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Ashley Grossman

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Isabel Huguet and Ashley Grossman

Objective

Flushing can be defined as a sensation of warmth accompanied by erythema that most commonly is seen on the face and which occurs in episodic attacks. Such a problem can be clinically problematic, since many conditions and drugs can be related to flushing, and while often there appears to be no underlying organic disease, it is important to exclude disorders since they may be life-threatening conditions.

Design and methods

We performed a search in MEDLINE using the terms ‘flushing’ in combination with ‘carcinoid syndrome’, ‘pheochromocytoma’, ‘mastocytosis’, ‘menopausal hot flush’ and ‘treatment’. European and American guidelines relating to neuroendocrine tumours, mastocytosis and menopause were reviewed.

Results

In this review, we discuss the main causes of flushing and propose an algorithm based on pathogenesis, which can be used to guide the clinical evaluation process. We also review recent significant developments in the assessment and treatment of the carcinoid syndrome and menopausal hot flushes, which should guide the clinical practice regarding this common but sometimes confusing condition.

Conclusions

When evaluating flushing, a precise systematic approach is needed to exclude potentially serious underlying causes, although despite this, the cause of the disorder is not always found. If symptoms are not progressive, the patient should be advised about its apparently benign nature in order to avoid unnecessary studies or initiating treatments of minimal benefit.

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Ehud Ur and Ashley Grossman

Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) was initially sequenced and identified in 1981, and has since become established as the principal organizer of the stress response. It causes activation of the pituitary-adrenal axis, behavioural arousal, sympathetic stimulation and a decrease in appetite. In vitro studies have shown regulation of hypothalamic CRH by a variety of neuro-transmitters, including the cytokines interleukin-1 and interleukin-6. However, circulating CRH is mainly derived from extra-hypothalamic sites, and levels may be elevated in patients with tumours secreting ectopic CRH. The placenta is a further source of CRH, which may be specifically raised in patients with pre-eclampsia, and could be a factor in the initiation of parturition. The recently identified CRH binding protein may play a vital role in this process. Clinically, CRH testing has become extremely useful in the diagnosis and differential diagnosis of Cushing's syndrome, and particularly for the localization of ACTH following inferior petrosal sinus catheterization. There is considerable evidence that many patients with depressive illness may have a disturbance of the central control of CRH, and this may be become of increasing importance in the therapy of this common condition. There are also intriguing new data suggesting that abnormalities in CRH regulation may be involved in the pathogenesis of inflammatory arthritis.

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Veronica A Preda and Ashley B Grossman

We appreciate the letter from of Dr Soh et al. regarding our review on the use of etomidate in the treatment of Cushing's syndrome. We note that in their experience, our recommended dose regimen of 2.5 mg/h or thereabouts appears to be a safe and effective starting dose in most patients, and we note the utility and ease of use of the lipid formulation and its relative freedom from side effects compared with the more commonly used propylene glycol formulation; these are very helpful comments. Their experience in treating a further four patients is indeed further evidence of the usefulness of this agent.

Open access

Ashley Grossman, Gudmundur Johannsson, Marcus Quinkler and Pierre Zelissen

Background

Conventional glucocorticoid (GC) replacement for patients with adrenal insufficiency (AI) is inadequate. Patients with AI continue to have increased mortality and morbidity and compromised quality of life despite treatment and monitoring.

Objectives

i) To review current management of AI and the unmet medical need based on literature and treatment experience and ii) to offer practical advice for managing AI in specific clinical situations.

Methods

The review considers the most urgent questions endocrinologists face in managing AI and presents generalised patient cases with suggested strategies for treatment.

Results

Optimisation and individualisation of GC replacement remain a challenge because available therapies do not mimic physiological cortisol patterns. While increased mortality and morbidity appear related to inadequate GC replacement, there are no objective measures to guide dose selection and optimisation. Physicians must rely on experience to recognise the clinical signs, which are not unique to AI, of inadequate treatment. The increased demand for corticosteroids during periods of stress can result in a life-threatening adrenal crisis (AC) in a patient with AI. Education is paramount for patients and their caregivers to anticipate, recognise and provide proper early treatment to prevent or reduce the occurrence of ACs.

