The distinction between pseudo-Cushing’s states (PCS) and Cushing’s syndrome (CS) poses a significant clinical challenge even for expert endocrinologists. A patient’s clinical history can sometimes help to distinguish between them (as in the case of alcoholic individuals), but the overlap in clinical and laboratory findings makes it difficult to arrive at a definitive diagnosis. We aim to describe the most common situations that can give rise to a condition resembling overt endogenous hypercortisolism and try to answer questions that physicians often face in clinical practice. It is important to know the relative prevalence of these different situations, bearing in mind that most of the conditions generating PCS are relatively common (such as metabolic syndrome and polycystic ovary syndrome), while CS is rare in the general population. Physicians should consider CS in the presence of additional features. Appropriate treatment of underlying conditions is essential as it can reverse the hormonal abnormalities associated with PCS. Close surveillance and a thorough assessment of a patient’s hormone status will ultimately orient the diagnosis and treatment options over time.
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Carla Scaroni, Nora M Albiger, Serena Palmieri, Davide Iacuaniello, Chiara Graziadio, Luca Damiani, Marialuisa Zilio, Antonio Stigliano, Annamaria Colao, Rosario Pivonello, and the Altogether to Beat Cushing’s Syndrome (ABC) study group
Caio Jordão Teixeira, Junia Carolina Santos-Silva, Dailson Nogueira de Souza, Alex Rafacho, Gabriel Forato Anhe, and Silvana Bordin
Pancreatic islets from pregnant rats develop a transitory increase in the pancreatic β-cell proliferation rate and mass. Increased apoptosis during early lactation contributes to the rapid reversal of those morphological changes. Exposure to synthetic glucocorticoids during pregnancy has been previously reported to impair insulin secretion, but its impacts on pancreatic islet morphological changes during pregnancy and lactation have not been described. To address this issue, we assessed the morphological and molecular characteristics of pancreatic islets from rats that underwent undisturbed pregnancy (CTL) or were treated with dexamethasone between the 14th and 19th days of pregnancy (DEX). Pancreatic islets were analyzed on the 20th day of pregnancy (P20) and on the 3rd, 8th, 14th and 21st days of lactation (L3, L8, L14 and L21, respectively). Pancreatic islets from CTL rats exhibited transitory increases in cellular proliferation and pancreatic β-cell mass at P20, which were reversed at L3, when a transitory increase in apoptosis was observed. This was followed by the appearance of morphological features of pancreatic islet neogenesis at L8. Islets from DEX rats did not demonstrate an increase in apoptosis at L3, which coincided with an increase in the expression of M2 macrophage markers relative to M1 macrophage and T lymphocyte markers. Islets from DEX rats also did not exhibit the morphological characteristics of pancreatic islet neogenesis at L8. Our data demonstrate that maternal pancreatic islets undergo a renewal process during lactation that is impaired by exposure to DEX during pregnancy.
Lisette van Alewijk, Kirsten Davidse, Karlijn Pellikaan, Judith van Eck, Anita C S Hokken-Koelega, Theo C J Sas, Sabine Hannema, Aart J van der Lely, and Laura C G de Graaff
Adolescents and young adults (AYA) with common endocrine disorders show a high dropout (up to 50%) after the transfer from paediatric to adult endocrinology. Little is known about transition readiness in rare endocrine conditions (rEC). This study aims to assess medical self-management skills (SMS) among AYA with rEC in relation to age and gender, in order to understand dropout and increase transition readiness.
Cross-sectional study using web-based medical self-management questionnaires.
Questionnaires consisting of 54 questions in seven domains were filled out by the adolescents before the first shared appointment with both paediatric and adult endocrinologist.
Fifty-seven patients (median age 17 years, 25/57 females) participated and generally scored well on most items. However, one out of seven did not know the name of their disorder, one sixth of the glucocorticoid users did not know that dose should be adapted in case of illness or surgery, over one-fifth had never ordered their repeat prescriptions themselves and two-thirds had never had a conversation alone with their doctor.
Several SMS among patients with rEC are insufficient, with regard to medical knowledge, practical skills and communication. As SMS are only weakly related to non-modifiable factors, such as age and gender, we recommend focussing on other factors to increase transition readiness. The timing, amount and ‘mode’ of medical information should be individualised. Transition checklists should be used to detect shortcomings in practical skills and communication, which can subsequently be trained with the help of parents, caregivers and/or e-technology.
