 nmol/l, and those who only passed standard criteria for remission (< 138 nmol/l) [7/20 (follow-up 25 (3–59) months) versus 2/11 (follow-up 16 (3–79) months) respectively, p = 0.43]. One patient died 5 weeks post-operatively; post-mortem revealed bilateral haemorrhagic adrenal necrosis.

Discussion

Reported remission rates following ETSS in patients with Cushing’s disease (CD) vary widely, predominantly due to differences in criteria used to define remission [11]. There is no uniform consensus on the criteria used to define ‘remission’, with institutions using a combination of biochemical and clinical criteria; this makes comparing surgical outcome studies challenging. The normal corticotroph cells of the pituitary gland are suppressed due to sustained hypercortisolaemia, therefore following successful removal of the ACTH-secreting adenoma, serum ACTH and cortisol concentrations should fall postoperatively. A morning serum cortisol concentration < 138 nmol/L (5 μg/dl) within 7 days of ETSS is usually indicative of remission, and this biochemical cut-off is quoted in the Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline [16], and many surgical outcome studies [81125]. Other studies have applied a more strict serum cortisol cut-off of < 50 nmol/L (1.8 μg/L) at day 3 postoperatively to allow early indication of biochemical remission [101126,27,28]; the literature suggests this cutoff is associated with remission, and a low recurrence rate of approximately 10% at 10 years [14]. Our practice is to apply this latter approach; if serum cortisol on day 3 is 50–138 nmol/L, serial measurements are taken daily to determine if cortisol will fall further, and assessment for improvement/resolution of clinical signs of hypercortisolaemia made, before repeat endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery is considered. It is important to ensure that serum cortisol has reached a nadir, before further intervention is considered.

In this single-centre single-surgeon study, we report two very different remission rates using these two widely accepted criteria. Our remission rate, including those patients who had an early second ETSS, using standard guidelines, is 92%, on par with other larger studies [78112529]. When patients with corticotroph macroadenomas were excluded, the remission rate was even higher at 94%. In comparison, when we applied the more strict criteria of day 3 cortisol < 50 nmol/L, the remission rate was considerably lower at 61%. This criteria is in place in our institution so that we can safely identify patients who have early signs of remission to facilitate discharge on day 3 post-operatively; however reporting these rates in isolation lead to a misleadingly low remission rate compared to the more lenient criteria proposed by the Endocrine Society [16].

Evidence has suggested that higher day 3 cortisol concentration is associated with greater risk of recurrence of CD. A recent retrospective cohort analysis of 81 ETSS for CD by Mayberg et al. reported significantly higher recurrence rates in patients with post-operative cortisol nadir between 58 and 149 nmol/L (2.1–5.4 μg/dL) compared with those with cortisol < 55 nmol/L (2 μg/dL) (33% vs 6%, p = 0.01) [30]. Recurrence of CD was low in our series at 3%, and occurred in a patient with a corticotroph macroadenoma, which have been shown to be associated with higher rates of recurrence [31]. On post-operative assessment, serum cortisol fell between the two criteria for remission and if remission was strictly defined as a day 3 cortisol < 50 nmol/L, then this patient had in fact persistent hypercortisolaemia. This case highlights the difficulty when comparing studies reporting ETSS outcomes in CD – the distinction between persistent post-operative hypercortisolism and early recurrence of CD is not always clear-cut, and is dictated by the local protocol.

Whilst our recurrence data are encouraging in comparison to other reports on CD recurrence, which published rates of up to 22% [11], longer term follow-up is necessary before recurrence rates can be accurately defined. The criteria used to define long term recurrence of CD also varies widely in the literature; a large systematic review (n = 6400) by Petersenn et al. (2015) reported decreased recurrence rates when studies used UFC with ONDST vs. UFC only, and UFC with morning serum cortisol vs. UFC only [11]. This highlights the requirement for standardization of remission and recurrence criteria, for consistency in clinical practice and in the literature.

The post-operative surgical complication rate in our series was very low, with no cases of CSF leak, vascular injury or visual compromise. Other published case series have reported incidence rates for CSF leakage and meningitis of 0–7.2% and 0–7.9% [2123233] respectively. Postoperative meningitis is strongly associated with CSF leakage [34]. Some studies suggest that the endoscopic approach results in higher rates of carotid artery injury compared with the microscopic approach, which could be attributed to the nature of the extended lateral approach [35]. However, in this series of 43 ETSS, we report no cases of surgical related carotid artery injury, similar to other studies reporting 0% serious morbidity or mortality due to carotid artery injury [3336]. Finally, postoperative visual disturbance is a major concern, as it can be life changing for patients. Factors linked with visual complications include tumour size, patient age and any pre-existing visual conditions [37,38,39]. Visual deterioration after TSS for Cushing’s disease has been reported to occur in some large case series at rates of 1.9% [32] and 0.86% [12]. There were no cases of postoperative visual disturbance in our series.

