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1.  High Prevalence of Normal Tests Assessing Hypercortisolism in Subjects with Mild and Episodic Cushing’s Syndrome Suggests that the Paradigm for Diagnosis and Exclusion of Cushing’s Syndrome Requires Multiple Testing 
Many Endocrinologists believe that a single determination of eucortisolism or a single demonstration of appropriate suppression to dexamethasone excluded Cushing’s syndrome, except in what was previously thought to be the rare patient with episodic or periodic Cushing’s syndrome. We hypothesize that episodic Cushing’s syndrome is relatively common and a single test assessing hypercortisolism may not be sufficient to accurately rule out or diagnose Cushing’s syndrome and retrospectively examined the number of normal and abnormal tests assessing hypercortisolism performed on multiple occasions in 66 patients found to have mild and/or episodic Cushing’s syndrome compared to a similar group of 54 patients evaluated for, but determined not to have Cushing’s syndrome. We found that 65 of the 66 patients with Cushing’s syndrome had at least one normal test of cortisol status and most patients had several normal tests. The probability of having Cushing’s syndrome when one test was negative was 92 % for 23:00 h salivary cortisol, 88 % for 24-h UFC, 86 % for 24-h 17OHS, and 54 % for nighttime plasma cortisol. These results demonstrated that episodic hypercortisolism is highly prevalent in subjects with mild Cushing’s syndrome and no single test was effective in conclusively diagnosing or excluding the condition. Rather, the paradigm for the diagnosis should be a careful history and physical examination and in those patients in whom mild Cushing’s syndrome/disease is strongly suspected, multiple tests assessing hypercortisolism should be performed on subsequent occasions, especially when the patient is experiencing signs and symptoms of short-term hypercortisolism.
PMCID: PMC2978784  PMID: 20803415
Cushing’s syndrome; episodic; periodic; urinary free cortisol; salivary cortisol; cortisol-binding globulin; 17-hydroxycorticosteroids
2.  Systemic therapy of Cushing’s syndrome 
Cushing’s disease (CD) in a stricter sense derives from pathologic adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) secretion usually triggered by micro- or macroadenoma of the pituitary gland. It is, thus, a form of secondary hypercortisolism. In contrast, Cushing’s syndrome (CS) describes the complexity of clinical consequences triggered by excessive cortisol blood levels over extended periods of time irrespective of their origin. CS is a rare disease according to the European orphan regulation affecting not more than 5/10,000 persons in Europe. CD most commonly affects adults aged 20–50 years with a marked female preponderance (1:5 ratio of male vs. female). Patient presentation and clinical symptoms substantially vary depending on duration and plasma levels of cortisol. In 80% of cases CS is ACTH-dependent and in 20% of cases it is ACTH-independent, respectively. Endogenous CS usually is a result of a pituitary tumor. Clinical manifestation of CS, apart from corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH-), ACTH-, and cortisol-producing (malign and benign) tumors may also be by exogenous glucocorticoid intake. Diagnosis of hypercortisolism (irrespective of its origin) comprises the following: Complete blood count including serum electrolytes, blood sugar etc., urinary free cortisol (UFC) from 24 h-urine sampling and circadian profile of plasma cortisol, plasma ACTH, dehydroepiandrosterone, testosterone itself, and urine steroid profile, Low-Dose-Dexamethasone-Test, High-Dose-Dexamethasone-Test, after endocrine diagnostic tests: magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultra-sound, computer tomography (CT) and other localization diagnostics. First-line therapy is trans-sphenoidal surgery (TSS) of the pituitary adenoma (in case of ACTH-producing tumors). In patients not amenable for surgery radiotherapy remains an option. Pharmacological therapy applies when these two options are not amenable or refused. In cases when pharmacological therapy becomes necessary, Pasireotide should be used in first-line in CD. CS patients are at an overall 4-fold higher mortality rate than age- and gender-matched subjects in the general population. The following article describes the most prominent substances used for clinical management of CS and gives a systematic overview of safety profiles, pharmacokinetic (PK)-parameters, and regulatory framework.
PMCID: PMC4237936  PMID: 25091295
Cushing’s disease (CD); Cushing’s syndrome (CS); Medicinal therapy; Orphan drug status
3.  A Case of Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia Mimicking Cushing's Syndrome 
Journal of Korean Medical Science  2012;27(11):1439-1443.
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is characterized by decreased adrenal hormone production due to enzymatic defects and subsequent rise of adrenocorticotrophic hormone that stimulates the adrenal cortex to become hyperplastic, and sometimes tumorous. As the pathophysiology is basically a defect in the biosynthesis of cortisol, one may not consider CAH in patients with hypercortisolism. We report a case of a 41-yr-old man with a 4 cm-sized left adrenal tumorous lesion mimicking Cushing's syndrome who was diagnosed with CAH. He had central obesity and acanthosis nigricans involving the axillae together with elevated 24-hr urine cortisol level, supporting the diagnosis of Cushing's syndrome. However, the 24-hr urine cortisol was suppressed by 95% with the low dose dexamethasone suppression test. CAH was suspected based on the history of precocious puberty, short stature and a profound suppression of cortisol production by dexamethasone. CAH was confirmed by a remarkably increased level of serum 17-hydroxyprogesterone level. Gene mutation analysis revealed a compound heterozygote mutation of CYP21A2 (I173N and R357W).
