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Free access

Timo Deutschbein, Nicole Unger, Klaus Mann, and Stephan Petersenn

Objective

Accurate assessment of adrenal function is essential in patients with hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) disease. The measurement of salivary cortisol (SaC) instead of serum cortisol (SeC) offers several advantages, such as the determination of the free hormone. We evaluated the diagnostic value of SeC and SaC both unstimulated and during a high-dose short synacthen test (HDT) in comparison to the insulin tolerance test (ITT).

Design

Comparative study between 2005 and 2007.

Methods

Fifty-five patients with HPA impairment and 21 healthy controls were enrolled. Samples were collected in the early morning and over 120 min during the HDT. Receiver operating characteristic analysis revealed individual thresholds for four HDT periods (0–30, 0–60, 0–90, and 0–120 min).

Results

The ITT identified 30 subjects as adrenal insufficient. With respect to the four HDT periods, sensitivity and specificity were 67–79% and 71–88% for SeC, compared with 63–72% and 72–86% for SaC. If upper and lower thresholds (with specificities >95%) were applied, patients were diagnosed in 40–45% by SeC and in 25–31% by SaC. The combination of basal cortisol and HDT allowed a diagnosis in 47–49% (SeC) and in 42–45% (SaC) respectively.

Conclusion

We suggest the determination of basal SeC or SaC as first-line test. In comparison to the ITT, the HDT has only limited value in screening for alterations of the HPA axis. If the HDT is performed, sampling may be limited to 30 min post-synacthen, using either SeC or SaC. Due to the ease of collection and the independence of binding proteins, SaC may be preferable.

Free access

Cristina L Ronchi, Matthias Kroiss, Silviu Sbiera, Timo Deutschbein, and Martin Fassnacht

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is not only a rare and heterogeneous disease but also one of the most aggressive endocrine tumors. Despite significant advances in the last decade, its pathogenesis is still only incompletely understood and overall therapeutic means are unsatisfactory. Herein, we provide our personal view of the currently available treatment options and suggest the following research efforts that we consider timely and necessary to improve therapy: i) for better outcome in localized ACCs, surgery should be restricted to experienced centers, which should then collaborate closely to address the key surgical questions (e.g. best approach and extent of surgery) in a multicenter manner. ii) For the development of better systemic therapies, it is crucial to elucidate the exact molecular mechanisms of action of mitotane. iii) A prospective trial is needed to address the role of cytotoxic drugs in the adjuvant setting in aggressive ACCs (e.g. mitotane vs mitotane+cisplatin). iv) For metastatic ACCs, new regimens should be investigated as first-line therapy. v) Several other issues (e.g. the role of radiotherapy and salvage therapies) might be answered – at least in a first step – by large retrospective multicenter studies. In conclusion, although it is unrealistic to expect that the majority of ACCs can be cured within the next decade, international collaborative efforts (including multiple translational and clinical studies) should allow significant improvement of clinical outcome of this disease. To this end, it might be reasonable to expand the European Network for the Study of Adrenal Tumors (ENSAT) to a truly worldwide international network – INSAT.

Free access

Timo Deutschbein, Martin Bidlingmaier, Jochen Schopohl, Christian J Strasburger, and Stephan Petersenn

Context

Adult growth hormone (GH) deficiency (GHD) is diagnosed by provocative testing of GH secretion.

Objective

To improve the diagnostic accuracy of GH-releasing hormone (GHRH) plus arginine (GARG) testing, we evaluated the influence of age, BMI and sex and established normative data for an automatic immunoassay specifically measuring 22 kDa human GH.

Design/setting

Prospective multicenter study.

Participants

Eighty-seven patients with hypothalamic–pituitary disease and 200 healthy controls. Patients were classified according to the number of pituitary hormone deficiencies (PHD). GHD was assumed when ≥2 PHD (in addition to GH) were present (n = 51); 36 patients with <2 PHD were considered GH sufficient (GHS). ROC analysis identified cutoffs with ≥95% specificity for GHD. Controls were prospectively stratified for sex, age and BMI.

Interventions

All participants received GHRH and l-arginine.

Main outcome measures

GH was measured by immunoassay (iSYS, IDS).

Results

In controls, multiple stepwise regression analysis showed that BMI (21%, P < 0.0001), sex (20%, P < 0.0001) and age (5%, P < 0.001), accounted for 46% of GH peak level variability during GARG. Comparison of peak GH during GARG (GHD vs GHS + controls) revealed an overall cutoff of 3.9 ng/mL (sensitivity 86%, specificity 95%). After adjustment for BMI and sex, optimal cutoffs (male vs female) were 6.5 vs 9.7 ng/mL in lean, 3.5 vs 8.5 ng/mL in overweight and 2.2 vs 4.4 ng/mL in obese subjects respectively.

