❓Can You Help?

I’m on my second round of GH (I had to stop the first time due to cancer). I’ve been on Omnitrope since 2006 and the threads inside my pen must have worn down – I’m having a lot of trouble injecting it now.

I insert the needle and have to balance on the edge of the countertop in the bathroom and sort of lean in. Has anyone else had to replace the pen? I told my insurance company who sends the actual drug and they said “not us”. I don’t know if my endo has to prescribe another “starter kit” or what.

I did find a website that will sell me a new one for $200 but I’d rather not buy one that way. I found nothing on the Novartis website about this, either :(

Anyone?

Please respond here or on the message boards.

Thanks!

ℹ️ Basics: Pituitary Tumors and Headaches

Headaches are a common complaint in patients with pituitary tumors. Although many patients presumably have headaches which are unrelated to their pituitary tumor, there are several important direct and indirect mechanisms by which pituitary tumors may elicit or exacerbate headaches. Pituitary tumors may directly provoke headaches by eroding laterally into the cavernous sinus, which contains the first and second divisions of the trigeminal nerve, by involvement of the dural lining of the sella or diaphragma sella (which are innervated by the trigeminal nerve), or via sinusitis, particularly after transsphenoidal surgery. Headache pain in these situations is typically characterized by steady, bifrontal or unilateral frontal aching (ipsilateral to tumor). In some instances, pain is localized in the midface (either because of involvement of the second division of the trigeminal or secondary to sinusitis).

In contrast to the insidious, subacute development of headaches in most patients with pituitary tumors, patients with pituitary apoplexy may experience acute, severe headaches, perhaps associated with signs and symptoms of meningeal irritation (stiff neck, photophobia), CSF pleocytosis or occulomotor paresis. Routine CT scans of the head occasionally skip the sella, hence the presence of blood or a mass within the sella may not be detected and patients can be misdiagnosed with meningitis or aneurysm. Because pituitary apoplexy represents a neurosurgical emergency, MRI should be used in patients with symptoms suggestive of this disorder. A subacute form of pituitary apoplexy has also been reported. Patients with subacute pituitary apoplexy experience severe and/or frequent headaches over weeks to months and have heme products within the sella on MRI scans.

In most instances, headaches are not attributable to direct effects of the pituitary tumor and indirect causes must be considered. Generally, indirect effects of pituitary tumors are caused by reduced secretion of pituitary hormones and are manifested by promotion of “vascular” headaches (e.g., migraine). The major exception to this rule relates to the potential for acromegalic patients to develop headaches secondary to cervical osteoarthritis. Vascular headaches may be exacerbated in association with disruption of normal menstrual cyclicity and impaired gonadal steroid secretion (e.g., from hyperprolactinemia or gonadotropin deficiency). Hyperprolactinemia, hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism may also have direct effects, independent of gonadal hormones. Headaches are common in acromegaly, and in the majority of cases the etiology is not well understood.

Finally, drug management of pituitary tumors may inadvertently impact headaches. Octreotide results in extremely rapid headache improvement with patients with acromegaly. The rapid time course suggests it is not due to lowering of GH levels. Octreotide also has a dramatic beneficial effect on migraine and may be producing relief of headache by vascular mechanisms. Occasionally severe headaches surface in acromegalic patients after reduction or discontinuation of octreotide, as a “withdrawal” phenomenon.|

Bromocriptine or other dopamine agonists occasionally trigger severe headaches. When this occurs, it is important to recognize that bromocriptine has been reported as a cause of pituitary apoplexy, and it may be necessary to perform an MRI or CT to rule out infarction or hemorrhage within the pituitary. Once it is established that the patient is not infarcting the pituitary, it is generally safe to treat the headaches symptomatically (not with an ASA containing drug) and consider alternative therapies for the prolactinoma if the problem remains severe.

Pituitary tumor patients with vascular headaches are generally quite responsive to standard prophylactic migraine drugs (e.g., tricyclic antidepressants, verapamil and beta-blockers). It is best to begin therapy with very low-dose medication (e.g., 10 mg of amitriptyline at bedtime) and resist the impulse to escalate the dose rapidly to higher levels. Often patients have an excellent response to 10-30 mg of a tricyclic antidepressant, although it may take up to six or more weeks to reach the ultimate benefit. The choice of tricyclic antidepressant should be based upon the desired side effects (e.g., either more sedation or less sedation) The newer, serotonin-selective antidepressants are generally less effective for headaches than tricyclics, although some patients do respond nicely to these agents. In some cases it may be necessary to use combination therapy (e.g., verapamil plus a tricyclic).