PMCID: PMC3492685  PMID: 23166432
Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia; 21-Hydroxylase Deficiency; Hypercortisolism
4.  Adrenocortical carcinoma initially presenting with hypokalemia and hypertension mimicking hyperaldosteronism: a case report 
BMC Research Notes  2013;6:405.
Adrenocortical carcinoma is a rare malignancy and rare cause of Cushing’s syndrome.
Case presentation
A 65-year-old seemingly well male patient was referred to our clinic under the suspicion of hyperaldosteronism due to hypertension combined with hypokalemia. However, his serum aldosterone and plasma renin activity were within normal limits. Instead, Cushing’s syndrome was diagnosed by elevated urine free cortisol and a non-suppressible dexamethasone test. Abdominal computed tomography showed a 7.8 × 4.8 cm mass lesion at the right adrenal gland with liver invasion. Etomidate infusion was performed to reduce his cortisol level before the patient received a right adrenalectomy and liver wedge resection. The pathology report showed adrenocortical carcinoma with liver and lymph node metastasis. According to the European Network for the Study of Adrenal Tumors (ENSAT) staging system, the tumor was classified as T4N1M1, stage IV. Recurrent hypercortisolism was found shortly after surgery. The patient died of Fournier’s gangrene with septic shock on the 59th day after diagnosis.
We report a case of rapidly progressive stage IV adrenocortical carcinoma with initial presentations of hypokaelmia and hypertension, mimicking hyperaldosteronism.
PMCID: PMC3852253  PMID: 24103295
Adrenocortical carcinoma; Cushing’s syndrome; Hyperaldosteronism
5.  Circadian rhythm of salivary cortisol, plasma cortisol, and plasma ACTH in end-stage renal disease 
Endocrine Connections  2012;2(1):23-31.
Patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) can display the features of endogenous hypercortisolism but are difficult to evaluate for Cushing's syndrome. We evaluated the circadian rhythm of plasma compared with salivary cortisol in subjects with ESRD.
Plasma and salivary cortisol and plasma ACTH samples were drawn frequently over 24 h in an inpatient research unit in stable ESRD subjects on daytime chronic hemodialysis (n=16) vs controls (n=8).
Plasma cortisol was measured every 2 h from 0800 to 0600 h the following day. Salivary cortisol was measured every 2 h, except between 2400 and 0400 h (sleep time). Plasma ACTH measured in a subset of samples and C-reactive protein (CRP) was measured as a marker of a subclinical inflammatory state in all subjects.
ESRD subjects had a discernable circadian rhythm in plasma and salivary cortisol, but with a significantly higher nadir (1800–2400 h) compared with the controls (P=0.016–<0.001). After excluding four ESRD subjects without a normal circadian rhythm, the ESRD subjects still had higher nadir plasma and salivary cortisol and plasma ACTH compared with controls. There was no difference in the correlation of salivary and plasma cortisol in control vs ESRD subjects. ESRD subjects had higher CRP levels compared with controls.
ESRD subjects had increased late-night plasma and salivary cortisol and plasma ACTH levels. Late-night salivary cortisol is a reliable index of plasma cortisol in ESRD patients.
PMCID: PMC3680964  PMID: 23781315
cortisol; circadian rhythm; ACTH; C-reactive protein; end-stage renal disease
6.  Successful treatment for adrenocorticotropic hormone-independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia with laparoscopic adrenalectomy: a case series 
Adrenocorticotropic hormone-independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia, characterized by bilateral macronodular adrenal hypertrophy and autonomous cortisol production, is a rare cause of Cushing’s syndrome. Bilateral adrenalectomy is considered the standard treatment for adrenocorticotropic hormone-independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia but obliges the patient to receive lifetime steroid replacement therapy subsequently, and may increase the patient’s risk of adrenal insufficiency. These circumstances require surgeons to carefully consider operative strategies on an individual basis.
Case presentation
We performed successful laparoscopic adrenalectomy on four patients with adrenocorticotropic hormone-independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia. Computed tomography scans showed bilateral adrenal enlargement in all patients. Case 1: a 56-year-old Japanese woman presented with obvious Cushing’s symptoms during treatment for diabetes mellitus and hypertension. Case 2: a 37-year-old Japanese man also presented with Cushing’s symptoms during treatment for diabetes mellitus and hypertension. These patients were diagnosed as Cushing’s syndrome caused by adrenocorticotropic hormone-independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia based on endocrinologic testing, and underwent bilateral laparoscopic adrenalectomy. Case 3: an 80-year-old Japanese woman was hospitalized due to unusual weight gain and heightened general fatigue, and was diagnosed as Cushing’s syndrome caused by adrenocorticotropic hormone-independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia. She underwent unilateral laparoscopic adrenalectomy due to high operative risk. Case 4: a 66-year-old Japanese man was discovered to have bilateral adrenal tumors on medical examination. He did not have Cushing’s symptoms and was diagnosed as subclinical Cushing’s syndrome due to suppressed adrenocorticotropic hormone serum levels and loss of cortisol circadian rhythm without abnormal levels of serum cortisol. He underwent unilateral laparoscopic adrenalectomy. During follow-up, serum cortisol levels were within the normal range in all cases, and serum adrenocorticotropic hormone levels were not suppressed. Further, cases with Cushing’s syndrome experienced clinical improvement.