While the surgical complication rate was low, our endocrine complication rate was higher than that reported in other studies, particularly the rate of DI. Transient DI occurred in 33% of cases, and permanent DI in 23%. These relatively high rates of transient DI may be due to the diagnostic criteria used in our protocol; we defined transient post-operative DI as one episode of hypotonic polyuria in the setting of normal or elevated plasma sodium concentration, requiring at least one dose of desmopressin. In contrast, some studies discount any polyuria which lasts less than 2 days [10], while others require the documentation of hypernatremia for the diagnosis of DI [40]. These more stringent criteria will not capture cases of mild transient DI; therefore it is not surprising that the rates of transient DI reported in a 2018 meta-analysis were lower than that in our study, 11.3% [29]. The rates of permanent DI in our study merits particular attention. TSS for CD has been shown to be associated with a higher risk of post-operative DI [4142]. It may be that a more aggressive surgical approach resulted in high remission rates, but at a cost of higher rates of DI. All patients are reviewed post-operatively in the National Pituitary Centre, where there is a low threshold for water deprivation testing and/or 3% saline testing. We did not routinely re-test patients for resolution of DI after their initial water deprivation test at 3 months, and it is possible that some cases subsequently resolved after 3 months [4143]. Regardless, the rate reported in this study is significant, and emphasises the importance of counselling the patient about the risk of DI long-term.

Strengths and limitations

The reporting of two remission rates based on widely accepted criteria is a strength of this study, and allows for direct comparison of our outcomes with other studies. All ETSS were performed by a single pituitary surgeon; while this removes bias from surgeon experience, the disadvantage of this is that the sample size is relatively low. Furthermore, because we included patients who were recently operated on to maximise numbers for analysis of surgical complications, the follow-up period is relatively short. A longer follow-up is required to comment accurately on recurrence of CD. We did not have full ascertainment of longitudinal post-operative data including dexamethasone suppression tests, and this has highlighted the need for protocolised follow-up to allow for consistency when reporting our results.

Conclusion

Endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery in patients with Cushing’s disease offers excellent remission rates and low morbidity. Remission rates are much higher when standard criteria [morning serum cortisol < 138 nmol/L (5μg/dl) within 7 days postoperatively] are used compared with day 3 cortisol < 50 nmol/l. Higher remission rates were found for patients with microadenomas. Patients should be counselled regarding risk of post-operative endocrine deficiencies, in particular permanent diabetes insipidus. Longer follow-up is required to accurately assess recurrence rates.

Availability of data and materials

The data that support the findings of this study are not publicly available due to restrictions by General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Abbreviations

TSS:
Transsphenoidal surgery
ACTH:
Adrenocorticotropic hormone
CD:
Cushing’s disease
ETSS:
Endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery
ONDST:
Overnight dexamethasone suppression test
LNSF:
Late night salivary cortisol
CRH:
Corticotropin releasing hormone
IPSS:
Inferior petrosal sinus sampling
DI:
Diabetes insipidus
TSH:
Thyroid stimulating hormone
GH:
Growth hormone
UFC:
Urinary free cortisol

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Cortisol Levels Predict Remission in Cushing’s Patients Undergoing Transsphenoidal Surgery

In patients with Cushing’s disease, removing the pituitary tumor via an endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery (TSS) leads to better remission rates than microscopic TSS, according to new research.

But regardless of surgical approach, plasma cortisol levels one day after surgery are predictive of remission, researchers found.

The study, “Management of Cushing’s disease: Changing trend from microscopic to endoscopic surgery,” was published in the journal World Neurosurgery.

Because it improves visualization and accessibility, endoscopic TSS has been gaining popularity over microscopic TSS to remove pituitary tumors in Cushing’s disease patients. Yet, although this surgery has been associated with high remission rates, whether it outperforms microscopic surgery and determining the factors affecting long-term outcomes may further ease disease recurrence after TSS.