From https://www.massgeneral.org/neurosurgery/treatments-and-services/pituitary-tumors-and-headaches?fbclid=IwAR2iBMjf5VNvw2_ucalXikyIZIh3dJuYu0Kk6P1jhQ2IDnDj9ubkPO4Zl9A

ℹ️ Basics 911! Adrenal Crisis, Addison’s/Adrenal Insufficiency

Cushing’s Help Podcast: Adrenal Crisis

Be sure to print this page to carry with you.

Definition:
Acute adrenal crisis is a life-threatening state caused by insufficient levels of cortisol, which is a hormone produced and released by the adrenal gland.

Alternative Names: Adrenal crisis; Addisonian crisis; Acute adrenal insufficiency

Causes, incidence, and risk factors:
The two adrenal glands are located on top of the kidneys. They consist of the outer portion, called the cortex, and the inner portion, called the medulla. The cortex produces three types of hormones, all of which are called corticosteroids.

Cortisol is a glucocortoid, a corticosteroid that maintains glucose (blood sugar) regulation, suppresses the immune response, and is released as part of the body’s response to stress. Cortisol production is regulated by a small gland just below the brain called the pituitary gland. Cortisol is essential for life. Acute adrenal crisis is a medical emergency caused by a lack of cortisol. Patients may experience lightheadedness or dizziness, weakness, sweating, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, or even loss of consciousness.

Adrenal crisis occurs if the adrenal gland is deteriorating (Addison’s disease, primary adrenal insufficiency), if there is pituitary gland injury (secondary adrenal insufficiency), or if adrenal insufficiency is not adequately treated. Risk factors for adrenal crisis include physical stress such as infection, dehydration, trauma, or surgery, adrenal gland or pituitary gland injury, and ending treatment with steroids such as prednisone or hydrocortisone too early.

Symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Profound weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Slow, sluggish movement
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • High fever
  • Shaking chills
  • Confusion or coma
  • Darkening of the skin
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Joint pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Rapid respiratory rate (see tachypnea)
  • Unusual and excessive sweating on face and/or palms
  • Skin rash or lesions may be present
  • Flank pain
  • Loss of appetite

Signs and tests:

  • An ACTH (cortrosyn) stimulation test shows low cortisol.
  • The baseline cortisol level is low.
  • Fasting blood sugar may be low.
  • Serum potassium is elevated ( usually primary adrenal insufficiency).
  • Serum sodium is decreased (usually primary adrenal insufficiency).

Treatment:
In adrenal crisis, an intravenous or intramuscular injection of hydrocortisone (an injectable corticosteroid) must be given immediately. Supportive treatment of low blood pressure with intravenous fluids is usually necessary. Hospitalization is required for adequate treatment and monitoring. If infection is the cause of the crisis, antibiotic therapy may be needed.

Expectations (prognosis):
Death may occur due to overwhelming shock if early treatment is not provided.

Complications:

  • shock
  • coma
  • seizures

Calling your health care provider:
Call your health care provider if you have Addison’s disease and are unable to retain usual medications because of vomiting.Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if symptoms of acute adrenal crisis develop.

Prevention:
People who have Addison’s disease should be taught to recognize signs of potential stress that may cause an acute adrenal crisis. Most people with Addison’s disease are taught to give themselves an emergency injection of hydrocortisone or increase their dose of oral prednisone in times of stress.

It is important for the individual with Addison’s disease to always carry a medical identification card that states the type of medication and the proper dose needed in case of an emergency.

Never omit medication. If unable to retain medication due to vomiting, notify the health care provider.


Health Alert: Adrenal Crisis Causes Death in Some People Who Were Treated With hGH

Recently, doctors conducting the follow-up study of individuals treated with hGH looked at causes of death among recipients and found some disturbing news. Many more people have died from a treatable condition called adrenal crisis than from CJD. THIS RISK DOES NOT AFFECT EVERY RECIPIENT. IT CAN AFFECT THOSE WHO LACK OTHER HORMONES IN ADDITION TO GROWTH HORMONE. Please read on to find out if this risk applies to you. Death from adrenal crisis can be prevented.

Adrenal crisis is a serious condition that can cause death in people who lack the pituitary hormone ACTH. ACTH is responsible for regulating the adrenal gland. Often, people are unaware that they lack this hormone and therefore do not know about their risk of adrenal crisis.