Conclusion

BMI and sex account for most of the variability of peak GH levels during GARG. Consequently, diagnostic accuracy of the GARG test is significantly improved by use of adjusted cutoffs.

Free access

Timo Deutschbein, Nicole Unger, Jakob Hinrichs, Martin K Walz, Klaus Mann, and Stephan Petersenn

Objective

In patients with adrenal incidentalomas, hormonally active masses need to be considered, particularly cortisol-producing adenomas (CPA), aldosterone-producing adenomas, and pheochromocytomas. The screening for hypercortisolism relies on confirming excess cortisol secretion and insufficient suppression after dexamethasone. Because of its high correlation with free cortisol and its stress-free collection, salivary cortisol (SaC) may offer advantages over serum cortisol (SeC). We evaluated the value of SaC and SeC for the diagnosis of CPA.

Design

Comparative study between 2001 and 2006.

Methods

Thirty-eight patients with confirmed CPA were compared with 18 healthy subjects as well as 48 control patients suffering from aldosterone-producing adenomas (n=13), pheochromocytomas (n=16), or nonfunctioning adenomas (n=19). Sampling of saliva and serum was performed at 2300 and at 0800 h following low-dose dexamethasone suppression. Receiver operating characteristics analysis was used to calculate thresholds with at least 95% sensitivity for CPA.

Results

Regarding the cutoffs for late-night cortisol, SaC (4.8 nmol/l, sensitivity 97%, specificity 69%) was slightly more specific than SeC (115 nmol/l, sensitivity 97%, specificity 63%). In contrast, the cutoff for dexamethasone-suppressed SaC (3.7 nmol/l, sensitivity 97%, specificity 83%) was slightly less specific than SeC (94 nmol/l, sensitivity 97%, specificity 88%). However, the latter cutoffs demonstrated greater specificity when compared with the cutoffs for late-night cortisol.

Conclusion

The diagnostic accuracy of SaC is as good as SeC. Owing to its higher specificity, dexamethasone-suppressed cortisol is preferable to late-night cortisol when screening for Cushing's syndrome in patients with adrenal incidentalomas.

Free access

Timo Deutschbein, Martina Broecker-Preuss, Jörg Flitsch, Andrea Jaeger, Ricarda Althoff, Martin K Walz, Klaus Mann, and Stephan Petersenn

Background

Salivary cortisol is increasingly used to assess patients with suspected hypo- and hypercortisolism. This study established disease-specific reference ranges for an automated electrochemiluminescence immunoassay (ECLIA).

Methods

Unstimulated saliva from 62 patients with hypothalamic–pituitary disease was collected at 0800 h. A peak serum cortisol level below 500 nmol/l during the insulin tolerance test (ITT) was used to identify hypocortisolism. Receiver-operating characteristic (ROC) analysis allowed establishment of lower and upper cutoffs with at least 95% specificity for adrenal insufficiency and adrenal sufficiency. Saliva from 40 patients with confirmed hypercortisolism, 45 patients with various adrenal masses, and 115 healthy subjects was sampled at 2300 h and after low-dose dexamethasone suppression at 0800 h. ROC analysis was used to calculate thresholds with at least 95% sensitivity for hypercortisolism. Salivary cortisol was measured with an automated ECLIA.

Results

When screening for secondary adrenal insufficiency, a lower cutoff of 3.2 nmol/l and an upper cutoff of 13.2 nmol/l for unstimulated salivary cortisol allowed a highly specific diagnosis (i.e. similar to the ITT result) in 26% of patients. For identification of hypercortisolism, cutoffs of 6.1 nmol/l (sensitivity 95%, specificity 91%, area under the curve (AUC) 0.97) and 2.0 nmol/l (sensitivity 97%, specificity 86%, AUC 0.97) were established for salivary cortisol at 2300 h and for dexamethasone-suppressed salivary cortisol at 0800 h.

Conclusions

The newly established thresholds facilitated initial screening for secondary adrenal insufficiency and allowed excellent identification of hypercortisolism. Measurement by an automated immunoassay will allow broader use of salivary cortisol as a diagnostic tool.

Free access

Stephan Petersenn, Paul-Ajoy Richter, Thomas Broemel, Christian O Ritter, Timo Deutschbein, Frank-Ulrich Beil, Bruno Allolio, Martin Fassnacht, and for the German ACC Study Group

Objective

Thresholds of 2–20 hounsfield units (HU) in unenhanced computed tomography (CT) are suggested to discriminate benign adrenal tumors (BATs) from malignant adrenal tumors. However, these studies included only low numbers of adrenocortical carcinomas (ACCs). This study defines a HU threshold by inclusion of a large cohort of ACCs.