A team with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences addressed this topic in 104 patients who underwent surgery from January 2009 to June 2017. Among these patients, 47 underwent microscopic surgery and 55 endoscopic surgery. At presentation, their ages ranged from 9 to 55 (mean age of 28). Also, patients had been experiencing Cushing’s symptoms over a mean duration of 24 months.

Eighty-seven patients showed weight gain. Hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes mellitus were among the most common co-morbidities, found in 76 and 33 patients, respectively. Nineteen patients had osteoporosis and 12 osteopenia, which refers to lower-than-normal bone mineral density.

As assessed with magnetic resonance imaging, 68 patients had a microadenoma (a tumor diameter smaller than one centimeter) and 27 had a macroadenoma (a tumor one centimeter or larger). Only two patients had an invasive pituitary adenoma.

Two patients with larger tumors were operated on transcranially (through the skull). The surgery resulted in total tumor removal in 90 cases (86.5%). A blood loss greater than 100 milliliter was more common with endoscopic than with microscopic TSS.

Ten patients developed transient diabetes inspidus, two experienced seizures after surgery, and six of nine patients with macroadenoma and visual deterioration experienced vision improvements after TSS.

The incidence of intraoperative leak of cerebrospinal fluid — the liquid surrounding the brain and spinal cord — was 23.2%, while that of post-operative leak was 7.7% and was more common in microadenoma than macroadenoma surgery (9.8% vs. 5.0%).

Seventeen patients were lost to follow-up and two died due to metabolic complications and infections. The average follow-up was shorter for endoscopic than with microscopic surgery (18 months vs. 35 months).

Among the remaining 85 cases, 65 (76.5%) experienced remission, as defined by a morning cortisol level under 5.0 μg/dL, restored circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock, typically impaired in Cushing’s patients), and suppression of serum cortisol to below 2 μg/dl after overnight dexamethasone suppression test.

The remission rate was 54.5% in pediatric patients and was higher with endoscopic than with microscopic TSS (88.2% vs. 56.6%). Also, patients with microadenoma showed a trend toward more frequent remission than those with macroadenoma (73.2% vs. 64.3%).

Ten of the remaining 20 patients experienced disease recurrence up to 28 months after surgery. Sixteen cases revealed signs of hypopituitarism, or pituitary insufficiency, which were managed with replacement therapy.

A subsequent analysis found that morning cortisol level on day one after surgery was the only significant predictor of remission. Specifically, a one-unit increase in cortisol lowered the likelihood of remission by 7%. A cortisol level lower than 10.7 μgm/dl was calculated as predicting remission.

Overall, the study showed that “postoperative plasma cortisol level is a strong independent predictor of remission,” the researchers wrote, and that “remission provided by endoscopy is significantly better than microscopic approach.”

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/09/24/cortisol-levels-predict-remission-cushings-patients-undergoing-transsphenoidal-surgery/

Transsphenoidal Surgery Leads to Remission in Children with Cushing’s Disease

Transsphenoidal surgery — a minimally invasive surgery for removing pituitary tumors in Cushing’s disease patients — is also effective in children and adolescents with the condition, leading to remission with a low rate of complications, a study reports.

The research, “Neurosurgical treatment of Cushing disease in pediatric patients: case series and review of literature,” was published in the journal Child’s Nervous System.

Transsphenoidal (through the nose) pituitary surgery is the main treatment option for children with Cushing’s disease. It allows the removal of pituitary adenomas without requiring long-term replacement therapy, but negative effects on growth and puberty have been reported.

In the study, a team from Turkey shared its findings on 10 children and adolescents (7 females) with the condition, who underwent microsurgery (TSMS) or endoscopic surgery (ETSS, which is less invasive) — the two types of transsphenoidal surgery.

At the time of surgery, the patients’ mean age was 14.8 years, and they had been experiencing symptoms for a mean average of 24.2 months. All but one had gained weight, with a mean body mass index of 29.97.

Their symptoms included excessive body hair, high blood pressure, stretch marks, headaches, acne, “moon face,” and the absence of menstruation.

The patients were diagnosed with Cushing’s after their plasma cortisol levels were measured, and there was a lack of cortical level suppression after they took a low-dose suppression treatment. Measurements of their adrenocorticotropic (ACTH) hormone levels then revealed the cause of their disease was likely pituitary tumors.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, however, only enabled tumor localization in seven patients: three with a microadenoma (a tumor smaller than 10 millimeters), and four showed a macroadenoma.