Most people who were treated with hGH did not make enough of their own growth hormone. Some of them lacked growth hormone because they had birth defects, tumors or other diseases that cause the pituitary gland to malfunction or shut down. People with those problems frequently lack other key hormones made by the pituitary gland, such as ACTH, which directs the adrenal gland to make cortisol, a hormone necessary for life. Having too little cortisol can be fatal if not properly treated.

TREATMENT WITH HGH DOES NOT CAUSE ADRENAL CRISIS, but because a number of people lacking growth hormone also lack ACTH, adrenal crisis has occurred in some people who were treated with hGH. In earlier updates we have talked about how adrenal crisis can be prevented, but people continue to die from adrenal crisis, which is brought on by lack of cortisol. These deaths can be prevented. Please talk to your doctor about whether you are at risk for adrenal crisis.

  • Why should people treated with hGH know about adrenal crisis? Among the people who received hGH, those who had birth defects, tumors, and other diseases affecting the brain lacked hGH and often, other hormones made by the pituitary gland. A shortage of the hormones that regulate the adrenal glands can cause many health problems. It can also lead to death from adrenal crisis. This tragedy can be prevented.
  • What are adrenal hormones? The pituitary gland makes many hormones, including growth hormone and ACTH, a hormone which signals the adrenal glands to make cortisol, a hormone needed for life. If the adrenal gland doesn’t make enough cortisol, replacement medications must be taken. The most common medicines used for cortisol replacement are:
    • Hydrocortisone
    • Prednisone
    • Dexamethasone
  • What is adrenal crisis? Adrenal hormones are needed for life. The system that pumps blood through the body cannot work during times of physical stress, such as illness or injury, if there is a severe lack of cortisol (or its replacement). People who lack cortisol must take their cortisol replacement medication on a regular basis, and when they are sick or injured, they must take extra cortisol replacement to prevent adrenal crisis. When there is not enough cortisol, adrenal crisis can occur and may rapidly lead to death.
  • What are the symptoms of lack of adrenal hormones? If you don’t have enough cortisol or its replacement, you may have some of these problems:
    • feeling weak
    • feeling tired all the time
    • feeling sick to your stomach
    • vomiting
    • no appetite
    • weight loss

When someone with adrenal gland problems has weakness, nausea, or vomiting, that person needs immediate emergency treatment to prevent adrenal crisis and possible death.

• Why are adrenal hormones so important? Cortisol (or its replacement) helps the body respond to stress from infection, injury, or surgery. The normal adrenal gland responds to serious illness by making up to 10 times more cortisol than it usually makes. It automatically makes as much as the body needs. If you are taking a cortisol replacement drug because your body cannot make these hormones, you must increase the cortisol replacement drugs during times of illness, injury, or surgery. Some people make enough cortisol for times when they feel well, but not enough to meet greater needs when they are ill or injured. Those people might not need cortisol replacement every day but may need to take cortisol replacement medication when their body is under stress. Adrenal crisis is extremely serious and can cause death if not treated promptly. Discuss this problem with your doctor to help decide whether you need more medication or other treatment to protect your health.

• How is adrenal crisis treated? People with adrenal crisis need immediate treatment. ANY DELAY CAN CAUSE DEATH. When people with adrenal crisis are vomiting or unconscious and cannot take medicine, the hormones can be given as an injection. Getting an injection of adrenal hormones can save your life if you are in adrenal crisis. If you lack the ability to make cortisol naturally, you should carry a medical ID card and wear a Medic-Alert bracelet to tell emergency workers that you lack adrenal hormones and need treatment. This precaution can save your life if you are sick or injured.

• How can I prevent adrenal crisis?

• If you are always tired, feel weak, and have lost weight, ask your doctor if you might have a shortage of adrenal hormones.

• If you take hydrocortisone, prednisone, or dexamethasone, learn how to increase the dose when you become ill.

• If you are very ill, especially if you are vomiting and cannot take pills, seek emergency medical care immediately. Make sure you have a hydrocortisone injection with you at all times, and make sure that you and those around you (in case you’re not conscious) know how and when to administer the injection.

• Carry a medical ID card and wear a bracelet telling emergency workers that you have adrenal insufficiency and need cortisol. This way, they can treat you right away if you are injured.

Remember: SOME PEOPLE WHO LACKED GROWTH HORMONE MAY ALSO LACK CORTISOL, A HORMONE NECESSARY FOR LIFE. LACK OF CORTISOL CAN CAUSE ADRENAL CRISIS, A PREVENTABLE CONDITION THAT CAN CAUSE DEATH IF TREATED IMPROPERLY .