Conclusions

This review highlights and offers suggestions to address the challenges endocrinologists encounter in treating patients with AI. New preparations are being developed to better mimic normal physiological cortisol levels with convenient, once-daily dosing which may improve treatment outcomes.

Free access

Veronica A Preda, Jonathan Sen, Niki Karavitaki and Ashley B Grossman

The authors apologise for the publication of an error in Table 2 of this article published in the European Journal of Endocrinology 167 137–143. They wish to make clear in Table 2 that they are stipulating the dose of etomidate and that the corresponding dose of hydrocortisone for complete blockade should be 0.5–1.0 mg/h. The correct table is published in full below.

Table 2

Treatment of hypercorticolism with etomidate: Recommendations.

Infusion rate optionsBlockadeCortisol levelBiochemical monitoringOther
Etomidate (IV) 0.04–0.05 m/kg per h=2.5–3.0 mg/hPartial to complete depending on clinical circumstance of the patientTitrate to serum cortisol 500–800 nmol/l in physiologically stressed patient, 150–300 nmol/l in non-physiologically stressed patientPotassium level Cortisol levelSedation scoring initially every two hours then every 12 hours after first 24 hours
Hydrocortisone IV 0.5–1.0 mg/hComplete (will need steroid replacement)<150 nmol/lPotassium level Cortisol level

This table could now be used as a practical guide for clinicians commencing infusions on the ward of etomidate and required hydrocortisone replacement.

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Veronica A Preda, Jonathan Sen, Niki Karavitaki and Ashley B Grossman

This review addresses the practical usage of intravenous etomidate as a medical therapy in Cushing's syndrome. We reviewed the relevant literature, using search terms ‘etomidate’, ‘Cushing's syndrome’, ‘adrenocortical hyperfunction’, ‘drug therapy’ and ‘hypercortisolaemia’ in a series of public databases. There is a paucity of large randomised controlled trials, and data on its use rely only on small series, case study reports and international consensus guideline recommendations. Based on these, etomidate is an effective parenteral medication for the management of endogenous hypercortisolaemia, particularly in cases with significant biochemical disturbance, sepsis and other serious complications such as severe psychosis, as well as in preoperative instability. We suggest treatment protocols for the safe and effective use of etomidate in Cushing's syndrome.

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Jesper Krogh, Caroline N Kistorp, Bahram Jafar-Mohammadi, Aparna Pal, Simon Cudlip and Ashley Grossman

Objective

A major cause of readmission after transsphenoidal surgery (TSS) is delayed hyponatraemia. The purpose of this study was to identify predictors of hyponatraemia one week post surgery and predictors of 30-day readmissions for hyponatraemia.

Design

A retrospective cohort study including patients who had TSS performed for pituitary lesions.

Method

The risk of readmission for hyponatraemia was assessed in consecutive patients between January 2008 and March 2016. The risk of hyponatraemia one week post surgery was assessed in patients admitted for TSS between July 2011 and March 2016.

Results

Of all included patients, 56/522 (10.7%) were readmitted within 30 days. Hyponatraemia was found in 14/56 (25%) of 30-day readmissions. We did not identify any predictive variable for hyponatraemia on readmission. The number of patients with hyponatraemia on the seventh post-operative day was 26/314 (8.3%). The risk of hyponatraemia one week post surgery was increased by an odds ratio of 2.40 (95% CI: 1.06–5.40) in patients with a tumour abutting the optic chiasm and by an odds ratio of 1.16 (1.04–1.31) per mmol/L decrease in sodium levels on the first post-operative day.