CD diagnosis was confirmed by surgery and the presence of characteristic pituitary changes. The three patients with no sign of adenoma on their MRIs showed evidence of ACTH-containing adenomas on tissue evaluation.

Eight patients underwent TSMS, and 2 patients had ETSS, with no surgical complications. The patients were considered in remission if they showed clinical adrenal insufficiency and serum cortisol levels under 2.5 μg/dl 48 hours after surgery, or a cortisol level lower than 1.8 μg/dl with a low-dose dexamethasone suppression test at three months post-surgery. Restoration of normal plasma cortisol variation, eased symptoms, and no sign of adenoma in MRI were also requirements for remission.

Eight patients (80%) achieved remission, 4 of them after TSMS. Two patients underwent additional TSMS for remission. Also, 1 patient had ETSS twice after TSMS to gain remission, while another met the criteria after the first endoscopic surgery.

The data further showed that clinical recovery and normalized biochemical parameters were achieved after the initial operation in 5 patients (50%). Three patients (30%) were considered cured after additional operations.

The mean cortisol level decreased to 8.71 μg/dl post-surgery from 23.435 μg/dl pre-surgery. All patients were regularly evaluated in an outpatient clinic, with a mean follow-up period of 11 years.

Two patients showed pituitary insufficiency. Also, 2 had persistent hypocortisolism — too little cortisol — one of whom also had diabetes insipidus, a disorder that causes an imbalance of water in the body. Radiotherapy was not considered in any case.

“Transsphenoidal surgery remains the mainstay therapy for CD [Cushing’s disease] in pediatric patients as well as adults,” the scientists wrote. “It is an effective treatment option with low rate of complications.”

 

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/01/15/transsphenoidal-surgery-enables-cushings-disease-remission-pediatric-patients-study/

Fluconazole Found to Be Safe Alternative for Patient with Recurrent Cushing’s

Treatment with fluconazole after cabergoline eased symptoms and normalized cortisol levels in a patient with recurrent Cushing’s disease who failed to respond to ketoconazole, a case study reports.

The case report, “Fluconazole as a Safe and Effective Alternative to Ketoconazole in Controlling Hypercortisolism of Recurrent Cushing’s Disease: A Case Report,” was published in the International Journal of Endocrinology Metabolism.

Ketoconazole, (brand name Nizoral, among others) is an anti-fungal treatment used off-label for Cushing’s disease to prevent excess cortisol production, a distinct symptom of the disease. However, severe side effects associated with its use often result in treatment discontinuation and have led to its unavailability or restriction in many countries.

Consequently, there is a need for alternative medications that help manage disease activity and clinical symptoms without causing adverse reactions, and that could be given to patients who do not respond to ketoconazole treatment.

In this case report, researchers in Malaysia reported on a 50-year-old woman who fared well with fluconazole treatment after experiencing severe side effects with ketoconazole.

The woman had been in remission for 16 years after a transsphenoidal surgery — a minimally invasive brain surgery to remove a pituitary tumor — but went to the clinic with a three-year history of high blood pressure and gradual weight gain.

She also showed classic symptoms of Cushing’s disease: moon face, fragile skin that bruised easily, and purple stretch marks on her thighs.

Blood and urine analysis confirmed high cortisol levels, consistent with a relapse of the pituitary tumor. Accordingly, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of her brain showed the presence of a small tumor on the right side of the pituitary gland, confirming the diagnosis of recurrent Cushing’s disease.

Doctors performed another transsphenoidal surgery to remove the tumor, and a brain MRI then confirmed the success of the surgery. However, her blood and urine cortisol levels remained markedly high, indicating persistent disease activity.

The patient refused radiation therapy or adrenal gland removal surgery, and was thus prescribed ketoconazole twice daily for managing the disease. But after one month on ketoconazole, she experienced low cortisol levels.

Hydrocortisone — a synthetic cortisol hormone — was administered to maintain steady cortisol levels. However, she developed severe skin itching and peeling, which are known side effects of ketoconazole. She also suffered a brain bleeding episode, for which she had to have a craniotomy to remove the blood clot.

Since she experienced adverse effects on ketoconazole, which also hadn’t decreased her disease activity, the doctors switched her to cabergoline. Cabergoline (marketed as Dostinex, among others) is a dopamine receptor agonist that has been shown to be effective in managing Cushing’s disease.

But cabergoline treatment also did not lower the disease activity, and her symptoms persisted.