Design

Retrospective, blinded, comparative analysis of CT scans from 51 patients with ACCs (30 females, median age 49 years) and 25 patients with BATs (12 females, median age 64 years) diagnosed during the period of 2005–2010 was performed.

Methods

Tumor density was evaluated in unenhanced CT by two blinded investigators.

Results

Median tumor size was 9 cm (range 2.0–20) for ACCs vs 4 cm (2.0–7.5) for BATs (P<0.0001). In ACCs, the median unenhanced HU value was 34 (range 14–74) in comparison with 5 (−13 to 40) in BATs (P<0.0001). ROC analysis revealed a HU of 21 as threshold with the best diagnostic accuracy (sensitivity 96%, specificity 80%, and AUC 0.89). However, two ACCs that were 5 and 6 cm in size would have been missed. Setting the threshold to 13.9 allowed for 100% sensitivity, but a lower specificity of 68%.

Conclusions

This first large study on ACCs confirmed that the vast majority of ACCs have unenhanced HU >21. However, to avoid misdiagnosing an ACC as benign, a threshold of 13 should be used.

Open access

Carmina Teresa Fuss, Katharina Brohm, Max Kurlbaum, Anke Hannemann, Sabine Kendl, Martin Fassnacht, Timo Deutschbein, Stefanie Hahner, and Matthias Kroiss

Objective

Saline infusion testing (SIT) for confirmation of primary aldosteronism (PA) is based on impaired aldosterone suppression in PA compared to essential hypertension (EH). In the past, aldosterone was quantified using immunoassays (IA). Liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) is increasingly used in clinical routine. We aimed at a method-specific aldosterone threshold for the diagnosis of PA during SIT and explored the diagnostic utility of steroid panel analysis.

Design

Retrospective cohort study of 187 paired SIT samples (2009–2018). Diagnosis of PA (n = 103) and EH (n = 84) was established based on clinical routine workup without using LC-MS/MS values.

Setting

Tertiary care center.

Methods

LC-MS/MS using a commercial steroid panel. Receiver operator characteristics analysis was used to determine method-specific cut-offs using a positive predictive value (PPV) of 90% as criterion.

Results

Aldosterone measured by IA was on average 31 ng/L higher than with LC-MS/MS. The cut-offs for PA confirmation were 54 ng/L for IA (sensitivity: 95%, 95% CI: 89.0–98.4; specificity: 87%, 95% CI: 77.8–93.3; area under the curve (AUC): 0.955, 95% CI: 0.924–0.986; PPV: 90%, 95% CI: 83.7–93.9) and 69 ng/L for LC-MS/MS (79%, 95% CI: 69.5–86.1; 89%, 95% CI: 80.6–95.0; 0.902, 95% CI: 0.857–0.947; 90%, 95% CI: 82.8–94.4). Other steroids did not improve SIT.

Conclusions

Aldosterone quantification with LC-MS/MS and IA yields comparable SIT-cut-offs. Lower AUC for LC-MS/MS is likely due to the spectrum of disease in PA and previous decision making based on IA results. Until data of a prospective trial with clinical endpoints are available, the suggested cut-off can be used in clinical routine.

Free access

Andrea Osswald, Timo Deutschbein, Christina M Berr, Eva Plomer, Anne Mickisch, Katrin Ritzel, Jochen Schopohl, Felix Beuschlein, Martin Fassnacht, Stefanie Hahner, and Martin Reincke

Objective

Aim of our study was to analyze long-term outcome of patients with the ectopic Cushing’s syndrome (ECS) compared to patients with Cushing’s disease (CD) regarding cardiovascular, metabolic, musculoskeletal and psychiatric comorbidities.

Design

Cross-sectional study in patients with ECS and CD in two German academic tertiary care centers.

Methods

Standardized clinical follow-up examination was performed including health-related quality of life (QoL) in 21 ECS patients in long-term remission (≥18 months since successful surgery). Fifty-nine patients with CD in remission served as controls.

Results

Time from first symptoms to diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome (CS) was shorter in ECS than in CD (8.5 (IQR: 30.3) vs 25 (IQR: 39.0) months, P = 0.050). ECS patients had lower self-reported psychiatric morbidity compared to CD (19% vs 43%, P = 0.050) at follow-up. Moreover, female ECS patients reported favorable scores for QoL in the SF-36 questionnaire (mental health: 92 (IQR: 30) vs 64 (IQR: 32) in CD, P = 0.010) and a Cushing-specific QoL questionnaire (73 (IQR: 18) vs 59 (IQR: 36) in CD, P = 0.030). In a pooled analysis of ECS and CD patients, QoL correlated with time from first symptoms until diagnosis of CS, but not with urinary free cortisol levels or serum cortisol after dexamethasone at the time of diagnosis. Long-term outcomes regarding hypertension, metabolic parameters, bone mineral density and grip strength were comparable in ECS and CD.