Sylvia Thiele, Anke Hannemann, Maria Winzer, Ulrike Baschant, Heike Weidner, Matthias Nauck, Rajesh V Thakker, Martin Bornhäuser, Lorenz C Hofbauer, and Martina Rauner
Glucocorticoids (GC) are used for the treatment of inflammatory diseases, including various forms of arthritis. However, their use is limited, amongst others, by adverse effects on bone. The Wnt and bone formation inhibitor sclerostin was recently implicated in the pathogenesis of GC-induced osteoporosis. However, data are ambiguous. The aim of this study was to assess the regulation of sclerostin by GC using several mouse models with high GC levels and two independent cohorts of patients treated with GC. Male 24-week-old C57BL/6 and 18-week-old DBA/1 mice exposed to GC and 12-week-old mice with endogenous hypercortisolism displayed reduced bone formation as indicated by reduced levels of P1NP and increased serum sclerostin levels. The expression of sclerostin in femoral bone tissue and GC-treated bone marrow stromal cells, however, was not consistently altered. In contrast, GC dose- and time-dependently suppressed sclerostin at mRNA and protein levels in human mesenchymal stromal cells, and this effect was GC receptor dependent. In line with the human cell culture data, patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA, n = 101) and polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR, n = 21) who were exposed to GC had lower serum levels of sclerostin than healthy age- and sex-matched controls (−40%, P < 0.01 and −26.5%, P < 0.001, respectively). In summary, sclerostin appears to be differentially regulated by GC in mice and humans as it is suppressed by GCs in humans but is not consistently altered in mice. Further studies are required to delineate the differences between GC regulation of sclerostin in mice and humans and assess whether sclerostin mediates GC-induced osteoporosis in humans.
Kristin Viste, Marianne A Grytaas, Melissa D Jørstad, Dag E Jøssang, Eivind N Høyden, Solveig S Fotland, Dag K Jensen, Kristian Løvås, Hrafnkell Thordarson, Bjørg Almås, and Gunnar Mellgren
Primary aldosteronism (PA) is a common cause of secondary hypertension and is caused by unilateral or bilateral adrenal disease. Treatment options depend on whether the disease is lateralized or not, which is preferably evaluated with selective adrenal venous sampling (AVS). This procedure is technically challenging, and obtaining representative samples from the adrenal veins can prove difficult. Unsuccessful AVS procedures often require reexamination. Analysis of cortisol during the procedure may enhance the success rate. We invited 21 consecutive patients to participate in a study with intra-procedural point of care cortisol analysis. When this assay showed nonrepresentative sampling, new samples were drawn after redirection of the catheter. The study patients were compared using the 21 previous procedures. The intra-procedural cortisol assay increased the success rate from 10/21 patients in the historical cohort to 17/21 patients in the study group. In four of the 17 successful procedures, repeated samples needed to be drawn. Successful sampling at first attempt improved from the first seven to the last seven study patients. Point of care cortisol analysis during AVS improves success rate and reduces the need for reexaminations, in accordance with previous studies. Successful AVS is crucial when deciding which patients with PA will benefit from surgical treatment.
I Azzam, S Gilad, R Limor, N Stern, and Y Greenman
Ghrelin plasma concentration increases in parallel to cortisol after a standardized psychological stress in humans, but the physiological basis of this interaction is unknown. We aimed to elucidate this question by studying the ghrelin response to pharmacological manipulation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis. Six lean, healthy male volunteers were examined under four experimental conditions. Blood samples were collected every 30 min for two sequential periods of two hours. Initially, a baseline period was followed by intravenous injection of a synthetic analog of ACTH (250 μg). Subsequently, a single dose of metyrapone was administered at midnight and in the following morning, blood samples were collected for 2 h, followed by an intravenous injection of hydrocortisone (100 mg) with continued sampling. We show that increased cortisol serum levels secondary to ACTH stimulation or hydrocortisone administration are positively associated with plasma ghrelin levels, whereas central stimulation of the HPA axis by blocking cortisol synthesis with metyrapone is associated with decreased plasma ghrelin levels. Collectively, this suggests that HPA-axis-mediated elevations in ghrelin plasma concentration require increased peripheral cortisol levels, independent of central elevation of ACTH and possibly CRH levels.
Lisa Arnetz, Neda Rajamand Ekberg, Kerstin Brismar, and Michael Alvarsson
Dysfunction of the hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis has been implicated in type 2 diabetes (T2D). The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of T2D and gender on the HPA axis.
Synthetic ACTH (1 μg) was administered to 21 subjects with T2D (age 62 (54–70) years, 11 men/ten women, HbA1c 49±2 mmol/mol, treated with diet or oral antidiabetic drugs) and 38 controls (age 58 (41–67) years, 20 men/18 women). Fasting basal B-glucose, serum cortisol, insulin, IGF1 and IGFBP1 concentrations were measured, and sampling for all but IGF1 was repeated 30, 60, and 90 min after ACTH injection. Patients took 0.25 mg dexamethasone at 2200–2300 h and returned the next morning for the measurement of serum cortisol concentration.