We were able to effectively treat adrenocorticotropic hormone-independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia in patients with obvious Cushing’s symptoms by laparoscopic bilateral adrenalectomy, which promptly improved symptoms. Further, unilateral adrenalectomy was effective for treating an older patient at high operative risk and a patient with subclinical Cushing’s syndrome.
PMCID: PMC3469390  PMID: 22989371
7.  Five cases of cyclical Cushing's syndrome. 
Reported cases of cyclical Cushing's syndrome are rare. Of 14 successive patients with Cushing's syndrome nine collected sequential urine samples for the estimation of cortisol:creatinine ratio. Five had cyclical Cushing's syndrome while two had considerable variation in urinary cortisol excretion without a cyclical pattern being established. Two of the five patients with a cyclical syndrome had paradoxical responses to dexamethasone. In only one patient with a cyclical pattern did the cortisol:creatinine ratio fall after treatment with bromocriptine or cyproheptadine, or both. The high incidence of the cyclical form of Cushing's syndrome has important clinical implications. A high index of suspicion of the syndrome is required in patients with symptoms or signs of Cushing's syndrome but with normal cortisol values, in patients with fluctuating cortisol values, and in patients with anomalous responses to dexamethasone. Because of possible variations in steroidogenesis the results of drug studies in Cushing's syndrome must be interpreted cautiously.
PMCID: PMC1418075  PMID: 2998540
8.  Cushing's disease presenting with gastrointestinal perforation: a case report 
Gastrointestinal perforation is a complication associated with steroid therapy or hypercortisolism, but it is rarely observed in patients with Cushing's disease in clinical practice, and only one case has been reported as a presenting symptom. Herein, we report a rare case of Cushing's disease in which a patient presented with gastrointestinal perforation as a symptom. A 79-year-old man complained of discomfort in the lower abdomen for 6 months. Based on the endocrinological and gastroenterological examinations, he was diagnosed with Cushing's disease with a perforation of the descending colon. After consultation with a gastroenterological surgeon, it was decided that colonic perforation could be conservatively observed without any oral intake and treated with parenteral administration of antibiotics because of the mild systemic inflammation and lack of abdominal guarding. Despite the marked elevated levels of serum cortisol, oral medication was not an option because of colonic perforation. Therefore, the patient was submitted to endonasal adenomectomy to normalize the levels of serum cortisol. Subsequently, a colostomy was successfully performed. Despite its rarity, physicians should be aware that gastrointestinal perforation may be associated with hypercortisolism, especially in elderly patients, and immediate diagnosis and treatment of this life-threatening condition are essential. If a perforation can be conservatively observed, endonasal adenomectomy prior to laparotomy is an alternative treatment option for hypercortisolism.
Learning points
Thus far, only one case of gastrointestinal perforation as a presenting clinical symptom of Cushing's disease has been reported.Physicians should be aware that gastrointestinal perforation might be associated with hypercortisolism in elderly patients because elevated levels of serum cortisol may mask the clinical signs of perforation. Because of this masking effect, the diagnosis of the perforation also tends to be delayed.Although parenteral administration of etomidate is a standard treatment option for decreasing the elevated levels of serum cortisol, endonasal adenomectomy prior to laparotomy is an alternative treatment option if etomidate therapy is unavailable.
PMCID: PMC3922247  PMID: 24616779
9.  Long-term follow-up on Cushing disease patient after transsphenoidal surgery 
Cushing disease is caused by excessive adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) production by the pituitary adenoma. Transsphenoidal surgery is its first-line treatment. The incidence of Cushing disease in children and adolescents is so rare that long-term prognoses have yet to be made in most cases. We followed-up on a 16-year-old male Cushing disease patient who presented with rapid weight gain and growth retardation. The laboratory findings showed increased 24-hour urine free cortisol and lack of overnight cortisol suppression by low-dose dexamethasone test. The serum cortisol and 24-hour urine free cortisol, by high-dose dexamethasone test, also showed a lack of suppression, and a bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling suggested lateralization of ACTH secretion from the right-side pituitary gland. However, after a right hemihypophysectomy by the transsphenoidal approach, the 24-hour urine free cortisol levels were persistently high. Thus the patient underwent a total hypophysectomy, since which time he has been treated with hydrocortisone, levothyroxine, recombinant human growth hormone, and testosterone enanthate. Intravenous bisphosphonate for osteoporosis had been administered for three years. At his current age of 26 years, his final height had attained the target level range; his bone mineral density was normal, and his pubic hair was Tanner stage 4. This report describes the long-term treatment course of a Cushing disease patient according to growth profile, pubertal status, and responses to hormone replacement therapy. The clinical results serve to emphasize the importance of growth optimization, puberty, and bone health in the treatment management of Cushing disease patients who have undergone transsphenoidal surgery.
PMCID: PMC4208257  PMID: 25346922
Pituitary ACTH hypersecretion; Petrosal sinus sampling; Hypopituitarism
10.  Metyrapone for Long-Term Medical Management of Cushing's Syndrome 
Case Reports in Endocrinology  2013;2013:782068.
