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      Difficulties in cerebrospinal fluid βhCG interpretation in a patient with an infundibular lesion

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          A variety of neoplastic, inflammatory and congenital conditions can cause pituitary stalk thickening. Differentiating between these causes is important as targeted treatment may be offered. Diagnostic work-up consists of a thorough history, examination, biochemical analysis and imaging. We present the case of a 33-year-old male who presented with diabetes insipidus and had pituitary stalk thickening on magnetic resonance imaging. Further investigations revealed an elevated CSF βhCG, which raised the possibility of an intracranial germ cell tumor. However, when repeated on four different assays, the βhCG levels were discordant. On serial imaging, the pituitary stalk thickening reduced slightly, which would be unexpected for a germ cell tumor. This case raises the difficulties interpreting CSF βhCG, as not all immunoassays for βhCG have been validated for use in CSF. The Roche Diagnostics Elecsys and Siemens Centaur assays have been validated for CSF βhCG, and so we advocate using one of these methods. If unavailable or serum/CSF results are ambiguous, serial MRI is appropriate, with pituitary stalk biopsy considered if the stalk measures >6.5 mm or other imaging abnormalities are present.

          Learning points:
          • Most adult patients with central diabetes insipidus have imaging abnormalities on a pituitary MRI. The most common abnormalities are loss of the posterior pituitary bright spot and pituitary stalk thickening, both of which are non-specific.

          • Causes of pituitary stalk thickening include neoplastic, inflammatory, infective and congenital lesions.

          • Investigation of pituitary stalk thickening should encompass the many possible causes and include biochemical analyses as well as imaging of the chest, abdomen and pelvis. Further investigations should be guided by the clinical context, but may include testicular ultrasound, CSF analysis and pituitary stalk biopsy.

          • Germ cell tumors involving the pituitary stalk may be suspected on clinical grounds, but in the absence of a tissue diagnosis (biopsy) confirmation may be difficult and relies on biochemical assessment of blood and possibly CSF as well as serial MRI imaging.

          • CSF βhCG levels should be analyzed on an instrument validated for use in CSF or on multiple instruments, and the pitfalls of testing this marker (false negative in some germ cell tumors, false positives in other conditions, lack of internationally agreed reference ranges for diagnosing germ cell tumors) should be considered when interpreting the results.

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          Most cited references 10

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          Intracranial germ cell tumors.

          Intracranial germ cell tumors are a heterogeneous group of lesions which occur in children and adults. Within the classification of intracranial germ cell tumors, there are a variety of different tumor types which carry different prognoses. The diagnosis of an intracranial germ cell tumor usually requires histological information, but a subgroup of tumors will secrete specific tumor markers, including alpha-fetoprotein and beta-human chorionic gonadotropin, which may obviate the need for surgical intervention. The management of intracranial germ cell tumors in both children and adults remains unsettled. Germinomas have a good prognosis, as over 90% of patients can be effectively treated with radiation therapy. The dose and volume of radiation therapy needed for disease control is not well established, and controversy exists concerning the need for whole brain or craniospinal radiation therapy for localized tumors. Germinomas are also chemosensitive and recent reports suggest that the dose and volume of radiation therapy required for disease control can be lessened with the addition of adjuvant chemotherapy. The outcome for patients with nongerminomatous germ cell tumors is less favorable. Radiation therapy alone will result in disease control in 40%-60% of patients. The addition of chemotherapy to radiation therapy may improve the rate of survival.
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            Hypophysitis: Evaluation and Management

            Hypophysitis is the acute or chronic inflammation of the pituitary gland. The spectrum of hypophysitis has expanded in recent years with the addition of two histologic subtypes and recognition as a complication of treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors. Despite the increased number of published cases, the pathogenesis of hypophysitis is poorly understood, and treatment strategies are diverse and controversial. The diagnosis of hypophysitis generally requires histopathologic confirmation. The presentation and clinical course of hypophysitis varies. Hypophysitis can resolve spontaneously, relapse may occur, and some cases can be refractory to treatment.
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              Consensus on the management of intracranial germ-cell tumours.

              The management of intracranial germ-cell tumours is complex because of varied clinical presentations, tumour sites, treatments and outcomes, and the need for multidisciplinary input. Participants of the 2013 Third International CNS Germ Cell Tumour Symposium (Cambridge, UK) agreed to undertake a multidisciplinary Delphi process to identify consensus in the clinical management of intracranial germ-cell tumours. 77 delegates from the symposium were selected as suitable experts in the field and were invited to participate in the Delphi survey, of which 64 (83%) responded to the invitation. Invited participants represented multiple disciplines from Asia, Australasia, Europe, and the Americas. 38 consensus statements encompassing aspects of intracranial germ-cell tumour work-up, staging, treatment, and follow-up were prepared. To achieve consensus, statements required at least 70% agreement from at least 60% of respondents. Overall, 34 (89%) of 38 statements met consensus criteria. This international Delphi approach has defined key areas of consensus that will help guide and streamline clinical management of patients with intracranial germ-cell tumours. Additionally, the Delphi approach identified areas of different understanding and clinical practice internationally in the management of these tumours, areas which should be the focus of future collaborative studies. Such efforts should translate into improved patient outcomes.

                Author and article information

                Endocrinol Diabetes Metab Case Rep
                Endocrinol Diabetes Metab Case Rep
                Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism Case Reports
                Bioscientifica Ltd (Bristol )
                23 February 2018
                : 2018
                [1 ]Department of Endocrinology and Diabetes Western Health, St Albans, Victoria, Australia
                [2 ]Dorevitch Pathology Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia
                [3 ]Department of Medicine The University of Melbourne (Royal Melbourne Hospital), Parkville, Victoria, Australia
                [4 ]Department of Medicine The University of Melbourne (St. Vincent’s Hospital), Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia
                [5 ]Department of Medicine The University of Melbourne (Western Campus), St Albans, Victoria, Australia
                Author notes
                Correspondence should be addressed to A R Jones Email: aliciarose86@
                © 2018 The authors
                Error in Diagnosis/Pitfalls and Caveats


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