Patients with T2D had similar fasting serum cortisol, IGF1 and IGFBP1 concentrations; however, serum cortisol concentration after administration of dexamethasone did not differ between the groups. Healthy women exhibited higher peak cortisol levels compared with healthy men (675±26 vs 582±21 nmol/l, P=0.014), while the peak levels were equally high in men and women with T2D, resulting in a higher peak level in men with T2D compared with healthy men (691±42 vs 582±21 nmol/l, P=0.024). Serum cortisol concentration after administration of dexamethasone did not differ between the groups, nor did IGF1 and IGFBP1.
Novelty of the findings
Some studies have previously indicated disturbed regulation of the hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis in subjects with type 2 diabetes (T2D); however, much remains unknown in this area. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to show that the gender difference in the adrenal response to ACTH (with greater reactivity in women) is abolished in T2D. While the clinical implications cannot be determined by this paper, it is known that gender differences exist in the pathogenesis and complications of T2D. Thus, our findings suggest that further research into gender differences in the HPA axis is warranted.
Gender differences in adrenal response to ACTH were abolished in T2D. Men with T2D had a higher peak cortisol compared with controls. Further studies are needed to elucidate the clinical implications.
Hong Jiang, WenJie Yang, QingFang Sun, Chang Liu, and LiuGuan Bian
The adverse effects of hypercortisolism on the human brain have been highlighted in previous studies of Cushing’s disease (CD). However, the relative alterations in regional hypercortisolism in the brain remain unclear. Thus, we investigated regional volumetric alterations in CD patients. We also analyzed the associations between these volumetric changes and clinical characteristics. The study participants comprised of active CD (n = 60), short-term-remitted CD (n = 28), and long-term-remitted CD (n = 32) patients as well as healthy control subjects (n = 66). Gray matter volumes (GMVs) were measured via voxel-based morphometry. The GMVs of substructures were defined using the automated anatomical labeling (AAL) atlas. Trends toward normalization in GMV were found in most brain substructures of CD patients. Different trends, including enlarged, irreversible, and unaffected, were observed in the other subregions, such as the amygdala, thalamus, and caudate. Morphological changes in GMVs after the resolution of hypercortisolism are a complex phenomenon; the characteristics of these changes significantly differ within the brain substructures.
Benedetta Zampetti, Erika Grossrubatscher, Paolo Dalino Ciaramella, Edoardo Boccardi, and Paola Loli
Simultaneous bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling (BIPSS) plays a crucial role in the diagnostic work-up of Cushing’s syndrome. It is the most accurate procedure in the differential diagnosis of hypercortisolism of pituitary or ectopic origin, as compared with clinical, biochemical and imaging analyses, with a sensitivity and specificity of 88–100% and 67–100%, respectively. In the setting of hypercortisolemia, ACTH levels obtained from venous drainage of the pituitary are expected to be higher than the levels of peripheral blood, thus suggesting pituitary ACTH excess as the cause of hypercortisolism. Direct stimulation of the pituitary corticotroph with corticotrophin-releasing hormone enhances the sensitivity of the procedure. The procedure must be undertaken in the presence of hypercortisolemia, which suppresses both the basal and stimulated secretory activity of normal corticotrophic cells: ACTH measured in the sinus is, therefore, the result of the secretory activity of the tumor tissue. The poor accuracy in lateralization of BIPSS (positive predictive value of 50–70%) makes interpetrosal ACTH gradient alone not sufficient for the localization of the tumor. An accurate exploration of the gland is recommended if a tumor is not found in the predicted area. Despite the fact that BIPSS is an invasive procedure, the occurrence of adverse events is extremely rare, particularly if it is performed by experienced operators in referral centres.
Machine learning methods in sellar region diseases present a particular challenge because of the complexity and the necessity for reproducibility. This systematic review aims to compile the current literature on sellar region diseases that utilized machine learning methods and to propose a quality assessment tool and reporting checklist for future studies.
PubMed and Web of Science were searched to identify relevant studies. The quality assessment included five categories: unmet needs, reproducibility, robustness, generalizability and clinical significance.
Seventeen studies were included with the diagnosis of general pituitary neoplasms, acromegaly, Cushing’s disease, craniopharyngioma and growth hormone deficiency. 87.5% of the studies arbitrarily chose one or two machine learning models. One study chose ensemble models, and one study compared several models. 43.8% of studies did not provide the platform for model training, and roughly half did not offer parameters or hyperparameters. 62.5% of the studies provided a valid method to avoid over-fitting, but only five reported variations in the validation statistics. Only one study validated the algorithm in a different external database. Four studies reported how to interpret the predictors, and most studies (68.8%) suggested possible clinical applications of the developed algorithm. The workflow of a machine-learning study and the recommended reporting items were also provided based on the results.
Machine learning methods were used to predict diagnosis and posttreatment outcomes in sellar region diseases. Though most studies had substantial unmet need and proposed possible clinical application, replicability, robustness and generalizability were major limits in current studies.