Cushing's syndrome is characterized by any cause of excess cortisol in the blood and produces many physiologic consequences. Left untreated, Cushing's is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Seventy percent of endogenous cases of Cushing's syndrome are secondary to a pituitary tumor; because of this, the primary mode of management is surgical resection of the tumor. Should hypercortisolism persist following surgical resection, further treatment options are limited. Metyrapone is an orphan medication that is often used in the diagnosis of the disease and occasionally for short-term treatment prior to surgery. Long-term treatment with metyrapone is usually discouraged due to the contradictory increase in ACTH production, acne, hirsutism, hyperkalemia, edema, and other mineralocorticoid effects. We present a patient with refractory Cushing's syndrome successfully treated for nearly 6 years with metyrapone with minimal adverse effects. This orphan medication may be a viable long-term treatment option for this difficult disease.
PMCID: PMC3876709  PMID: 24416602
11.  Cortisol, obesity and the metabolic syndrome: A cross-sectional study of obese subjects and review of the literature 
Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)  2013;21(1):E105-E117.
Circulating cortisol and psychosocial stress may contribute to the pathogenesis of obesity and metabolic syndrome. To evaluate these relationships, we performed a cross-sectional study of 369 overweight and obese subjects and 60 healthy volunteers and reviewed the previous literature.
Overweight and obese subjects had at least two other features of Cushing’s syndrome. They underwent measurements representing cortisol dynamics (24h urine cortisol excretion (UFC), bedtime salivary cortisol, 1 mg dexamethasone suppression test) and metabolic parameters (BMI, blood pressure (BP); fasting serum triglycerides, HDL, insulin, and glucose). Subjects also completed the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS). UFC, salivary cortisol and weight from 60 healthy volunteers were analyzed.
No subject had Cushing’s syndrome. UFC and dexamethasone responses were not associated with BMI or weight. However, salivary cortisol showed a trend to increase as BMI increased (P< 0.0001), and correlated with waist circumference (WC) in men (rs=0.28, P=0.02) and systolic BP in women (rs=0.24, P =0.0008). Post-dexamethasone cortisol levels were weak to moderately correlated with fasting insulin (rs=− 0.31, P=0.01) and HOMA-IR (rs=−0.31, P=0.01) in men and systolic (rs=0.18, P= 0.02) and diastolic BP (rs=0.20, P=0.009) in women. PSS results were higher in obese subjects than controls, but were not associated with cortisol or metabolic parameters. As expected, WC correlated with fasting insulin, HOMA-IR and systolic BP (adjusted for BMI and gender; P < 0.01). Literature showed inconsistent relationships between cortisol and metabolic parameters.
Taken together, these data do not support a strong relationship between systemic cortisol or stress and obesity or metabolic syndrome.
PMCID: PMC3602916  PMID: 23505190
cortisol; metabolic syndrome; insulin resistance; obesity
12.  Case report: nocardia infection associated with ectopic cushings 
Cushing’s syndrome results from exposure to excess glucocorticoids. Ectopic Cushings is endogenous ACTH dependant form of Cushing’s associated with markedly raised ACTH and cortisol levels. This leads to an impaired immune response, setting the stage for occurrence of opportunistic infections. Nocardiosis is a gram positive bacterial infection caused by aerobic actinomycetes in genus Nocardia. We report a series of patients diagnosed with ectopic Cushings, having pneumonia with Nocardia spp. In one of these cases, the manifestations of Cushing’s disappeared with treatment for Nocardia.
Case presentation
Two middle aged men of Asian descent presented to the Endocrine clinic: the first with history of exertional shortness of breath, and weight loss for 1 year, the other with facial swelling, disturbed sleep and lethargy for a month. The third case was a young Asian male who presented with progressive weakness & weight loss for 2 months. All three patients had uncontrolled hypertension, high blood sugars & were hypokalemic (K: 2.52, 2.9, 1.5 mmol/l); 24 hour urine cortisol was elevated at 2000, 27216 and 9088 (32-243 ug/24 hours); ACTH 68.5, 159, 255 [0–48 pg/ml), respectively. Their MRI pituitary was normal, inferior petrosal sinus sampling revealed no central peripheral gradient. CT chest of these subjects demonstrated cavitatory lung lesions; microscopic analysis of respiratory samples was suggestive of infection with Nocardia spp. Histopathology of bronchoscopic-guided biopsy revealed no malignancy. Antihypertensives, insulin, potassium replacement, ketoconazole & trimethoprim-sulphamethoxazole (TS) were initiated. The patients’ symptomatology improved & cavitatory lesions resolved with treatment. The primary source for the ectopic cushings remained unknown. The first case required bilateral adrenalectomy. The second case followed a progressively downhill course leading to death. In the third case, we were able to completely taper off ketoconazole, potassium, insulin & antihypertensives, after starting TS.
Opportunistic infections are known to be associated with Cushing’s syndrome, and higher levels of glucocorticoid secretion are found in patients with ectopically produced ACTH. Pulmonary nocardiosis is important differential to consider. This series includes the first case reported in which signs and symptoms of cushings subsided after treatment of Nocardia.
