With fewer than 200 reported cases, Cushing’s syndrome (CS) in pregnancy remains a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge. In normal pregnancies, misleading signs may be observed such as striae or hypokalemia, while plasma cortisol and urinary free cortisol may rise up to 2- to 3-fold. While the dexamethasone suppression test is difficult to use, reference values for salivary cortisol appear valid. Apart from gestational hypertension, differential diagnosis includes pheochromocytoma and primary aldosteronism. The predominant cause is adrenal adenoma (sometimes without decreased ACTH), rather than Cushing’s disease. There are considerable imaging pitfalls in Cushing’s disease. Aberrant receptors may, in rare cases, lead to increased cortisol production during pregnancy in response to HCG, LHRH, glucagon, vasopressin or after a meal. Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is rare and has poor prognosis. Active CS during pregnancy is associated with a high rate of maternal complications: hypertension or preeclampsia, diabetes, fractures; more rarely, cardiac failure, psychiatric disorders, infection and maternal death. Increased fetal morbidity includes prematurity, intrauterine growth retardation and less prevalently stillbirth, spontaneous abortion, intrauterine death and hypoadrenalism. Therapy is also challenging. Milder cases can be managed conservatively by controlling comorbidities. Pituitary or adrenal surgery should ideally be performed during the second trimester and patients should then be treated for adrenal insufficiency. Experience with anticortisolic drugs is limited. Metyrapone was found to allow control of hypercortisolism, with a risk of worsening hypertension. Cabergoline may be an alternative option. The use of other drugs is not advised because of potential teratogenicity and/or lack of information. Non-hormonal (mechanical) contraception is recommended until sustained biological remission is obtained.
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Thierry Brue, Vincent Amodru, and Frederic Castinetti
Frederic Castinetti, Thierry Brue, and Oskar Ragnarsson
Treatment of Cushing’s disease (CD) is one of the most challenging tasks in endocrinology. The first-line treatment, transsphenoidal pituitary surgery, is associated with a high failure rate and a high prevalence of recurrence. Re-operation is associated with an even higher rate of a failure and recurrence. There are three main second-line treatments for CD – pituitary radiation therapy (RT), bilateral adrenalectomy and chronic cortisol-lowering medical treatment. All these treatments have their limitations. While bilateral adrenalectomy provides permanent cure of the hypercortisolism in all patients, the unavoidable chronic adrenal insufficiency and the risk of development of Nelson syndrome are of concern. Chronic cortisol-lowering medical treatment is not efficient in all patients and side effects are often a limiting factor. RT is efficient for approximately two-thirds of all patients with CD. However, the high prevalence of pituitary insufficiency is of concern as well as potential optic nerve damage, development of cerebrovascular disease and secondary brain tumours. Thus, when it comes to decide appropriate treatment for patients with CD, who have either failed to achieve remission with pituitary surgery, or patients with recurrence, the pros and cons of all second-line treatment options must be considered.
Frédérique Albarel, Frédéric Castinetti, and Thierry Brue
In recent years, the development of immunotherapy has constituted a revolution in the therapy for many cancers, with a specific toxicity profile including endocrine immune-related adverse events. Immune check point inhibitors (ICI)-induced hypophysitis is a common endocrine side effect, particularly with CTLA-4 antibodies and combination therapy, with frequent hormonal deficiencies at diagnosis. It can be difficult to evoke such diagnosis as the initial clinical symptoms are not specific (headache, asthenia…); thus, patients receiving such immunomodulatory therapies should be closely monitored by systematic hormone measurements, especially in the first weeks of treatment. Usually, hormonal deficiencies improve, except for corticotroph function. Despite a lack of large prospective studies on ICI-induced hypophysitis, some detailed longitudinal cohort studies have focused on such cases of hypophysitis and allow for optimal monitoring, follow-up and management of patients with this immune-related adverse event. In the case of ICI-induced hypophysitis, patients need long-term multidisciplinary follow-up, with specific education for those patients with corticotropin deficiency to allow them to be autonomous with their treatment. In this review, based on a clinical case, we detail the most relevant and novel aspects related to the incidence, diagnosis, treatment, evolution and management of hypophysitis induced by immunotherapy, with a focus on possible mechanisms and current recommendations and guidelines. Lastly, we emphasize several key points, such as the absence of indication to systematically treat with high-dose glucocorticoid and the pursuit of immunotherapy in such hypophysitis. These points should be kept in mind by oncologists and endocrinologists who treat and monitor patients treated by immunotherapy.
Cynthia Ramiandrasoa, Frédéric Castinetti, Isabelle Raingeard, Patrick Fenichel, Olivier Chabre, Thierry Brue, and Blandine Courbière
Little is known about Sheehan's syndrome (SS), even though it is believed that its incidence is low. The aims of this study were to determine the clinical features and diagnostic delay of SS and to ascertain whether early signs could have allowed earlier diagnosis.
