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      Bowel perforation complicating an ACTH-secreting phaeochromocytoma

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          ACTH-secreting phaeochromocytoma (ASP) is a rare cause of ACTH-dependent Cushing’s syndrome (CS). We report the case of a 63-year-old female presenting with CS secondary to an ASP complicated by bowel perforation. This case report highlights ASP as an uncommon but important cause of ectopic ACTH secretion (EAS). There have been 29 cases of ASP, all of which were unilateral and benign, but associated with significant complications. Patients presenting with ASP have the potential for cure with unilateral adrenalectomy. Given this promising prognosis if recognised, ASP should be considered in the diagnostic workup of ACTH-dependent CS. As this case demonstrates, gastrointestinal complications can arise from severe hypercortisolaemia associated with CS. Early medical and surgical intervention is imperative as mortality approaches 50% once bowel perforation occurs.

          Learning points

          • Consider phaeochromocytoma in the diagnostic workup of ACTH-dependent CS; screen with plasma metanephrines or urinary catecholamines.

          • Serial screening may be required if ACTH-secreting phaeochromocytoma is suspected, as absolute levels can be misleading.

          • Early catecholamine receptor blockade and adrenal synthesis blockade may avoid the need for rescue bilateral adrenalectomy in ACTH-secreting phaeochromocytoma.

          • Consider early medical or surgical management when gastrointestinal features are present in patients with CS, as bowel perforation due to severe hypercortisolaemia can occur and is associated with significant mortality.

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          Most cited references 20

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          Cushing's syndrome.

          Chronic exposure to excess glucorticoids results in diverse manifestations of Cushing's syndrome, including debilitating morbidities and increased mortality. Genetic and molecular mechanisms responsible for excess cortisol secretion by primary adrenal lesions and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) secretion from corticotroph or ectopic tumours have been identified. New biochemical and imaging diagnostic approaches and progress in surgical and radiotherapy techniques have improved the management of patients. The therapeutic goal is to normalise tissue exposure to cortisol to reverse increased morbidity and mortality. Optimum treatment consisting of selective and complete resection of the causative tumour is necessay to allow eventual normalisation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, maintenance of pituitary function, and avoidance of tumour recurrence. The development of new drugs offers clinicians several choices to treat patients with residual cortisol excess. However, for patients affected by this challenging syndrome, the long-term effects and comorbidities associated with hypercortisolism need ongoing care.
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            Ectopic ACTH syndrome: our experience with 25 cases.

            Ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS) occurs in about 5-10% of all patients with ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism with most of them caused by intrathoracic neoplasms. It may be associated with overt malignancies or with occult and indolent tumors. We assessed the accuracy of dynamic tests, inferior petrosal sinus sampling (IPSS) using desmopressin, and imaging in the work-up diagnosis of EAS. Tumor markers, imaging, and outcome data from 25 patients (13F/12M) aged 18-72 years. High dexamethasone suppression test (HDDST), desmopressin test, GHRP-6 test, corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) test, IPSS, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and (111)In-pentetreotide scintigraphy were revised. In 5 out of 20 patients HDDST was positive. In 13 patients who underwent desmopressin test, ACTH- and cortisol-positive responses were seen in six and five patients respectively. GHRP-6 test was positive in two out of three cases. Two patients underwent CRH test with negative response. In the seven patients submitted to IPSS using desmopressin in six of them, none had ACTH gradients. CT was positive in 15 out of 21 patients and MRI in 8 out of 17 cases. (111)In-pentetreotide scintigraphy was positive in three out of five patients. Fourteen patients had intrathoracic tumors, five had pheochromocytomas, three had pancreatic tumors, one had a glomic tumor, and had three occult tumors. Six out of 11 patients with metastasis died and 3 others without metastasis died. IPSS with desmopressin was helpful for differential diagnosis. Patients initially harboring occult carcinoids may also exhibit severe hypercortisolism and those harboring tymic carcinoids had poor prognoses when compared with bronchial carcinoids and pheocromocytomas.
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              Utility of various functional and anatomic imaging modalities for detection of ectopic adrenocorticotropin-secreting tumors.

              Because ectopic ACTH-secreting (EAS) tumors are often occult, improved imaging is needed. Our objective was to evaluate the utility of [(111)In-DTPA-d-Phe]pentetreotide scintigraphy [octreotide (OCT)] imaging at 6 mCi [low OCT (LOCT)] and 18 mCi [high OCT (HOCT)], [(18)F]fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-positron emission tomography (PET) and [(18)F]l-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (F-DOPA)-PET scans, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The study was a prospective evaluation at a clinical research center. Forty-one subjects participated, 30 (17 female) with resected EAS tumors and 11 (three female) with occult EAS, based on inferior petrosal sinus sampling results and imaging studies. INTERVENTION included CT and MRI of neck, chest, abdomen, LOCT (with or without HOCT) and FDG- or F-DOPA-PET without CT every 6-12 months. Tumor identification was the main outcome measure. Most recent results were analyzed. Eighteen patients had tumor resected on the first visit; otherwise, surgery occurred 33 +/- 25 (9-99) months later. Tumor size was 1.9 +/- 1.7 (0.8-8.0) cm; 83% were intrathoracic. CT, MRI, LOCT, HOCT, FDG-PET, and F-DOPA-PET had sensitivities per patient of 93% [95% confidence interval (CI) = 79-98%], 90% (95% CI = 74-96%), 57% (95% CI = 39-73%), 50% (95% CI = 25-75%), 64% (95% CI = 35-85%), and 55% (95% CI = 28-79%) and positive predictive values (PPV) per lesion of 66, 74, 79, 89, 53, and 100%, respectively. LOCT and PET detected only lesions seen by CT/MRI; abnormal LOCT or F-DOPA-PET improved PPV of CT/MRI. By modality, the fraction of patients with one or more false-positive findings was 50% by CT, 31% by MRI, 18% by L/HOCT, and 18% by FDG-PET. Eight occult EAS patients had 64 +/- 58 (9-198) months follow-up; others had none. High sensitivity and PPV suggest thoracic CT/MRI plus LOCT scans for initial imaging, with lesion confirmation by two modalities.

                Author and article information

                Endocrinol Diabetes Metab Case Rep
                Endocrinol Diabetes Metab Case Rep
                Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism Case Reports
                Bioscientifica Ltd (Bristol )
                24 August 2016
                : 2016
                [1 ]Austin Health , Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia
                [2 ]University of Melbourne , Parkville, Victoria, Australia
                Author notes
                Correspondence should be addressed to Sara Baqar; Email: sara.baqar@
                This is an Open Access article distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

                This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License .

                Unique/Unexpected Symptoms or Presentations of a Disease


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