PMCID: PMC4079169  PMID: 24950706
ACTH Adrenocorticotrophin Hormone; TS trimethoprim-sulphamethoxazole; IPSS inferior petrosal sinus sampling
13.  Treatment Options in Cushing’s Disease 
Endogenous Cushing’s syndrome is a grave disease that requires a multidisciplinary and individualized treatment approach for each patient. Approximately 80% of all patients harbour a corticotroph pituitary adenoma (Cushing’s disease) with excessive secretion of adrenocorticotropin-hormone (ACTH) and, consecutively, cortisol. The goals of treatment include normalization of hormone excess, long-term disease control and the reversal of comorbidities caused by the underlying pathology. The treatment of choice is neurosurgical tumour removal of the pituitary adenoma. Second-line treatments include medical therapy, bilateral adrenalectomy and radiation therapy. Drug treatment modalities target at the hypothalamic/pituitary level, the adrenal gland and at the glucocorticoid receptor level and are commonly used in patients in whom surgery has failed. Bilateral adrenalectomy is the second-line treatment for persistent hypercortisolism that offers immediate control of hypercortisolism. However, this treatment option requires a careful individualized evaluation, since it has the disadvantage of permanent hypoadrenalism which requires lifelong glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid replacement therapy and bears the risk of developing Nelson’s syndrome. Although there are some very promising medical therapy options it clearly remains a second-line treatment option. However, there are numerous circumstances where medical management of CD is indicated. Medical therapy is frequently used in cases with severe hypercortisolism before surgery in order to control the metabolic effects and help reduce the anestesiological risk. Additionally, it can help to bridge the time gap until radiotherapy takes effect. The aim of this review is to analyze and present current treatment options in Cushing’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3273924  PMID: 22346367
Cushing’s disease; operative treatment; medical therapy; bilateral adrenalectomy; radiotherapy
14.  Reversible alterations in cardiac morphology and functions in a patient with Cushing's syndrome 
A 45-year-old female was referred for endocrine evaluation of an incidental mass (31×24 mm in diameter) on the right adrenal gland. The patient was normotensive and nondiabetic, and had no history of generalised obesity (body weight, 46 kg at 20 years of age and 51.2 kg on admission); however, her waist-to-hip ratio was 0.97. Elevated urinary free cortisol levels (112–118 μg/day) and other findings indicated adrenocorticotrophic hormone-independent Cushing's syndrome due to right adrenocortical adenoma. Echocardiography before adrenalectomy revealed concentric left ventricular (LV) hypertrophy with a particular increase in interventricular septum thickness leading to impaired systolic and diastolic functions. Upon surgical remission of hypercortisolism, the asymmetric hypertrophy disappeared and the cardiac dysfunctions were considerably ameliorated. Although the mechanism(s) by which excessive cortisol contributes to LV wall thickness remain(s) unclear, serial echocardiography and cardiac multidetector-row computed tomography may support the notion that abnormal fat deposition in the myocardium owing to hypercortisolism appears to be an important factor for the reversible change in the cardiac morphology.
Learning points
Patients with Cushing's syndrome occasionally exhibit severe LV hypertrophy related to systolic and diastolic dysfunctions although they have neither hypertension nor diabetes mellitus.Biological remission of hypercortisolism can normalise structural and functional cardiac parameters and help in differentiating the cardiac alterations induced by excessive cortisol from those induced by other diseases.Excessive lipid accumulation within the heart before myocardial fibrosis may be implicated in reversible alterations in the cardiac morphology by Cushing's syndrome.Early diagnosis and treatment of Cushing's syndrome appear to be pivotal in preventing irreversible cardiac dysfunctions subsequent to cardiovascular events and heart failure.
PMCID: PMC4075027  PMID: 25031836
15.  Hair Analysis Provides a Historical Record of Cortisol Levels in Cushing’s Syndrome 
The severity of Cushing’s Syndrome (CS) depends on the duration and extent of the exposure to excess glucocorticoids. Current measurements of cortisol in serum, saliva and urine reflect systemic cortisol levels at the time of sample collection, but cannot assess past cortisol levels. Hair cortisol levels may be increased in patients with CS, and, as hair grows about 1 cm/month, measurement of hair cortisol may provide historical information on the development of hypercortisolism. We attempted to measure cortisol in hair in relation to clinical course in six female patients with CS and in 32 healthy volunteers in 1 cm hair sections. Hair cortisol content was measured using a commercially available salivary cortisol immune assay with a protocol modified for use with hair. Hair cortisol levels were higher in patients with CS than in controls, the medians (ranges) were 679 (279–2500) and 116 (26–204) ng/g respectively (P <0.001). Segmental hair analysis provided information for up to 18 months before time of sampling. Hair cortisol concentrations appeared to vary in accordance with the clinical course. Based on these data, we suggest that hair cortisol measurement is a novel method for assessing dynamic systemic cortisol exposure and provides unique historical information on variation in cortisol, and that more research is required to fully understand the utility and limits of this technique.