Conclusions

Our data support the concept that time of exposure to glucocorticoid excess appears to be a better predictor than peak serum cortisol levels at the time of diagnosis regarding long-term psychiatric morbidity and QoL.

Free access

Jessica Boyd, Alexander A Leung, Hossein SM Sadrzadeh, Christina Pamporaki, Karel Pacak, Timo Deutschbein, Stephanie Fliedner, and Gregory A Kline

Objective

Determine rate of high plasma normetanephrine or metanephrine (PNM-PMN) in a large sample of patients according to PNM-PMN posture and age-adjusted references.

Design

Retrospective re-analysis of PNM-PMN from a Canadian reference laboratory (n = 5452), 2011–2015; most were in seated position (n = 5112) rather than supine (n = 340). An international PPGL database demonstrated expected distribution of supine PNM-PMN in PPGL patients.

Methods

All PNM-PMN from a tertiary referral laboratory were reviewed. Any PNM-PMN result greater than 2× upper reference limit (URL) was considered likely true PPGL. Results 1–2× URL were uncertain, requiring additional testing/follow-up despite most being false positive given the rarity of PPGL. The rate of results in the 1–2× URL category were calculated for each group according to collection posture and differing published URL: seated, supine or supine age adjusted.

Results

When collected and interpreted by seated URL, 19.6% of PNM required additional testing; only 4.6% being >2× URL. For patients over age 50 years, the abnormal rate was 24.9%. When collected supine, interpreted by supine age-adjusted URL, only 5.3% of PNM were mildly elevated. Possible false positives may be even lower when considering PMN or plasma methoxytyramine which were commonly high in true PPGL despite mild PNM elevations.

Conclusions

In a general medical population, seated PNM has a high rate of abnormal results, far exceeding expected prevalence. Supine measurement with supine, age-adjusted interpretation is strongly preferred prior to costly or invasive PPGL investigations.

Summary

Review of 5452 plasma normetanephrine measurements showed 20% to be high, likely false positives for most. Supine, age-adjusted measures were half as likely to be elevated.

Restricted access

Mario Detomas, Barbara Altieri, Irina Chifu, Hanna Remde, Xiang Zhou, Laura-Sophie Landwehr, Silviu Sbiera, Matthias Kroiss, Martin Fassnacht, and Timo Deutschbein

Objective

Endogenous hypercortisolism predisposes to impaired immune function and infections. To date, however, it is unknown whether there is a subtype-specific pattern in white blood cell (WBC) and WBC differential (WBCD) count.

Methods

A retrospective monocentric cohort study was carried out in patients with overt endogenous Cushing’s syndrome (CS) or adrenal incidentalomas and autonomous cortisol secretion (ACS), with WBC/WBCD analysis at initial diagnosis and after biochemical remission. Cut-offs were obtained by receiver-operating characteristics analysis.

Results

In total, 253 patients were analyzed (Cushing’s disease (CD); n  = 88; ectopic CS (ECS), n  = 31; cortisol-producing adrenal adenomas (CPA), n  = 40; ACS, n  = 45; adrenocortical carcinomas (ACC), n  = 49). Total leukocytes and neutrophils correlated positively with serum cortisol after 1-mg dexamethasone (r = 0.314 and r = 0.428), while a negative correlation was observed for lymphocytes and eosinophils (r = −0.374 and r= −0.380) (each P < 0.0001). Similar observations were made for 24 h-urinary free cortisol. CD and ECS differed in numbers of neutrophils and lymphocytes (P < 0.0001) and were well differentiated at a cut-off of 6.1 for the neutrophil/lymphocyte ratio (sensitivity 90.0%, specificity 89.4%, and areas under the curve (AUC) 0.918). For adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-independent CS, the best diagnostic outcome was obtained for the discrimination of CPA and ACC at a cut-off of 187.9 for the platelet/lymphocyte ratio (sensitivity 59.6%, specificity 80.6%, and AUC 0.713). For ECS, CPA, and CD, neutrophils decreased (delta −47.0, −29.7, and −26.2%) and lymphocytes increased (+123.2, +78.1, and +17.7%) already 3 months after remission.

Conclusion

Most immune cells correlate with the degree of hypercortisolism and differ among CS subtypes. WBCD changes are already identified 3 months after remission from endogenous hypercortisolism.