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Susan M Webb, Iris Crespo, Alicia Santos, Eugenia Resmini, Anna Aulinas and Elena Valassi

Background

In the last few years, quality of life (QoL) has become an outcome measure in patients with pituitary diseases.

Objective

To describe the available data on QoL impairment evaluated with questionnaires in patients with pituitary diseases.

Design

Critical review of the pertinent literature and pragmatic discussion of available information.

Methods

Selection of relevant literature from PubMed and WOK, especially from the last 5 years and comprehensive analysis.

Results

QoL is impaired in all pituitary diseases, mostly in acromegaly and Cushing’s disease (similar to other causes of Cushing’s syndrome), but also in non-functioning pituitary adenomas and prolactinomas, especially in the active phase of the disease. Nevertheless, even after endocrine ‘cure’, scores tend to be below normative values, indicative of residual morbidity after hormonal control. The presence of hypopituitarism worsens subjective QoL perception, which can improve after optimal substitution therapy, including recombinant human growth hormone, when indicated.

Conclusions

To improve the long-term outcome of pituitary patients, helping them to attain the best possible health, it appears desirable to include subjective aspects captured when evaluating QoL, so that the affected dimensions are identified and if relevant treated. Additionally, being aware that treatment outcome may not always mean complete normalisation of physical and mental issues related to QoL can be a first step to adaptation and conforming to this new status.

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Alicia Santos, Eugenia Resmini, Ma Antonia Martínez-Momblán, Iris Crespo, Elena Valassi, Montserrat Roset, Xavier Badia and Susan M Webb

Objective

To evaluate health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in Cushing's syndrome (CS) with the disease-generated CushingQoL questionnaire and to confirm its psychometric properties of test–retest reliability and sensitivity to change.

Design

Clinical practice conditions in a tertiary referral center.

Methods

The CushingQoL and EuroQoL questionnaires were administered at baseline and during follow-up and correlated with clinical parameters in 59 patients with CS. To check test–retest reliability, stable patients (either biochemically cured or with active hypercortisolism) were evaluated twice. To investigate sensitivity to change, new patients were evaluated at diagnosis and twice more following improvement after successful surgery.

Results

At baseline, patients with active disease scored lower (indicating worse HRQoL) than those cured on the CushingQoL (46±14 vs 58±20, P<0.05) but not on the EuroQoL-visual analog scale (VAS; 64±20 vs 70±16, P NS). Test–retest reliability of CushingQoL was confirmed in stable patients, both in the ‘cured group’ (intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC)=0.78, n=34) and in the ‘active group’ (ICC=0.66, n=14). Sensitivity to change was confirmed in the ‘improvement group’ (n=11), as the CushingQoL score increased 4±1.5 and 9±3 months after surgery (P<0.01 and <0.001 respectively); the EuroQoL-VAS only improved after 9±3 months (P<0.01). Effect sizes were 1.02 and 1.86 for CushingQoL at 4±1.5 and 9±3 months respectively. Finally, scores of both questionnaires were correlated (r=0.504; P<0.001).

Conclusions

The CushingQoL questionnaire shows good test–retest reliability and sensitivity to change in clinical practice conditions.

Free access

Elena Valassi, Iris Crespo, Jorge Malouf, Jaume Llauger, Anna Aulinas, Ana Maria Marín, Betina Biagetti and Susan M Webb

Objective

Data on dual energy absorptiometry (DXA)-measured bone mineral density (BMD) at the level of the total hip (TH) and femoral neck (FN) in patients with acromegaly (ACRO) are conflicting. Increase in bone size associated with ACRO may limit the reliability of DXA. Our objective is to evaluate trabecular and cortical volumetric BMD (vBMD) across the proximal femur in ACRO patients.

Design

Cross sectional study in a clinical research center.

Patients

Thirty-five ACRO patients (19 males; mean age, 48±7 years; BMI, 27.5±4.4 kg/m2; 17 with active disease) and 35 age, gender, and BMI-matched controls.

Results

vBMD was assessed by quantitative computed tomography at the level of the TH, FN, trochanter (TR), and intertrochanteric (IT). Trabecular vBMD was lower in both total and active ACRO as compared with controls (P<0.01). Cortical vBMD was lower in ACRO patients (active and controlled) vs controls at both TH and TR sites (P<0.05). These findings were confirmed when only eugonadal patients were analyzed. Both total cross sectional area (CSA) and average cortical thickness (ACT) were greater in ACRO patients vs controls (P<0.05). An inverse association between disease duration and trabecular vBMD at TH (r=−0.42, P=0.023) and IT (r=−0.41, P=0.026) was also found.

Conclusion

Both cortical and trabecular vBMD are reduced at the proximal femur in ACRO patients, regardless of gender, gonadal status, and disease activity. Disease duration is negatively associated with trabecular vBMD at the TH and IT.

