Metoclopramide Can Mask Adrenal Insufficiency After Gland Removal in BMAH Patients

Metoclopramide, a gastrointestinal medicine, can increase cortisol levels after unilateral adrenalectomy — the surgical removal of one adrenal gland — and conceal adrenal insufficiency in bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia (BMAH) patients, a case report suggests.

The study, “Retention of aberrant cortisol secretion in a patient with bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia after unilateral adrenalectomy,” was published in Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management.

BMAH is a subtype of adrenal Cushing’s syndrome, characterized by the formation of nodules and enlargement of both adrenal glands.

In this condition, the production of cortisol does not depend on adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation, as usually is the case. Instead, cortisol production is triggered by a variety of stimuli, such as maintaining an upright posture, eating mixed meals — those that contain fats, proteins, and carbohydrates — or exposure to certain substances.

A possible treatment for this condition is unilateral adrenalectomy. However, after the procedure, some patients cannot produce adequate amounts of cortisol. That makes it important for clinicians to closely monitor the changes in cortisol levels after surgery.

Metoclopramide, a medicine that alleviates gastrointestinal symptoms and is often used during the postoperative period, has been reported to increase the cortisol levels of BMAH patients. However, the effects of metoclopramide on BMAH patients who underwent unilateral adrenalectomy are not clear.

Researchers in Japan described the case of a 61-year-old postmenopausal woman whose levels of cortisol remained high after surgery due to metoclopramide ingestion.

The patient was first examined because she had experienced high blood pressure, abnormal lipid levels in the blood, and osteoporosis for ten years. She also was pre-obese.

She was given medication to control blood pressure with no results. The lab tests showed high serum cortisol and undetectable levels of ACTH, suggesting adrenal Cushing’s syndrome.

Patients who have increased cortisol levels, but low levels of ACTH, often have poor communication between the hypothalamus, the pituitary, and the adrenal glands. These three glands — together known as the HPA axis — control the levels of cortisol in healthy people.

Imaging of the adrenal glands revealed they were both enlarged and presented nodules. The patient’s cortisol levels peaked after taking metoclopramide, and her serum cortisol varied significantly during the day while ACTH remained undetectable. These results led to the BMAH diagnosis.

The doctors performed unilateral adrenalectomy to control cortisol levels. The surgery was successful, and the doctors reduced the dose of glucocorticoid replacement therapy on day 6.

Eight days after the surgery, however, the patient showed decreased levels of fasting serum cortisol, which indicated adrenal insufficiency — when the adrenal glands are unable to produce enough cortisol.

The doctors noticed that metoclopramide was causing an increase in serum cortisol levels, which made them appear normal and masked the adrenal insufficiency.

They stopped metoclopramide treatment and started replacement therapy (hydrocortisone) to control the adrenal insufficiency. The patient was discharged 10 days after the surgery.

The serum cortisol levels were monitored on days 72 and 109 after surgery, and they remained lower than average. Therefore she could not stop hydrocortisone treatment.

The levels of ACTH remained undetectable, suggesting that the communication between the HPA axis had not been restored.

“Habitual use of metoclopramide might suppress the hypothalamus and pituitary via negative feedback due to cortisol excess, and lead to a delayed recovery of the HPA axis,” the researchers said.

Meanwhile, the patient’s weight decreased, and high blood pressure was controlled.

“Detailed surveillance of aberrant cortisol secretion responses on a challenge with exogenous stimuli […] is clinically important in BMAH patients,” the study concluded. “Caution is thus required for assessing the actual status of the HPA axis.”

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2019/05/07/metoclopramide-conceals-adrenal-insufficiency-after-gland-removal-bmah-patients-case-report/

Unilateral andrenalectomy may be valid first-line treatment for Cushing’s syndrome

Debillon E, et al. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015;doi:10.1210/jc.2015-2662.

In patients with evident Cushing’s syndrome related to primary bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia, unilateral adrenalectomy of the large gland appears to be a suitable alternative to bilateral adrenalectomy as a first-line treatment, according to recent findings.

Unilateral adrenalectomy yielded normalized urinary free cortisol and improved Cushing’s syndrome, according to the researchers.