Deaths from adrenal crisis can be prevented if patients and their families recognize the condition and are careful to treat it right away.

Adrenal crisis is a medical emergency. Know the symptoms and how to adjust your medication when you are ill. TAKING THESE PRECAUTIONS CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE.

 

 


DebMV suggested that you should have a Medic Alert bracelet from medicalert.org

Toll free number in the USA is: by phone 7 days a week, 24 hours a day: 888-633-4298
209-668-3333 from outside the U.S.


Lorrie got this important info for us.

Alternative names:

adrenal crisis; Addisonian crisis; acute adrenal insufficiency

Definition:

An abrupt, life-threatening state caused by insufficient cortisol, a hormone produced and released by the adrenal gland.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

The two adrenal glands are located on top of the kidneys. They consist of the outer portion, called the cortex, and the inner portion, called the medulla. The cortex produces three types of hormones, which are called corticosteroids. The androgens and estrogens affect sexual development and reproduction. The glucocorticoids maintain glucose regulation, suppress the immune response, and provide for the response to stress (cortisol). The mineralocorticoids regulate sodium and potassium balance. These hormones are essential for life.

Acute adrenal crisis is an emergency caused by decreased cortisol. The crisis may occur in a person with Addison’s disease, or as the first sign of adrenal insufficiency. More uncommonly, it may be caused by a pituitary gland disorder. It may also be caused by sudden withdrawal of corticosteroids, removal or injury of the adrenal glands, or destruction of the pituitary gland. Risk factors are stress, trauma, surgery, or infection in a person with Addison’s disease, or injury or trauma to the adrenal glands or the pituitary gland. The incidence is 4 out of 100,000 people.

Prevention:

People who have Addison’s disease should be taught to recognize signs of potential stress that may precipitate an acute adrenal crisis (cause it to occur suddenly and unexpectedly). Most people with Addison’s disease are taught to give themselves an emergency injection of hydrocortisone in times of stress. It is important for the individual with Addison’s disease to always carry a medical identification card that states the type of medication and the proper dose needed in case of an emergency. Never omit medication. If unable to retain medication due to vomiting, notify the health care provider.

Symptoms:

  • headache
  • profound weakness
  • fatigue
  • slow, sluggish, lethargic movement
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • low blood pressure
  • dehydration
  • high fever
  • chills shaking
  • confusion or coma
  • darkening of the skin
  • rapid heart rate
  • joint pain
  • abdominal pain
  • unintentional weight loss
  • rapid respiratory rate
  • unusual and excessive sweating on face and/or palms
  • skin rash or lesion may be present
  • flank pain
  • appetite, loss

Signs and tests:

  • An ACTH (cortrosyn) stimulation test shows low cortisol.
  • The cortisol level is low.
  • The fasting blood sugar may be low.
  • The serum potassium is elevated.
  • The serum sodium is decreased.
  • This disease may also alter the results of the following tests:
    • sodium, urine
    • 17-hydroxycorticosteroids

Treatment:

In adrenal crisis, an intravenous or intramuscular injection of hydrocortisone (an injectable corticosteroid) must be given immediately. Supportive treatment of low blood pressure is usually necessary. Hospitalization is required for adequate treatment and monitoring. Low blood pressure may be treated with intravenous fluids. If infection is the cause of the crisis, antibiotic therapy is indicated.

Expectations (prognosis):

Death may occur due to overwhelming shock if early treatment is not provided.

Complications:

  • shock
  • coma
  • seizures

For more personal experiences, see the message boards


A Personal Experience

Shauna Wrote…What adrenal crisis feels like

As with most mornings, this one began with nausea. I’m used to it, so didn’t think much about it. I made it to the bathroom and was feeling really awful. Decided to just go to the toilet because I had that impending feeling.

Next thing I knew I was waking up, but it wasn’t like a normal awakening. I remember being in a tunnel and then thinking, “Well, this isn’t where I normally sleep.” Then I realized of course it wasn’t where I normally slept! Normally I sleep in a bed, not wedged between a wall and the toilet. (Not that I was that coherent).

I was completely disoriented as to time, place, etc. I had one big yell in me and yelled “HELP”. My four year old brought me the phone and my son got me a towel. I called 911 (thank God I had a 911 sticker on the phone because I really couldn’t remember the number). I kept telling the dispatcher I was in adrenal crisis. Of course, that meant nothing to him. I had my son get my shot but somewhere I knew that I wasn’t together enough to give myself the shot. So I puked a few more times and told my son to take my daughter upstairs so she wasn’t scared when the ambulance came.