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Anna Aulinas, María-José Ramírez, María-José Barahona, Elena Valassi, Eugenia Resmini, Eugènia Mato, Alicia Santos, Iris Crespo, Olga Bell, Jordi Surrallés and Susan M Webb

Introduction

Hypercortisolism in Cushing's syndrome (CS) is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Hypercortisolism also occurs in chronic depressive disorders and stress, where telomere length (TL) is shorter than in controls. We hypothesized that shortening of telomere might occur in CS and contribute to premature aging and morbidity.

Aim

To investigate TL in CS patients compared with controls.

Methods

Seventy-seven CS patients (14 males, 59 pituitary, 17 adrenal, and one ectopic; 21 with active disease) were compared with 77 gender-, age-, and smoking-matched controls. Fifteen CS were evaluated longitudinally, during active disease and after remission of hypercortisolism. Leukocyte TL was measured by telomere restriction fragment–Southern technique. Clinical markers were included in a multiple linear regression analysis to investigate potential predictors of TL.

Results

Mean TL in CS patients and controls was similar (7667 vs 7483 bp, NS). After adjustment for age, in the longitudinal evaluation, TL was shorter in active disease than after remission (7273 vs 7870, P<0.05). Age and dyslipidemia were negative predictors (P<0.05), and total leukocyte count was a positive predictor for TL (P<0.05). As expected, a negative correlation was found between TL and age (CS, R=−0.400 and controls, R=−0.292; P<0.05). No correlation was found between circulating cortisol, duration of exposure to hypercortisolism or biochemical cure and TL.

Conclusion

Even though in the cross-sectional comparison of CS and controls no difference in TL was found, in the longitudinal evaluation, patients with active CS had shorter TL than after biochemical cure of hypercortisolism. These preliminary results suggest that hypercortisolism might negatively impact telomere maintenance. Larger studies are needed to confirm these findings.

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Alicia Santos, Eugenia Resmini, Iris Crespo, Patricia Pires, Yolanda Vives-Gilabert, Esther Granell, Elena Valassi, Beatriz Gómez-Anson, M Antonia Martínez-Momblán, Maria Mataró and Susan M Webb

Objective

Cushing's syndrome (CS) is associated with neuropsychological deficits. As the cerebellum plays a key role in neuropsychological functions it may be affected in CS. The aim of this study was to investigate whether patients with CS have a smaller cerebellar volume than healthy controls, and to analyse whether cerebellar volume is associated with neuropsychological performance and clinical parameters.

Design

A cross-sectional study was performed.

Methods

Thirty-six CS patients (15 with active CS and 21 with CS in remission) and 36 controls matched for age, sex, and education underwent neuropsychological testing, quality of life assessment, clinical evaluation, and magnetic resonance imaging brain scan. Cerebellar volumes (white matter and cortex, bilateral) were calculated using FreeSurfer Software.

Results

Patients with active CS showed smaller bilateral cerebellar cortex volumes than controls (left, P=0.035 and right, P=0.034), as well as a trend toward smaller right cerebellar cortex volumes than patients in remission CS (P=0.051). No differences were observed in the volume of cerebellar white matter between the three groups. Both right and left cerebellar cortex volumes correlated negatively with triglyceride levels (right: r=−0.358, P=0.002 and left: r=−0.317, P=0.005) and age at diagnosis (right: r=−0.433, P=0.008 and left: r=−0.457, P=0.005). Left cerebellar cortex volume also correlated positively with visual memory performance (r=0.245, P=0.038). Right cerebellar cortex volume positively correlated with quality-of-life scores (r=0.468, P=0.004).

Conclusions

The cerebellar cortex volume is smaller in active CS patients than in controls. This finding is associated with poor visual memory and quality of life and is mostly pronounced in patients with higher triglyceride levels and older age at diagnosis.

Free access

Massimo Scacchi, Leila Danesi, Agnese Cattaneo, Elena Valassi, Francesca Pecori Giraldi, Piero Radaelli, Alberto Ambrogio, Emanuela D'Angelo, Nadia Mirra, Laura Zanaboni, Maria D Cappellini and Francesco Cavagnini

Objective

We previously described in young thalassaemic patients an altered cortisol and ACTH responsiveness suggesting an impaired adrenocortical reserve. Owing to iron overload, a worsening of adrenal function should be expected in adult patients.

Design

In 124 adults with β-thalassaemia, urinary free cortisol (UFC) and plasma ACTH levels were determined and compared with those measured in 150 controls. In 45 patients, cortisol was measured in response to: i) tetracosactide 1 μg as an i.v. bolus (low-dose test, LDT) and ii) tetracosactide 250 μg infused i.v. over 8 h (high-dose test, HDT).

