Primary bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia (PBMAH) is a highly heterogeneous entity. The incidental identification of an increasing number of cases has shifted its clinical expression from the rarely encountered severe forms, regarding both cortisol excess and adrenal enlargement, to mild forms of asymptomatic or oligosymptomatic cases with less impressive imaging phenotypes. Activation of cAMP/PKA pathway, either due to alterations of the different downstream signaling pathways or through aberrantly expressed G-protein-coupled receptors, relates to both cortisol secretion and adrenal growth. Germline ARMC5 mutations are a frequent genetic defect. The diagnostic approach consists of both imaging and hormonal characterization. Imaging characterization should be done separately for each lesion. Endocrine evaluation in cases with clinically overt Cushing’s syndrome (CS) is similar to that applied for all forms of CS. In incidentally detected PBMAH, hormonal evaluation includes testing for primary aldosteronism, pheochromocytoma and evaluation for autonomous cortisol secretion, using the 1 mg overnight dexamethasone suppression test. Midnight cortisol or 24-h urinary free cortisol may aid in establishing the degree of cortisol excess. In patients with hypercortisolism, ACTH levels should be measured in order to establish ACTH independency. At variance with other forms of CS, PBMAH may be characterized by a distinct pattern of inefficient steroidogenesis. The appropriate management of PBMAH remains controversial. Bilateral adrenalectomy results in lifetime steroid dependency and is better reserved only for patients with severe CS. Unilateral adrenalectomy might be considered in selected patients. In cases where the regulation of cortisol secretion is mediated by aberrant receptors there is some potential for medical therapy.
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Dimitra A Vassiliadi and Stylianos Tsagarakis
Elena Valassi, Frédéric Castinetti, Amandine Ferriere, Stylianos Tsagarakis, Richard A Feelders, Romana T Netea-Maier, Michael Droste, Christian J Strasburger, Dominique Maiter, Darko Kastelan, Philippe Chanson, Susan M Webb, Frank Demtröder, Valdis Pirags, Olivier Chabre, Holger Franz, Alicia Santos, and Martin Reincke
Corticotroph tumor progression after bilateral adrenalectomy/Nelson’s syndrome (CTP-BADX/NS) is a severe complication of bilateral adrenalectomy (BADX). The aim of our study was to investigate the prevalence, presentation and outcome of CTP-BADX/NS in patients with Cushing’s disease (CD) included in the European Registry on Cushing’s Syndrome (ERCUSYN). We examined data on 1045 CD patients and identified 85 (8%) who underwent BADX. Of these, 73 (86%) had follow-up data available. The median duration of follow-up since BADX to the last visit/death was 7 years (IQR 2–9 years). Thirty-three patients (45%) experienced CTP-BADX/NS after 3 years (1.5–6) since BADX. Cumulative progression-free survival was 73% at 3 years, 66% at 5 years and 46% at 10 years. CTP-BADX/NS patients more frequently had a visible tumor at diagnosis of CD than patients without CTP-BADX/NS (P < 0.05). Twenty-seven CTP-BADX/NS patients underwent surgery, 48% radiotherapy and 27% received medical therapy. The median time since diagnosis of CTP-BADX/NS to the last follow-up visit was 2 years (IQR, 1–5). Control of tumor progression was not achieved in 16 of 33 (48%) patients, of whom 8 (50%) died after a mean of 4 years. Maximum adenoma size at diagnosis of CD was associated with further tumor growth in CTP-BADX/NS despite treatment (P = 0.033). Diagnosis of CTP-BADX/NS, older age, greater UFC levels at diagnosis of CD and initial treatment predicted mortality. In conclusion, CTP-BADX/NS was reported in 45% of the ERCUSYN patients who underwent BADX, and control of tumor growth was reached in half of them. Future studies are needed to establish effective strategies for prevention and treatment.