I decided to rest on the floor of the bathroom. I had, at first, tried to go to the couch but I was much, much too weak. So my son directed the medics into the bathroom. They eventually carried me to the couch. I kept telling them about my shot, but couldn’t remember where I had my letter from Dr. Cook. They thought I was an overdose or a psych case (they told me later). They had all my pills lined up and were asking when I took this or that one last. I finally told them to look at the friggin date on the bottle and see that they were all 3/4 full. (I was agitated, too)

They put the heart monitor on me and inserted an IV and took me to the hospital. I puked one more time in the ambulance and when we arrived (though my tummy was empty). My brother and sister-in-law where there (hospital) when I arrived and my mom had arrived at my house to take care of the kids as we were leaving. Then she met us up there.

Before we arrived at the hospital, my husband had faxed a copy of Dr. Cook’s letter on how to treat me over (Brian was at work when this happened). So they came in and inserted another fluid bag. Then about ten minutes later (after my brother told the doctor, “I fully expect that my sister will have her shot withing the next ten minutes” – patient advocates are a good thing because I could’ve cared less at that point) I had my 100 mg shot of solu-medrol. I was lucky because my doctor in the ER knew about adrenal crisis.

Then I had another bag and repeated tests of my bp and heartrate. It wasn’t pretty – every time my bp was low, generally around 80/50, sometimes lower and my heart rate was 120+. They decided to admit me, but I fought and fought. Once I got a shot of Zofran (anti-nausea, best in the world) and my cortisone and some fluid, I was feeling decent. I look and feel like I’ve been through a war, but I’m alive.

As to why this happened, we’re not entirely sure at this point. I have one urine test that they’re culturing or something. I might also have shingles, but again – that’ll show up in due time (a day or two, if I have it). Or, as Dr. Cook said when I talked to him, sometimes we just don’t know. I was doing so well on my meds, back up to 27.5 and feeling good. Now I’m on 40 for the next day, and 30 for a week. Frustrating.

Adrenal crisis is awful. It’s terrifying. And what makes me want to cry as I write this (who am I kidding, I am crying) is that I couldn’t have cared less if I lived or died. I was not in my right mind, I felt so horrid. All the surgeries combined, today was the worst day I’ve ever had. And it was a huge wake-up call. I need to have a better medic-alert bracelet because they had no idea what “Stress dose steroids” were. I need to have a list of what to do in crisis on my fridge, in my purse and with every family member. Same with the letter from my endo on how to treat me. Because when I’m in crisis, I don’t know any better. I need to have things that speak for me. Thank God for family that knows, and for good doctors.

Anyway, I didn’t post this to scare anyone but Adrenal Crisis is not something to take lightly. When I felt myself hurting the night before (back pain, possibly shingles though I doubt it) I should’ve just taken an extra 5 mgs. Would’ve been a heck of a lot easier than what happened today.

A few funny parts of the day: My daughter had to dress herself and my mom was in a hurry to get her to daycare and come see me. So my daughter spent the day at daycare in tights, too small shorts and a turtleneck (none of which came close to matching). Oh, and black patent leather shoes.

Also, the medics asked what I weighed. Out of habit, I said 222 (my highest Cushing’s weight). They ALL did a double take and said no way. One guessed 140 – bless his heart. I never did get myself weighed so I don’t even know.

Oh, and if any of you called at about 8 am and spoke with a medic, call me back. lol I had a blocked call at 8am, and I vaguely remember the medic talking to someone but I wasn’t with it enough to ask who called. lol

Something I don’t say enough: I love and value you all.

 

More personal experiences.


Sue sent this along:

Early Crisis Intervention

 

The following is from the June 2002 issue of Addison News. Joan Hoffman, editor/publisher, kindly sent this issue to me and I wanted to share this with you.

This is a flow chart to show the pathway of events in a crisis. It is very important to intervene as early as possible. Use your injectable and head for the hospital! The rate at which these events take varies with individuals and circumstances. The chart is a variation of one found in a nursing encyclopedia.

 

 

👍 Research Opportunity! All of Us

I just signed up for this because it may be helpful for researchers at the NIH and elsewhere to learn more about Cushing’s, cancer, whatever else they can learn from my history.
Over 35 years ago, I agreed to be a part of a study at NIH so they could learn more about Cushing’s.  I consider this to be a larger, easier part of what I did back then.