The doctors then added fluconazole (marketed as Diflucan, among others), an anti-fungal medication, based on studies that showed promising results in managing Cushing’s syndrome. Three months after the addition of fluconazole to her treatment plan, the patient’s clinical symptoms and cortisol levels had responded favorably.

At her next clinical visit 15 months later, her condition remained stable with no adverse events.

“This case demonstrates the long-term efficacy of fluconazole in tandem with cabergoline for the control of recurrent Cushing’s disease,” the researchers wrote.

The favorable outcome in this case also “supports the notion that fluconazole is a viable substitute for ketoconazole in the medical management of this rare but serious condition,” they concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/09/27/fluconazole-safe-effective-alternative-recurrent-cushings-patient-case-report/

Transsphenoidal Surgery Is Safe and Effective Treatment for Cushing’s Disease

Transsphenoidal surgery, a minimally invasive surgery to remove tumors in the pituitary gland, is safe and effective to treat Cushing’s disease, a 20-year history of cases in a Belgian hospital shows.

The surgery resulted in high remission rates (83%) in patients. It was also found to be safe, rarely leading to insufficient functioning of the pituitary gland.

The study, “Outcome of transsphenoidal surgery for Cushing’s Disease: a single-center experience over 20 years,” was published in the journal World Neurosurgery.

Surgical removal of tumors in the pituitary gland of the brain remains the gold standard for Cushing’s disease treatment.

Transsphenoidal surgery (TSS) usually leads to good remission rates ranging from 68-95%, depending on the location and type of tumor, the neurosurgeon’s expertise, follow-up period, and the definition of remission.

Today, TSS consists of surgery directed through the nose to get to the bottom of the skull, where the pituitary gland is located. The tumor is reached via the nasal cavity with no need for incisions on the face.

To address the safety and effectiveness of this type of surgery for treating Cushing’s, researchers retrospectively reviewed the outcome of 71 patients who received their first TSS at Saint-Luc Hospital, Belgium, between 1996 and 2017. Patients were followed for an average of 6.8 years (82 months).

Surgeons used a type of TSS that is image-guided with the help of a microscope which magnifies the surgeon’s vision.

Remission was defined as normal fasting cortisol level, normal 24-hour urinary-free cortisol, or prolonged need for hydrocortisone replacement for one year after surgery.

Replacement therapies are sometimes needed when the pituitary is not producing enough cortisol after surgery.

Patients were mostly women, ages 15 to 84. Some of them, 32%, required multiple surgeries.

In total, 46 patients out of 71 were in remission after the first surgery, 11 after the second surgery, one after the third, and one after the fourth intervention.

A successful first surgery, resulting in a one-year remission, was a positive indicator for patients, as it was associated with high final remission rates (95%).

However, if the first surgery failed, only 36% of patients achieved a final remission.

“Obtaining a lasting remission after a first TSS could be an interesting parameter to influence future therapeutic decisions [like] performing repeated surgery rather than choosing second-line therapies,” researchers wrote.

Overall, remission was achieved in 83% of patients who underwent a single or multiple TSS intervention, a recurrence rate comparable to previous reports.

Surgery was particularly successful for curing patients with macroadenomas — tumors larger than 10 mm — leading to a 92% remission rate.

Small tumors that were not visible on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were more difficult to treat, with only 71% of patients being cured. Still, such a remission rate was better than what is commonly reported for MRI-negative tumors. This is likely explained by a higher level of expertise by the surgeon.

Levels of cortisol one day after TSS were significantly lower in patients with long-term remission. However, high levels were still observed in a few patients, especially those who had Cushing’s disease for many years.

“Therefore, high cortisol levels in the postoperative early days do not always indicate persistent disease and later [cortisol] evaluation is warranted,” the researchers wrote.

Most complications from surgery were minor and transient, except for seven patients who developed diabetes. Only 8.8% of patients developed long-term failure of the pituitary gland, likely because physicians favored a less aggressive intervention plan to leave the pituitary gland as intact as possible.

However, such an approach may also explain why some patients had to undergo multiple surgeries to completely remove the tumor.

In addition, a longer duration of Cushing’s disease symptoms and higher cortisol levels before surgery could significantly predict a poorer likelihood of being cured by TSS.

“Neuronavigation-guided microscopic TSS is a safe and effective primary treatment for [Cushing’s disease], allowing high remission rates,” the researchers wrote.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/07/26/transsphenoidal-surgery-safe-effective-treatment-cushings-disease/

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