PMCID: PMC2945912  PMID: 19609841
glucocorticoids; pituitary adenoma; cancer; adrenal gland; hormones; cushing hair
16.  P36 - Severe Osteoporosis in Cushing’s Syndrome 
Cushing’s syndrome is characterised by a series of clinical manifestations due to hypersecretion of cortisol. These include: arterial hypertension, diabetes mellitus (DM), asthenia, amenorrhea, osteoporosis and pathological fractures. We describe the case of a 70-year-old woman with Cushing’s syndrome with right adrenal adenoma, vertebral compression fractures (VCFs) and severe secondary osteoporosis. This patient had been diagnosed with Cushing’s syndrome in May 2008, three years after the onset of arterial hypertension and type II DM, treated with insulin; in July 2008, she underwent right adrenalectomy and replacement therapy with cortisone acetate, 37.5 mg/day, in association with a multiple drug regimen for hypertension and DM; she also had an at least 10-year history of dorso-lumbar pain with multiple disc protrusions. As part of a series of investigations for Cushing’s syndrome the patient underwent femoral bone mineral densitometry, recording a T-score <−3, radiographic examination of the dorso-lumbar spine, which revealed collapse of the superior endplate of D7 and a wedge fracture of D8. At the endocrinology centre of reference for Cushing’s syndrome, she began treatment with alendronate 70 mg/day without undergoing blood chemistry tests of bone metabolism and without calcium and vitamin D supplementation. At the end of August 2009, she experienced worsening spinal pain due to a new severe fracture of D9, which was confirmed on MRI as a recent fracture. At the end of December 2009 she received kyphoplasty of D9, antiresorptive therapy and a CAMP-C35 brace.
In January 2010 she was admitted to the specialist rehabilitation unit for functional recovery, in view of her comorbidities, and bone disease investigation, with collection of history relating to osteoporosis risk factors. First- and second-level blood chemistry analyses revealed the presence of iron-deficiency anaemia, mild chronic renal insufficiency, and secondary hyerparathyroidism (PTH 101ng/ml); spinal radiography revealed severe VCFs of D7, D8 and D9, treated with kyphoplasty; the patient was also assessed using the VAS for pain, the FIM to evaluate independence in activities of daily living, and the SF-36 to investigate quality of life. The alendronate treatment was suspended and the patient was given cholecalciferol 300,000 IU, administered as an oral bolus, followed by a maintenance dose of 800 IU/day. When PTH values had returned to normal, she began treatment with teriparatide 20 mcg/day s.c. (therapeutic plan in compliance with Note 79 issued by the AIFA - Italian Drug Agency).
In conclusion, this case underlines the importance of a correct diagnostic and therapeutic approach in patients with severe osteoporosis. Over time, we will evaluate the efficacy of the treatment in preventing new fractures and the whether the use of a bone anabolic agent might be the correct choice also in order to control pain and improve quality of life. There are no reports in the literature of patients with Cushing’s syndrome treated with teriparatide.
PMCID: PMC3213844
17.  Screening for Cushing’s Syndrome in Obese Patients 
Clinics  2010;65(1):9-13.
The aim of this study was to examine the frequency of Cushing’s syndrome (CS) in obese patients devoid of specific clinical symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome.
A total of 150 obese patients (129 female, 21 male; mean age 44.41 ± 13.34 yr; mean BMI 35.76 ± 7.13) were included in the study. As a first screening step, we measured 24-h urinary free cortisol (UFC). An overnight 1-mg dexamethasone suppression test was also performed on all patients. Urinary free cortisol levels above 100 μg/24 h were considered to be abnormal. Suppression of serum cortisol <1.8 μg/dL after administration of 1 mg dexamethasone was the cut-off point for normal suppression. The suppression of the serum cortisol levels failed in all of the patients.
Measured laboratory values were as follows: ACTH, median level 28 pg/ml, interquartile range (IQR) 14–59 pg/ml; fasting glucose, 100 (91–113) mg/dL; insulin, 15.7 (7.57–24.45) mU/ml; fT4, 1.17 (1.05–1.4) ng/dL; TSH, 1.70 (0.91–2.90) mIU/L; total cholesterol, 209 (170.5–250) mg/dL; LDL-c, 136 (97.7–163) mg/dL; HDL-c, 44 (37.25–50.75) mg/dL; VLDL-c, 24 (17–36) mg/dL; triglycerides, 120.5 (86–165) mg/dL. The median UFC level of the patients was 30 μg/24 h (IQR 16–103). High levels of UFC (>100 μg/24 h) were recorded in 37 patients (24%). Cushing’s syndrome was diagnosed in 14 of the 150 patients (9.33%). Etiologic reasons for Cushing’s syndrome were pituitary microadenoma (9 patients), adrenocortical adenoma (3 patients), and adrenocortical carcinoma (1 patient).
A significant proportion (9.33%) of patients with simple obesity were found to have Cushing’s syndrome. These findings argue that obese patients should be routinely screened for Cushing’s syndrome.
PMCID: PMC2815288  PMID: 20126340
Cushing’s syndrome; Obesity; Screening; Cortisol; Adrenocorticorticotropic hormone
18.  Clinical Usefulness of Corticotropin Releasing Hormone Testing in Subclinical Cushing's Syndrome for Predicting Cortisol Replacement after Adrenalectomy 
Korean Journal of Urology  2012;53(6):414-418.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the clinical and hormonal features of patients with incidentally discovered adrenal adenomas in relation to corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) testing and the clinical outcome of adrenalectomy.
Materials and Methods
Twenty-three consecutive patients with incidentally detected adrenal adenomas were included in this retrospective study. All the patients underwent abdominal computed tomography scans and hormonal assays, including assessment of circadian rhythms of plasma cortisol and corticotropin (adrenocorticotropic hormone, ACTH), a corticotropin stimulation test, and low-dose and high-dose dexamethasone tests. The patients were reevaluated at regular intervals (6, 12, and 24 months) for a median period of 24 months. Subclinical Cushing's syndrome (SCS) was diagnosed in patients with subtle hypercortisolism who did not present clinical signs of Cushing's syndrome.