From my bio: https://cushingsbios.com/2018/10/28/maryo-pituitary-bio/

As luck would have it, NIH (National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland) was doing a clinical trial of Cushing’s. I live in the same area as NIH so it was not too inconvenient but very scary at first to think of being tested there. At that time I only had a choice of NIH, Mayo Clinic and a place in Quebec to do this then-rare pituitary surgery called a Transsphenoidal Resection. I chose NIH – closest and free. After I was interviewed by the Doctors there, I got a letter that I had been accepted into the clinical trial. The first time I was there was for 6 weeks as an inpatient. More of the same tests.

There were about 12 of us there and it was nice not to be alone with this mystery disease. Many of these Cushies (mostly women) were getting bald, couldn’t walk, having strokes, had diabetes. One was blind, one had a heart attack while I was there. Towards the end of my testing period, I was looking forward to the surgery just to get this whole mess over with. While I was at NIH, I was gaining about a pound a day!

The MRI still showed nothing, so they did a Petrosal Sinus Sampling Test. That scared me more than the prospect of surgery. (This test carries the risk of stroke and uncontrollable bleeding from the incision points.) Catheters were fed from my groin area to my pituitary gland and dye was injected. I could watch the whole procedure on monitors. I could not move during this test or for several hours afterwards to prevent uncontrollable bleeding from a major artery. The test did show where the tumor probably was located. Also done were more sophisticated dexamethasone suppression tests where drugs were administered by IV and blood was drawn every hour (they put a heplock in my arm so they don’t have to keep sticking me). I got to go home for a weekend and then went back for the surgery – the Transsphenoidal Resection. I fully expected to die during surgery (and didn’t care if I did) so I signed my will and wrote last letters to those I wanted to say goodbye to. During the time I was home just before surgery, a college classmate of mine (I didn’t know her) did die at NIH of a Cushing’s-related problem. I’m so glad I didn’t find out until a couple months later!

November 3, 1987, the surgeon, Dr. Ed Oldfield, cut the gum above my front teeth under my upper lip so there is no scar. He used tiny tools and microscopes. My tumor was removed successfully. In some cases (not mine) the surgeon uses a plug of fat from the abdomen to help seal the cut. Afterwards, I was in intensive care overnight and went to a neurology ward for a few days until I could walk without being dizzy. I had some major headaches for a day or two but they gave me drugs (morphine) for those. Also, I had cotton plugs in my nostrils. It was a big day when they came out. I had diabetes insipidus (DI) for a little while, but that went away by itself – thank goodness!

I had to use a foam product called “Toothies” to brush my teeth without hitting the incision. Before they let me go home, I had to learn to give myself an injection in my thigh. They sent me home with a supply of injectable cortisone in case my level ever fell too low (it didn’t). I was weaned gradually off cortisone pills (scary). I now take no medications. I had to get a Medic Alert bracelet. I will always need to tell medical staff when I have any kind of procedure – the effects of my excess cortisone will remain forever.

I went back to the NIH for several follow-up visits of a week each where they did all the blood and urine testing again. After a few years NIH set me free. Now I go to my “outside” endocrinologist every year for the dexamethasone suppression test, 24-hour urine and regular blood testing.

Health discoveries come from research. Research starts with you.

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😱 Cushing’s Syndrome: A Tale of Frequent Misdiagnosis

Jessica Rotham, National Center for Health Research

What is it?

Cushing’s syndrome is a condition you probably have never heard of, but for those who have it, the symptoms can be quite scary.  Worse still, getting it diagnosed can take a while.  Cushing’s syndrome occurs when the tissues of the body are exposed to high levels of cortisol for an extended amount of time. Cortisol is the hormone the body produces to help you in times of stress. It is good to have cortisol at normal levels, but when those levels get too high it causes health problems.  Although cortisol is related to stress, there is no evidence that Cushing’s syndrome is directly or indirectly caused by stress.

Cushing’s syndrome is considered rare, but that may be because it is under-reported. As a result, we don’t have good estimates for how many people have it, which is why the estimates for the actual number of cases vary so much–from 5 to 28 million people.[1] The most common age group that Cushing’s affects are those 20 to 50 years old.  It is thought that obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure may increase your risk of developing this syndrome.[2]

What causes Cushing’s Syndrome?

Cushing’s syndrome is caused by high cortisol levels. Cushing’s disease is a specific form of Cushing’s syndrome. People with Cushing’s disease have high levels of cortisol because they have a non-cancerous (benign) tumor in the pituitary gland.  The tumor releases adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH), which causes the adrenal glands to produce excessive cortisol.