Results

UFC and serum cortisol were within the reference range in all patients. Conversely, basal plasma ACTH values were above the upper limit of the normal range in 19 patients. There were no statistically significant differences in the mean values of UFC, basal serum cortisol and plasma ACTH between patients and controls. A subnormal cortisol response to the LDT was registered in 18 out of 56 patients. Three of these patients also displayed a subnormal response to the HDT, together with elevated baseline plasma ACTH levels. In the LDT, a positive correlation was found between basal and peak cortisol values (P<0.0001). The latter were negatively correlated with basal ACTH values in both LDT (P<0.0001) and HDT (P<0.0001).

Conclusions

Adult thalassaemic patients often present a subtle impairment of adrenocortical function. This may become clinically relevant in case of major stressful events. Thus, we recommend an assessment of adrenocortical function in all adult thalassaemic patients.

Free access

Alicia Santos, Eugenia Resmini, Beatriz Gómez-Ansón, Iris Crespo, Esther Granell, Elena Valassi, Patricia Pires, Yolanda Vives-Gilabert, M Antonia Martínez-Momblán, Manuel de Juan, Maria Mataró and Susan M Webb

Objective

Cushing's syndrome (CS) is associated with high cardiovascular risk. White matter lesions (WML) are common on brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in patients with increased cardiovascular risk.

Aim

To investigate the relationship between cardiovascular risk, WML, neuropsychological performance and brain volume in CS.

Design/methods

Thirty-eight patients with CS (23 in remission, 15 active) and 38 controls sex-, age- and education-level matched underwent a neuropsychological and clinical evaluation, blood and urine tests and 3Tesla brain MRI. WML were analysed with the Scheltens scale. Ten-year cardiovascular risk (10CVR) and vascular age (VA) were calculated according to an algorithm based on the Framingham heart study.

Results

Patients in remission had a higher degree of WML than controls and active patients (P<0.001 and P=0.008 respectively), which did not correlate with cognitive performance in any group. WML severity positively correlated with diastolic blood pressure (r=0.659, P=0.001) and duration of hypertension (r=0.478, P=0.021) in patients in remission. 

Both patient groups (active and in remission) had higher 10CVR (P=0.030, P=0.041) and VA than controls (P=0.013, P=0.039). Neither the 10CVR nor the VA correlated with WML, although both negatively correlated with cognitive function and brain volume in patients in remission (P<0.05). 

Total brain volume and grey matter volume in both CS patient groups were reduced compared to controls (total volume: active P=0.006, in remission P=0.012; grey matter: active P=0.001, in remission P=0.003), with no differences in white matter volume between groups.

Conclusions

Patients in remission of Cushing's syndrome (but not active patients) have more severe white matter lesions than controls, positively correlated with diastolic pressure and duration of hypertension. Ten-year cardiovascular risk and vascular age appear to be negatively correlated with the cognitive function and brain volume in patients in remission of Cushing's syndrome.

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Elena Valassi, Alicia Santos, Maria Yaneva, Miklós Tóth, Christian J Strasburger, Philippe Chanson, John A H Wass, Olivier Chabre, Marija Pfeifer, Richard A Feelders, Stylianos Tsagarakis, Peter J Trainer, Holger Franz, Kathrin Zopf, Sabina Zacharieva, Steven W J Lamberts, Antoine Tabarin and Susan M Webb

Objective

The European Registry on Cushing's syndrome (ERCUSYN) is designed to collect prospective and follow-up data at EU level on Cushing's syndrome (CS).

Design and methods

Baseline data on 481 CS patients (390 females, 91 males; mean age (±s.d.): 44±14 years) collected from 36 centres in 23 countries, including new patients from 2008 and retrospective cases since 2000. Patients were divided into four major aetiologic groups: pituitary-dependent CS (PIT-CS) (66%), adrenal-dependent CS (ADR-CS) (27%), CS from an ectopic source (ECT-CS) (5%) and CS from other aetiologies (2%).

Results

Proportion of men in the ECT-CS group was higher than in the other groups (P<0.05). The ADR-CS group was older than the PIT-CS (P<0.05). Prevalence of hirsutism (92%) and diabetes (74%) in ECT-CS was higher than in the other groups (P<0.05 and P<0.01 respectively). PIT-CS had more skin alterations, menstrual irregularities and hirsutism than ADR-CS (P<0.01). Reduced libido was more prevalent in men than women (P<0.01). Prevalence of spine osteoporosis was higher in men than women (P<0.05), and males had more vertebral and rib fractures than females (52 vs 18% for vertebrae; P<0.001 and 34 vs 23% for ribs; P<0.05). ECT-CS consulted a diabetologist more frequently than ADR-CS (P<0.05), while a gynaecologist was consulted more often by women with PIT-CS or ADR-CS than with ECT-CS (P<0.05). Overall, weight gain was more common in women than men (P<0.01). CushingQoL and EuroQoL visual analogue scale scores did not differ between the groups.