Olivier Chabre , MD, PhD, of the Service d’Endocrinologie-Diabétologie-Nutrition in France, and colleagues evaluated all patients (n = 15) with overt Cushing’s syndrome related to primary bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia who underwent unilateral laparoscopic adrenalectomy of the larger gland between 2001 and 2015. Patients were seen for clinical and biological follow-up assessments at 1, 3 and 6 months postoperatively, 5 years after surgery and at the time of the last available urinary free cortisol measurement.

The study’s primary outcome measures were pre- and postoperative levels of urinary free cortisol, plasma cortisol, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), BMI, blood pressure, plasma glucose and lipids and measurements of these values on follow-up assessments. Patients were followed for a median of 60 months.

The researchers found that in early postoperative measurements, all 15 patients who underwent unilateral adrenalectomy achieved normal or low urinary free cortisol. Between 7 days and 1 month, there was a decrease in median urinary free cortisol from 2.19 times the upper limit of normal (ULN) at baseline to 0.27 ULN (P = .001). At 1 month, only one patient had elevated urinary free cortisol, and this patient went into remission by month 3 and continued to be in remission after 12 years of follow-up.

Forty percent of the patients developed adrenal insufficiency after unilateral adrenalectomy and latent adrenal insufficiency could not be excluded in two of the other patients. No predictors of postoperative adrenal insufficiency were identified.

Six of the patients had diabetes before unilateral adrenalectomy surgery; four of those were treated with antidiabetes drugs. At 12 months, only two of these patients had a continued need for antidiabetes drugs and had reductions in HbA1c despite decreases in their treatment. Recurrence occurred in two patients, demonstrating urinary free cortisol above the ULN at 7 years postoperatively and 8 years postoperatively. Both cases required treatment with mitotane, and in one of the patients, adrenalectomy of the second gland was required 9 years after the initial adrenalectomy.

According to the researchers, postoperative management and vigilant follow-up is needed in order to monitor patients for the risk for adrenal insufficiency.

“Further prospective studies are needed to better evaluate the long-term benefits of [unilateral adrenalectomy], which has one major benefit over [bilateral adrenalectomy]: if needed, [unilateral adrenalectomy] can be transformed in [bilateral adrenalectomy], while the opposite is obviously not true,” the researchers wrote. “One could propose that in further prospective studies [bilateral adrenalectomy] could be performed only if [unilateral adrenalectomy] fails to normalize [urinary free cortisol] at 1 month postoperatively.” – by Jennifer Byrne

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

From Healio

Bilateral Adrenal Incidentalomas May Have Different Etiology Than Unilateral

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Quan-Yang Duh MD
Chief, Section of Endocrine Surgery
UCSF Medical Center

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Quan-Yang Duh: At UCSF we have a monthly Adrenal Conference (involving surgeons, endocrinologists and radiologists) to discuss patients we are consulted for adrenal tumors. About 30% of these are for incidentally discovered adrenal tumors (versus those found because of specific indications such as clinical suspicion or genetic screening). Of these 15-20% has bilateral adrenal tumors.

The evaluation of unilateral incidentaloma has been very well studied and many national guidelines have been published with specific management recommendations. So during our monthly adrenal conference, we have a routine “script” for evaluation and recommendations (rule out metastasis by looking for primary cancer elsewhere, rule out pheochromocytoma and Cushing, resect secreting tumors or large tumors, and if no operation recommended repeat scan in 6 months, etc.). This “script” has worked very well for patients with unilateral incidentaloma.

However, we were less certain when we made recommendations about bilateral incidentalomas because there was very little literature or guidelines written about it. We had some gut feelings, but we were not sure that we were recommending the right things. We needed more data. That was the main reason for the study.

What we found in our study was that although the possible subclinical diseases were the same – hypercortisolism and pheochromocytoma, the probabilities were different. The patients with bilateral incidentalomas were more likely to have subclinical Cushing’s and less likely to have pheochromocytomas than those with unilateral incidentalomas.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Quan-Yang Duh: The work up for bilateral adrenal incidentalomas is similar to that for unilateral incidentalomas. However, patients with bilateral incidentalomas are more likely to have subclinical Cushing’s and less likely to have pheochromocytoma. This difference should be kept in mind when clinicians evaluating these patients.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Quan-Yang Duh: Because our study used data that were from patients who were referred to us to be discussed at our Adrenal Conference, there is likely to be a selection bias (probably higher proportion with clinically significant diseases). It would be interesting to prospectively study ALL patients with adrenal  from a radiology department and see whether our results are confirmed.

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