Cushing’s syndrome that is not Cushing’s disease can be also caused by high cortisol levels that result from tumors in other parts of the body.  One of the causes is “ectopic ACTH syndrome.” This means that the hormone-releasing tumor is growing in an abnormal place, such as the lungs or elsewhere.  The tumors can be benign, but most frequently they are cancerous. Other causes of Cushing’s syndrome are benign tumors on the adrenal gland (adrenal adenomas) and less commonly, cancerous adrenal tumors (adrenocortical carcinomas). Both secrete cortisol, causing cortisol levels to get too high.

In some cases, a person can develop Cushing’s syndrome from taking steroid medications, such as prednisone. These drugs, known as corticosteroids, mimic the cortisol produced by the body. People who have Cushing’s syndrome from steroid medications do not develop a tumor.[3]

What are the signs and symptoms of Cushing’s Syndrome?

The appearance of people with Cushing’s syndrome starts to change as cortisol levels build up. Regardless of what kind of tumor they have or where the tumor is located, people tend to put on weight in the upper body and abdomen, with their arms and legs remaining thin; their face grows rounder (“moon face”); they develop fat around the neck; and purple or pink stretch marks appear on the abdomen, thighs, buttocks or arms. Individuals with the syndrome usually experience one or more of the following symptoms: fatigue, muscle weakness, high glucose levels, anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure. Women are more likely than men to develop Cushing’s syndrome, and when they do they may have excess hair growth, irregular or absent periods, and decreased fertility.[4]

Why is Cushing’s Syndrome so frequently misdiagnosed?

These symptoms seem distinctive, yet it is often difficult for those with Cushing’s syndrome to get an accurate diagnosis.  Why?  While Cushing’s is relatively rare, the signs and symptoms are common to many other diseases. For instance, females with excess hair growth, irregular or absent periods, decreased fertility, and high glucose levels could have polycystic ovarian syndrome, a disease that affects many more women than Cushing’s.   Also, people with metabolism problems (metabolic syndrome), who are at higher than average risk for diabetes and heart disease, also tend to have abdominal fat, high glucose levels and high blood pressure.[5]

Problems in testing for Cushing’s

When Cushing’s syndrome is suspected, a test is given to measure cortisol in the urine. This test measures the amount of free or unbound cortisol filtered by the kidneys and then released over a 24 hour period through the urine. Since the amount of urinary free cortisol (UFC) can vary a lot from one test to another—even in people who don’t have Cushing’s—experts recommend that the test be repeated 3 times. A diagnosis of Cushing’s is given when a person’s UFC level is 4 times the upper limit of normal.  One study found this test to be highly accurate, with a sensitivity of 95% (meaning that 95% of people who have the disease will be correctly diagnosed by this test) and a specificity of 98% (meaning that 98% of  people who do not have the disease will have a test score confirming that).[6] However, a more 2010 study estimated the sensitivity as only between 45%-71%, but with 100% specificity.[7]  This means that the test is very accurate at telling people who don’t have Cushing’s that they don’t have it, but not so good at identifying the people who really do have Cushing’s.  The authors that have analyzed these studies advise that patients use the UFC test together with other tests to confirm the diagnosis, but not as the initial screening test.[8]  

Other common tests that may be used to diagnose Cushing’s syndrome are: 1) the midnight plasma cortisol and late-night salivary cortisol measurements, and 2) the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test (LDDST).  The first test measures the amount of cortisol levels in the blood and saliva at night.  For most people, their cortisol levels drop at night, but people with Cushing’s syndrome have cortisol levels that remain high all night. In the LDDST, dexamethasone is given to stop the production of ACTH.  Since ACTH produces cortisol, people who don’t have Cushing’s syndrome will get lower cortisol levels in the blood and urine. If after giving dexamethasone, the person’s cortisol levels remain high, then they are diagnosed with Cushing’s.[9]

Even when these tests, alone or in combination, are used to diagnose Cushing’s, they don’t explain the cause. They also don’t distinguish between Cushing’s syndrome, and something called pseudo-Cushing state.