Conclusions

The ERCUSYN project demonstrates a heterogeneous clinical presentation of CS at a European level, depending on gender and aetiology.

Restricted access

Elena Valassi, Antoine Tabarin, Thierry Brue, Richard A Feelders, Martin Reincke, Romana Netea-Maier, Miklos Toth, Sabina Zacharieva, Susan M Webb, Stylianos Tsagarakis, Philippe Chanson, Marija Pfeifer, Michael Droste, Irina Komerdus, Darko Kastelan, Dominique Maiter, Olivier Chabre, Holger Franz, Alicia Santos, Christian J Strasburger, Peter J Trainer, John Newell-Price and Oskar Ragnarsson

Objective

Patients with Cushing’s syndrome (CS) have increased mortality. The aim of this study was to evaluate causes and time of death in a large cohort of patients with CS, and to establish factors associated with increased mortality.

Methods

In this cohort-study, we analysed 1564 patients included in the European Registry of CS (ERCUSYN); 1045 (67%) had pituitary-dependent CS, 385 (25%) adrenal-dependent CS, 89 (5%) had an ectopic source and 45 (3%) other causes. The median (IQR) follow-up time in ERCUSYN was 2.7 (1.2-5.5) years.

Results

Forty-nine patients had died at the time of the analysis; 23 (47%) with pituitary- dependent CS, 6 (12%) with adrenal-dependent CS, 18 (37%) with ectopic CS and two (4%) with CS due to other causes. Of 42 patients whose cause of death was known, 15 (36%) died due to progression of the underlying disease, 13 (31%) due to infections, 7 (17%) due to cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease and two due to pulmonary embolism. The commonest cause of death in patients with pituitary-dependent CS and adrenal-dependent CS were infectious diseases (n=8), and progression of the underlying tumour (n=10) in patients with ectopic CS. Patients who had died were older and more often males, and had more frequently muscle weakness, diabetes mellitus and ectopic CS, compared to survivors. Of 49 deceased patients, 22 (45%) died within 90 days from start of treatment and 5 (10%) before any treatment was given. The commonest cause of these deaths were infections (n=10; 37%). Age, ectopic CS and active disease were associated with overall death before and within 90 days from start of treatment.

Conclusion

Mortality rate was highest in patients with ectopic CS. Infectious diseases were the commonest cause of death soon after diagnosis, emphasizing the need for clinical vigilance at that time, especially in patients with diabetes mellitus.

Free access

Elena Valassi, Holger Franz, Thierry Brue, Richard A Feelders, Romana Netea-Maier, Stylianos Tsagarakis, Susan M Webb, Maria Yaneva, Martin Reincke, Michael Droste, Irina Komerdus, Dominique Maiter, Darko Kastelan, Philippe Chanson, Marija Pfeifer, Christian J Strasburger, Miklós Tóth, Olivier Chabre, Antoine Tabarin, Michal Krsek, Carmen Fajardo, Marek Bolanowski, Alicia Santos, John A H Wass, Peter J Trainer and for the ERCUSYN Study Group

Objective

To evaluate which tests are performed to diagnose hypercortisolism in patients included in the European Registry on Cushing’s syndrome (ERCUSYN), and to examine if their use differs from the current guidelines.

Patients and methods

We analyzed data on the diagnostic tests performed in 1341 patients with Cushing’s syndrome (CS) who have been entered into the ERCUSYN database between January 1, 2000 and January 31, 2016 from 57 centers in 26 European countries. Sixty-seven percent had pituitary-dependent CS (PIT-CS), 24% had adrenal-dependent CS (ADR-CS), 6% had CS from an ectopic source (ECT-CS) and 3% were classified as having CS from other causes (OTH-CS).

Results

Of the first-line tests, urinary free cortisol (UFC) test was performed in 78% of patients, overnight 1 mg dexamethasone suppression test (DST) in 60% and late-night salivary cortisol (LSaC) in 25%. Use of LSaC increased in the last five years as compared with previous years (P < 0.01). Use of HDDST was slightly more frequent in the last 5 years as compared with previous years (P < 0.05). Of the additional tests, late-night serum cortisol (LSeC) was measured in 62% and 48-h 2 mg/day low-dose dexamethasone suppression test (LDDST) in 33% of cases. ACTH was performed in 78% of patients. LSeC and overnight 1 mg DST supported the diagnosis of both PIT-CS and ADR-CS more frequently than UFC (P < 0.05).

Conclusions

Use of diagnostic tests for CS varies across Europe and partly differs from the currently available guidelines. It would seem pertinent that a European consensus be established to determine the best diagnostic approach to CS, taking into account specific inter-country differences with regard to the availability of diagnostic tools.