We calculated the responsive index (peak value of ACTH in CRH test/baseline value of ACTH in CRH test). Of 23 patients, 6 had Cushing's syndrome, 8 had SCS, and 9 had a non-functioning tumor. All patients underwent laparoscopic adrenalectomy. Several patients (5 of 6 with Cushing's syndrome and 2 of 8 with SCS) required cortisol replacement therapy after surgery. The remaining patients required no hormonal replacement after surgery. Those who required hormone replacement had a responsive index of less than 1.2. Those who did not need hormone replacement therapy had a responsive index of more than 2.0.
In our limited experience, the responsive index of the CRH test might be a valuable tool for predicting the need for cortisol replacement after surgery in patients with SCS.
PMCID: PMC3382692  PMID: 22741051
Adrenalectomy; Corticotropin-releasing hormone; Cushing syndrome
19.  Detection of recurrent Cushing’s disease: proposal for standardized patient monitoring following transsphenoidal surgery 
Journal of Neuro-Oncology  2014;119(2):235-242.
Transsphenoidal surgery (TSS) is first-line treatment for Cushing’s disease (CD), a devastating disorder of hypercortisolism resulting from overproduction of adrenocorticotropic hormone by a pituitary adenoma. Surgical success rates vary widely and disease may recur years after remission is achieved. Recognizing CD recurrence can be challenging; although there is general acceptance among endocrinologists that patients need lifelong follow-up, there are currently no standardized monitoring guidelines. To begin addressing this need we created a novel, systematic algorithm by integrating information from literature on relapse rates in surgically-treated CD patients and our own clinical experiences. Reported recurrence rates range from 3 to 47 % (mean time to recurrence 16–49 months), emphasizing the need for careful post-surgical patient monitoring. We recommend that patients with post-operative serum cortisol <2 µg/dL (measured 2–3 days post-surgery) be monitored semiannually for 3 years and annually thereafter. Patients with post-operative cortisol between 2 and 5 µg/dL may experience persistent or subclinical CD and should be evaluated every 2–3 months until biochemical control is achieved or additional treatment is initiated. Post-operative cortisol >5 µg/dL often signifies persistent disease and second-line treatment (e.g., immediate repeat pituitary surgery, radiotherapy, and/or medical therapy) may be considered. This follow-up algorithm aims to (a) enable early diagnosis and treatment of recurrent CD, thereby minimizing the detrimental effects of hypercortisolism, and (b) begin addressing the need for standardized guidelines for vigilant monitoring of CD patients treated by TSS, as demonstrated by the reported rates of recurrence.
PMCID: PMC4143611  PMID: 24980037
Cushing’s disease; Recurrence; Monitoring; Pituitary; Recurrence detection
20.  Crossing the other side of the algorithm: a challenging case of adrenal Cushing’s syndrome 
BMJ Case Reports  2011;2011:bcr0820114694.
The diagnosis of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome and its aetiology involved documenting the hypercotisolism and then determining whether that hypercortisolism is adrenocorticotropic hormone-dependent (ACTH-dependent) or not. Hence, following the algorithm, an undetected ACTH level points to an adrenal Cushing’s while a detectable or elevated ACTH level points to either a pituitary or ectopic Cushing’s syndrome. The authors present a case of florid adrenal Cushing’s syndrome initially presenting with a normal ACTH level, which led to the investigation for an ACTH-secreting tumour. Adding to the confusion, a MRI done showed an intrasellar focus. Knowledge of how ACTH-dependent (versus ACTH-independent) Cushing’s syndrome manifests clinically, supported by results of repeat laboratory tests, led to the true diagnosis. This case illustrates that a detectable ACTH does not rule out an adrenal Cushing’s syndrome nor does a positive pituitary imaging confirm Cushing’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3229338  PMID: 22674941
21.  A case of ectopic ACTH syndrome treated with intermittent administration of dopamine agonists 
ACTH-dependent Cushing's syndrome includes Cushing's disease and ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS). The differential diagnosis of Cushing's disease from EAS in cases of ACTH-dependent Cushing's syndrome is a challenging problem. We report here a case of EAS with an unknown source of ACTH secretion. Extensive imaging procedures, involving computed tomography (neck to pelvis), pituitary magnetic resonance imaging, and whole-body 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose-positron emission tomography, failed to reveal the source of ACTH secretion. Intermittent administration of bromocriptine, a short-acting and nonselective dopamine agonist, has afforded adequate suppression of plasma ACTH and cortisol levels over the long term.
Learning points
Tumor excision is the primary treatment for EAS. However, when surgery is impossible, medical therapy is needed to treat hypercortisolism.In cases where the source of ACTH secretion is unknown, inhibitors of steroidogenesis, such as metyrapone, mitotane, ketoconazole, and etomidate, are mostly used to suppress cortisol secretion.Medications that suppress ACTH secretion are less effective, therefore less popular, as standard treatments.In the present case, short-term treatment with dopamine agonists was effective for the long-term suppression of both ACTH and cortisol levels.
PMCID: PMC3965275  PMID: 24683487
22.  High variability in baseline urinary free cortisol values in patients with Cushing’s disease 
Clinical Endocrinology  2013;80(2):261-269.
