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RJM Ross, SL Chew, L Perry, K Erskine, S Medbak, and F Afshar

Ross RJM, Chew SL, Perry L, Erskine K, Medbak S, Afshar F. Diagnosis and selective cure of Cushing's disease during pregnancy by transsphenoidal surgery. Eur J Endocrinol 1995;132:722–6. ISSN 0804–4643

The diagnosis of Cushing's Disease during pregnancy is complex because the biochemical features are obscured by changes in the normal hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis that occur during gestation. To date, treatment has not been successful and there is a high incidence of maternal and fetal complications. We report the case of a 24-year-old woman with Cushing's disease who presented during her 16th week of pregnancy. Diagnosis was confirmed by the finding of elevated serum and urinary free cortisol levels with loss of the normal circadian rhythm of serum cortisol. Cortisol levels failed to suppress after a low-dose dexamethasone test but suppressed after a high-dose test. There was an exaggerated serum cortisol and plasma adrenocorticotrophin (ACTH) response to corticotrophinreleasing hormone (CRH). Magnetic resonance (MR) scanning demonstrated a pituitary tumour and cure was effected by transsphenoidal surgery where tumour immunostaining for ACTH was removed. Postoperatively the patient made an uncomplicated recovery; serum cortisol and plasma ACTH levels were undetectable at 9 days following surgery and recovery of the hypothalamo-pituitary axis occurred at 99 days after surgery. Caesarean section was performed at 38 weeks of pregnancy and a healthy but small female infant was delivered. This case illustrates the biochemical features of Cushing's disease during pregnancy and is the first report of the use of CRH testing and MR scanning in this clinical situation. The cure by surgery and successful outcome for mother and infant, with preservation of normal anterior pituitary function, suggest that transsphenoidal surgery may be the treatment of choice.

RJM Ross, Dept of Endocrinology, St Bartholomew's Hospital, London ECIA 7BE, UK

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R P Dias, A Kumaran, L F Chan, L Martin, F Afshar, M Matson, P N Plowman, J P Monson, G M Besser, A B Grossman, M O Savage, and H L Storr


Cushing's disease (CD) in prepubertal children is very rare and presents important diagnostic and therapeutic challenges. We report experience of the management of this subpopulation of CD patients.

Study design/methods

Retrospective patient case note review.


Between 1985 and 2008, 17 prepubertal children (13M, 4F), aged 5.7–14.1 years presented to our centre for diagnosis and management of CD. All children had subnormal linear growth and excessive weight gain at presentation. A high proportion (85% of males, 75% of females) had evidence of excessive virilisation. Striae and hypertension were seen in 41% of patients. The investigation with highest sensitivity (100%) for CD was excessive increase of serum cortisol to i.v. CRH (mean increase 113%). Pituitary imaging performed in all the patients showed poor concordance with findings at surgery (31%). In contrast bilateral simultaneous inferior petrosal sinus sampling (BSIPSS), performed in 11/16 subjects showed a high correlation with surgical findings (91%). In 16 patients, transsphenoidal selective adenomectomy (TSS) achieved a cure rate of 44%. However, in the 11 patients who had pre-operative BSIPSS, the cure rate was 64%. Of the 16 patients, 9 patients who were not cured by TSS received external pituitary radiotherapy.


Prepubertal CD had distinctive features with increased frequency in males, abnormal auxology and excessive virilisation. The cortisol response to i.v. CRH administration was particularly exuberant and contributed to diagnosis. BSIPSS was much more helpful than pituitary imaging in localisation of the microadenoma and was associated with improved cure rate by TSS.

Free access

H L Storr, K I Alexandraki, L Martin, A M Isidori, G A Kaltsas, J P Monson, G M Besser, M Matson, J Evanson, F Afshar, I Sabin, M O Savage, and A B Grossman


There are few published comparisons between paediatric and adult-onset Cushing's disease (CD). We compare the epidemiology, diagnostic features and cure rate by transsphenoidal surgery (TSS) in these groups.


Retrospective review of patient databases in a single university hospital centre.


Totally, 41 paediatric (mean age 12.3±3.5 years; range 5.7–17.8) and 183 adult (mean age 40±13 years; range 18.0–95.0) patients with CD were investigated.


Paediatric CD was characterised by male (63%) and adult CD by a female predominance (79%, P<0.0001). There were small but significant differences in clinical presentation. Biochemical features of CD were comparable except the serum cortisol increase during a CRH test: mean change (105%, n=39) in paediatric and (54%, n=123) in adult subjects (P<0.0001). Macroadenomas were more common in adult (15%, 28/183) than in paediatric (2%, 1/41, P=0.04) CD. Corticotroph microadenomas were more easily visualised by pituitary magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in adult (76%, 50/66) compared with paediatric (55%, 21/38, P=0.045) CD with poorer concordance of imaging with surgical findings in children (P=0.058). The incidence of ACTH lateralisation by bilateral simultaneous inferior petrosal sinus sampling was comparable in paediatric (76%, 25/33) and adult (79%, 46/58; P=0.95) patients with good surgical concordance in both (82% paediatric and 79% adult). Cure rates by TSS were comparable, with a paediatric cure rate of 69%.


Several features of paediatric CD are distinct: increased frequency of prepubertal CD in males, the different clinical presentation, the decreased presence of macroadenomas and the frequent absence of radiological evidence of an adenoma on MRI.