Subjects and methods
All patients with SS diagnosed in reference units in the southeast of France between 1980 and 2011 were recruited for this study. Data on obstetrical history, clinical symptoms suggestive of hypopituitarism, early signs, hormone analysis, and magnetic resonance imaging were collected.
Of the 40 women found to have SS, 39 were studied. Mean delay in the diagnosis of SS was 9±9.7 years. We found that four of the 35 assessable patients were diagnosed with agalactia, 16 of the 29 assessable ones with amenorrhea, 19 of the 39 with hypothyroidism, eight with acute adrenal insufficiency, and 15 with asthenia. Among the patients for whom there was a diagnostic delay of more than 1 year (n=28), seven had headaches during the postpartum period, all assessable patients had agalactia, six of the 22 assessable ones had amenorrhea, seven of 28 had hypothyroidism, and 12 of 28 had asthenia.
Most signs of SS are aspecific and classical signs such as agalactia and amenorrhea are often difficult to detect, which can explain the long diagnostic delay. We suggest that all women failing to lactate after postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) should be evaluated by measuring prolactin levels and women with signs such as amenorrhea and asthenia, even several years after PPH, should undergo a blood test including assessment of thyroxine, TSH, 0800 h ACTH–cortisol, and IGF1 levels.
Thierry Brue, Frederic Castinetti, Frida Lundgren, Maria Koltowska-Häggström, Patrick Petrossians, and on behalf of all ACROSTUDY investigators
Pegvisomant (Somavert, Pfizer Inc.) is the first and only available GH receptor antagonist. ACROSTUDY is an international surveillance study that offers inclusion in a web-based registry to all patients with acromegaly treated with pegvisomant; it aims at monitoring long-term safety and efficacy of this compound.
Patients and methods
This report summarizes the main baseline characteristics of this particular population of patients. In February 2009, over 300 centres in 10 countries had contributed 792 patients. A gradual increase in cumulative patient recruitment was observed since the launching of ACROSTUDY in 2004: from 116 patients in 2005, it steeply increased to 792 at the latest data freeze in February 2009. At the time of enrolment, 91.8% of patients were already treated with pegvisomant but baseline was considered at the time of pegvisomant start. IGF1 concentrations were measured at local laboratories.
Of all patients, 80% were reported to have had surgery and 33% to have received radiation therapy. Of the 792 patients, 14% had received no prior medical treatment before pegvisomant start, 65.9% had received somatostatin analogues and 18.6% dopamine agonists. Interestingly, 66.7% had received only pegvisomant at study start, while it was taken in association with dopamine agonists in 5.7%, with somatostatin analogues in 23.4% and with both types of agents in 3.8%. Mean IGF1 at baseline was 522 ng/ml.
Analysis of the baseline features of these patients treated with pegvisomant and reported in the ACROSTUDY database underscores the severity of the disease in this subset of the population of patients with acromegaly previously unresponsive to several medical, surgical or radiation treatment approaches.
Carole Guerin, Aoife Lowery, Sophie Gabriel, Frédéric Castinetti, Mélanie Philippon, Josiane Vaillant-Lombard, Anderson Loundou, Jean-François Henry, Frédéric Sebag, and David Taïeb
Surgical treatment for primary hyperparathyroidism (pHPT) has undergone a major paradigm shift during the last decades from bilateral cervicotomy with four-gland neck exploration to image-guided focused approaches. The primary objective of the present study was to compare the performances of parathyroid scintigraphy (PS), parathyroid ultrasonography (US), and the combination of both procedures for guiding a focused approach on the basis of modified interpretation criteria.
Data from 199 patients operated for apparent sporadic pHPT and evaluated with US and PS using dual-isotope 123I/99mTc-sestamibi planar pinhole and single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) acqusitions were evaluated.
A total of 127 patients underwent a focused approach and the remainder had bilateral cervicotomy. In 42 cases, a focused approach was not performed due to the absence of concordant results between US and PS for a single-gland abnormality. Four patients had persistent disease and three had recurrent disease. A localizing preoperative PS had a sensitivity of 93.3%, positive predictive value of 85.8%, negative predictive value of 73.0%, and accuracy of 83.4% for predicting uniglandular disease. Additional SPECT images accurately localize posterior adenomas that are often missed by US. Compared with PS, US had a lower sensitivity (P<0.01). Our imaging protocol also enabled diagnosis of multiglandular disease in 60.6%.
PS using a highly sensitive dual-tracer subtraction method is the most accurate technique for directing a focused approach. PS could be sufficient for directing a focused approach in the presence of a negative US in two major circumstances: posterior locations due to acquired ectopia that could be missed by US, and previous history of thyroidectomy due to interpretation difficulties.