Conclusions

Hyponatraemia occurred in 25% of readmissions; however, we did not identify any predictive variable for readmission with hyponatraemia. One week post surgery, 8.9% had hyponatraemia. Tumours pressing on the optic chiasm as well as a fall in sodium levels on the first post-operative day were associated with an increased risk of hyponatraemia one week post surgery. We suggest that a day 7 serum sodium <130 nmol/L should lead to concern and the provision of patient advice.

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Emilia Sbardella, Robin N Joseph, Bahram Jafar-Mohammadi, Andrea M Isidori, Simon Cudlip and Ashley B Grossman

Context

Disease processes that affect the pituitary stalk are broad; the diagnosis and management of these lesions remains unclear.

Objective

The aim was to assess the clinical, biochemical and histopathological characteristics of pituitary stalk lesions and their association with specific MRI features in order to provide diagnostic and prognostic guidance.

Design and methods

Retrospective observational study of 36 patients (mean age 37years, range: 4–83) with pituitary stalk thickening evaluated at a university hospital in Oxford, UK, 2007–2015. We reviewed morphology, signal intensity, enhancement and texture appearance at MRI (evaluated with the ImageJ programme), along with clinical, biochemical, histopathological and long-term follow-up data.

Results

Diagnosis was considered certain for 22 patients: 46% neoplastic, 32% inflammatory and 22% congenital lesions. In the remaining 14 patients, a diagnosis of a non-neoplastic disorder was assumed on the basis of long-term follow-up (mean 41.3months, range: 12–84). Diabetes insipidus and headache were common features in 47 and 42% at presentation, with secondary hypogonadism the most frequent anterior pituitary defect. Neoplasia was suggested on size criteria or progression with 30% sensitivity. However, textural analysis of MRI scans revealed a significant correlation between the tumour pathology and pituitary stalk heterogeneity in pre- and post-gadolinium T1-weighted images (sensitivity: 88.9%, specificity: 91.7%).

Conclusions

New techniques of MRI imaging analysis may identify clinically significant neoplastic lesions, thus directing future therapy. We propose possible textural heterogeneity criteria of the pituitary stalk on pre- and post-gadolinium T1 images with the aim of differentiating between neoplastic and non-neoplastic lesions with a high degree of accuracy.

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Andrea M Isidori, Marianna Minnetti, Emilia Sbardella, Chiara Graziadio and Ashley B Grossman

Glucocorticoids (GCs) target several components of the integrated system that preserves vascular integrity and free blood flow. Cohort studies on Cushing's syndrome (CS) have revealed increased thromboembolism, but the pathogenesis remains unclear. Lessons from epidemiological data and post-treatment normalisation time suggest a bimodal action with a rapid and reversible effect on coagulation factors and an indirect sustained effect on the vessel wall. The redundancy of the steps that are potentially involved requires a systematic comparison of data from patients with endogenous or exogenous hypercortisolism in the context of either inflammatory or non-inflammatory disorders. A predominant alteration in the intrinsic pathway that includes a remarkable rise in factor VIII and von Willebrand factor (vWF) levels and a reduction in activated partial thromboplastin time appears in the majority of studies on endogenous CS. There may also be a rise in platelets, thromboxane B2, thrombin–antithrombin complexes and fibrinogen (FBG) levels and, above all, impaired fibrinolytic capacity. The increased activation of coagulation inhibitors seems to be compensatory in order to counteract disseminated coagulation, but there remains a net change towards an increased risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE). Conversely, GC administered in the presence of inflammation lowers vWF and FBG, but fibrinolytic activity is also reduced. As a result, the overall risk of VTE is increased in long-term users. Finally, no studies have assessed haemostatic abnormalities in patients with Addison's disease, although these may present as a consequence of bilateral adrenal haemorrhage, especially in the presence of antiphospholipid antibodies or anticoagulant treatments. The present review aimed to provide a comprehensive overview of the complex alterations produced by GCs in order to develop better screening and prevention strategies against bleeding and thrombosis.