Twenty-four-hour urinary free cortisol (UFC) sampling is commonly used to evaluate Cushing’s syndrome. Because there are few data on UFC variability in patients with active Cushing’s disease, we analysed baseline UFC in a large patient cohort with moderate-to-severe Cushing’s disease and assessed whether variability correlates with hypercortisolism severity. These data will help clinicians establish the minimum number of UFC samples required to obtain reliable data.
Observational study (enrolment phase of Phase III study).
Patients (n = 152) with persistent/recurrent or de novo Cushing’s disease and mean UFC (mUFC) ≥1·5×ULN (normal: 30–145 nmol/24 h) were included. Mean UFC level was calculated from four 24-h urine samples collected over 2 weeks.
Over 600 24-h UFC samples were analysed. The mUFC levels of samples 1 and 2 and samples 3 and 4 were 1000 nmol/24 h (SD 1872) and 940 nmol/24 h (SD 2148), respectively; intrapatient coefficient of variation (CV) was 38% for mUFC. The intrapatient CV using all four samples was 52% (95% CI: 48–56). The intrapatient CV was 51% (95% CI: 44–58) for samples 1 and 2, 49% (95% CI: 43–56) for samples 3 and 4 and 54% (95% CI: 49–59) for samples 1, 2 and 3. Variability in mUFC increased as UFC levels increased. There were no correlations between UFC and clinical features of hypercortisolism.
There is intrapatient variability of approximately 50% in 24-h UFC measurements, which is relevant to targets set to estimate any treatment effect. Analysing more than two 24-h collection periods in individual patients does not result in a relevant decrease in variability. Interestingly, UFC levels did not correlate with hypercortisolism severity.
PMCID: PMC4231220  PMID: 23746264
23.  Adrenal Incidentalomas with Supraphysiologic Response to ACTH Stimulus: A Case Report 
Case Reports in Endocrinology  2012;2012:503290.
We present the diagnostic approach of a patient with adrenal incidentalomas. A 72-year-old African American male had a CT scan of the abdomen showing right and left adrenal masses measuring 5 × 3.5 cm and 3.7 × 2.9 cm, respectively. The patient had negative hormonal workup. The radiologist insisted that the CT findings are consistent with adrenal hyperplasia, and therefore he underwent ACTH stimulation to rule out late-onset congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). The stimulation test revealed that 17-hydroxyprogesterone and 11-deoxycortisol increased to levels high enough to confirm CAH, but cortisol had exaggerated response as well, thus making the diagnosis of CAH unlikely where metabolism is shifted to precursors. Subsequently, the patient underwent screening for Cushing's syndrome (CS) with a dexamethasone suppression test. Patient failed the suppresion test, raising the issue for subclinical CS (SCS), likely due to ACTH-independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia. Our patient had been diagnosed with MGUS and so far there are only 3 case reports of extramedullary plasmacytoma arising from the adrenals. One was bilateral and one had functional abnormalities. Our differential diagnosis includes subclinical CS with aberrant receptors versus a functioning extramedullary plasmacytoma.
PMCID: PMC3477530  PMID: 23097726
24.  Cushing’s Syndrome: All variants, detection, and treatment 
Cushing’s syndrome is caused by prolonged exposure to excess glucocorticoids. Diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome involves a step-wise approach and establishing the cause can be challenging in some cases. Hypertension is present in about 80% of patients with Cushing’s syndrome and can lead to significant morbidity and mortality. Several pathogenic mechanisms have been proposed for glucocorticoid-induced hypertension including a functional mineralocorticoid excess state, up-regulation of the renin angiotensin system and deleterious effects of cortisol on the vasculature. Surgical excision of the cause of excess glucocorticoids remains the optimal treatment for Cushing’s syndrome. Anti-glucocorticoid and antihypertensive agents and steroidogenesis inhibitors can be used as adjunctive treatment modalities in preparation for surgery, and in cases where surgery is contraindicated or has not led to cure.
PMCID: PMC3095520  PMID: 21565673
Cushing’s syndrome; hypertension; glucocorticoids; ectopic ACTH secretion; 11-beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase; hypercortisolemia
25.  Recent advances in the medical treatment of Cushing’s disease 
F1000Prime Reports  2014;6:18.
Cushing’s disease is a condition of hypercortisolism caused by an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-secreting pituitary adenoma. While rare, it is associated with significant morbidity and mortality, which suggests that early and aggressive intervention is required. The primary, definitive therapy for patients with Cushing’s disease in the majority of patients is pituitary surgery, generally performed via a transsphenoidal approach. However, many patients will not achieve remission or they will have recurrences. The consequences of persistent hypercortisolism are severe and, as such, early identification of those patients at risk of treatment failure is exigent. Medical management of Cushing’s disease patients plays an important role in achieving long-term remission after failed transsphenoidal surgery, while awaiting effects of radiation or before surgery to decrease the hypercortisolemia and potentially reducing perioperative complications and improving outcome. Medical therapies include centrally acting agents, adrenal steroidogenesis inhibitors and glucocorticoid receptor blockers. Furthermore, several new agents are in clinical trials. To normalize the devastating disease effects of hypercortisolemia, it is paramount that successful patient disease management includes individualized, multidisciplinary care, with close collaboration between endocrinologists, neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, and general surgeons. This commentary will focus on recent advances in the medical treatment of Cushing’s, with a focus on newly approved ACTH modulators and glucocorticoid receptor blockers.
PMCID: PMC3944746  PMID: 24669299

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