Melanie Philippon, Carole Guerin, David Taieb, Josiane Vaillant, Isabelle Morange, Thierry Brue, Bernard Conte-Devolx, Jean-Franois Henry, Evelyne Slotema, Frederic Sebag, and Frederic Castinetti
Focused parathyroidectomy is the treatment of choice for patients with concordant positive imaging. Bilateral cervical exploration is performed for cases with discordant imaging, yet more than 70% of those cases are the result of a single-gland disease. As focused parathyroidectomy is generally costless and harmless, for cases with discordant imaging, we tried to determine whether preoperative characteristics can lead to a diagnosis of single-gland disease.
This study included 182 patients treated for primary hyperparathyroidism by bilateral exploration from 2009 to 2012 at La Timone Hospital, Marseille, France. We classified patients based on preoperative images and pathological results (single-gland or multiglandular disease). We then compared the demographical, laboratory and imaging results. We also asked a senior nuclear medicine practitioner who was blind to the ultrasound and pathological results to perform a second reading.
Of the total number of patients, 15.4% had negative, 54.4% discordant and 30.2% concordant imaging. After reviewing the scintigraphy results, 8% of the cases with discordant imaging would have been classified as concordant with ultrasound. Subtraction scintigraphy obtained better results than dual-phase scintigraphy (concordance with ultrasound in 50 vs 31% with classical scintigraphy). For the cases of discordant imaging, no predictive factors of single-gland disease could be identified. Ultrasound and scintigraphy were similarly effective in determining the correct location of the abnormal gland.
Discordant results of preoperative imaging modalities do not discriminate between uniglandular and multiglandular diseases in hyperparathyroidism. Diagnostic differentiation between the different causes of hyperparathyroidism requires improvements in imaging techniques and might benefit from subtraction scintigraphy.
Frederic Castinetti, Jean-Baptiste De Freminville, Carole Guerin, Erika Cornu, Gabrielle Sarlon, and Laurence Amar
The question of systematic use of a pharmacological treatment before surgery in patients diagnosed with pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma (PPGL) remains highly controversial. While recent guidelines suggest that this should be used in all patients, some experienced teams consider it unnecessary in some cases, provided the surgery is performed in a dedicated center that has expert endocrinologists, cardiologists, surgeons, and anesthetists. This controversy is aimed at shedding light on the potential benefits and risks of such a treatment, focusing specifically on alpha blockers which are considered as the first-line medical treatments in patients with PPGL. After discussing the rationale for alpha blockers, hemodynamic instability, tolerance, and acute cardiac complications will then be discussed in the first part of the manuscript, defending a systematic use. The second section will focus on blood pressure control, tolerance of alpha blockers, and also the management of normotensive PPGL, examining the daily risks of PPGL and arguing against the systematic use of a preoperative pharmacological treatment before surgery. Finally, we will discuss the concept of expert centers and define the patients in whom the risk/benefit profile would favor the use of this preoperative treatment.
Frederic Castinetti, Rachel Reynaud, Alexandru Saveanu, Nicolas Jullien, Marie Helene Quentien, Claire Rochette, Anne Barlier, Alain Enjalbert, and Thierry Brue
Over the last 5 years, new actors involved in the pathogenesis of combined pituitary hormone deficiency in humans have been reported: they included a member of the immunoglobulin superfamily glycoprotein and ciliary G protein-coupled receptors, as well as new transcription factors and signalling molecules. New modes of inheritance for alterations of genes encoding transcription factors have also been described. Finally, actors known to be involved in a very specific phenotype (hypogonadotroph hypogonadism for instance) have been identified in a wider range of phenotypes. These data thus suggest that new mechanisms could explain the low rate of aetiological identification in this heterogeneous group of diseases. Taking into account the fact that several reviews have been published in recent years on classical aetiologies of CPHD such as mutations of POU1F1 or PROP1, we focused the present overview on the data published in the last 5 years, to provide the reader with an updated review on this rapidly evolving field of knowledge.
Julia Vergier, Frederic Castinetti, Alexandru Saveanu, Nadine Girard, Thierry Brue, and Rachel Reynaud
Pituitary stalk interruption syndrome (PSIS) is a congenital pituitary anatomical defect. This syndrome is an antenatal developmental defect belonging to the holoprosencephaly phenotype spectrum. It is heterogeneous regarding clinical, biological and radiological presentation and is characterized by the following triad: thin (<1 mm) or interrupted pituitary stalk connecting the hypothalamus to the pituitary gland, no eutopic posterior lobe, and hypoplasia or aplasia of the anterior lobe. This review reports current knowledge about the composite pathogenesis, for which underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Current data suggest genetic origins involving early developmental gene mutations with complex inheritance patterns and environmental influence, placing PSIS at the crossroads between Mendelian and multifactorial diseases. The phenotype associated with PSIS is highly heterogeneous with a high incidence of various combinations of hormonal deficiencies, sometimes associated with extra-pituitary birth defects. The age at onset is variable, but typical presentation is evolutive combined anterior pituitary hormone deficiencies at pediatric age, which progress even during adulthood to panhypopituitarism. Therefore, patients’ follow-up throughout life is essential for adequate management.