Pseudo-Cushing state

Some people have an abnormal amount of cortisol that is caused by something unrelated to Cushing’s syndrome such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, depression, pregnancy, and obesity. This is called pseudo-Cushing state.  Their high levels of cortisol and resulting Cushing-like symptoms can be reversed by treating whatever disease is causing the abnormal cortisol levels. In their study, Dr. Giacomo Tirabassi and colleagues recommend using the desmopressin (DDAVP) test to differentiate between pseudo-Cushing state and Cushing’s.  The DDAVP test is especially helpful in people who, after being given dexamethasone to stop cortisol production, continue to have moderate levels of urinary free cortisol (UFC) and midnight serum cortisol.[10]

An additional test that is often used to determine if one has pseudo-Cushing state or Cushing’s syndrome is the dexamethasone-corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) test. Patients are injected with a hormone that causes cortisol to be produced while also being given another hormone to stop cortisol from being produced. This combination of hormones should make the patient have low cortisol levels, and this is what happens in people with pseudo-Cushing state.  People with Cushing’s syndrome, however, will still have high levels of cortisol after being given this combination of hormones.[11]

How can Cushing’s be treated?

Perhaps because Cushing’s is rare or under-diagnosed, few treatments are available. There are several medications that are typically the first line of treatment.  None of the medications can cure  Cushing’s, so they are usually taken until other treatments are given to cure Cushing’s, and only after that if the other treatment fails.

The most common treatment for Cushing’s disease is transsphenoidal surgery, which requires the surgeon to reach the pituitary gland through the nostril or upper lip and remove the tumor.  Radiation may also be used instead of surgery to shrink the tumor.  In patients whose Cushing’s is caused by ectopic ACTH syndrome, all cancerous cells need to be wiped out through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a variety of other methods, depending on the location of the tumor. Surgery is also recommended for adrenal tumors.  If Cushing’s syndrome is being caused by corticosteroid (steroid medications) usage, the treatment is to stop or lower your dosage.[12]

Medications to control Cushing’s (before treatment or if treatment fails)

According to a 2014 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, almost no new treatment options have been introduced in the last decade. Researchers and doctors have focused most of their efforts on improving existing treatments aimed at curing Cushing’s. Unfortunately, medications used to control Cushing’s prior to treatment and when treatment fails are not very effective.

Many of the medications approved by the FDA for Cushing’s syndrome and Cushing’s disease, such as pasireotide, metyrapone, and mitotane, have not been extensively studied.  The research presented to the FDA by the makers of these three drugs did not even make clear what an optimal dose was.[13] In another 2014 study, published in Clinical Epidemiology, researchers examined these three same drugs, along with ten others, and found that only pasireotide had moderate evidence to support its approval.  The other drugs, many of which are not FDA approved for Cushing’s patients, had little or no available evidence to show that they work.[14] They can be sold, however, because the FDA has approved them for other diseases.  Unfortunately, that means that neither the FDA nor anyone else has proven the drugs are safe or effective for Cushing patients.

Pasireotide, the one medication with moderate evidence supporting its approval, caused hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) in 75% of patients who participated in the main study for the medication’s approval for Cushing’s.  As a result of developing hyperglycemia, almost half (46%) of the participants had to go on blood-sugar lowering medications. The drug was approved by the FDA for Cushing’s anyway because of the lack of other effective treatments.

Other treatments used for Cushing’s have other risks.  Ketoconazole, believed to be the most commonly prescribed medications for Cushing’s syndrome, has a black box warning due to its effect on the liver that can lead to a liver transplant or death.  Other side effects include: headache, nausea, irregular periods, impotence, and decreased libido. Metyrapone can cause acne, hirsutism, and hypertension. Mitotane can cause neurological and gastrointestinal symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and diarrhea and can cause an abortion in pregnant women.[15]

So, what should you do if you suspect you have Cushing’s Syndrome?

Cushing’s syndrome is a serious disease that needs to be treated, but there are treatment options available for you if you are diagnosed with the disease. If the symptoms in this article sound familiar, it’s time for you to go see your doctor. Make an appointment with your general practitioner, and explain your symptoms to him or her.  You will most likely be referred to an endocrinologist, who will be able to better understand your symptoms and recommend an appropriate course of action.

All articles are reviewed and approved by Dr. Diana Zuckerman and other senior staff.

  1. Nieman, Lynette K. Epidemiology and clinical manifestations of Cushing’s syndrome, 2014. UpToDate: Wolters Kluwer Health
  2. Cushing’s syndrome/ disease, 2013. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. http://www.aans.org/Patient Information/Conditions and Treatments/Cushings Disease.aspx
  3. Cushing’s syndrome, 2012. National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases: National Institutes of Health. http://endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/cushings/cushings.aspx#treatment
  4. Cushing’s syndrome, 2012. National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases: National Institutes of Health. http://endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/cushings/cushings.aspx#treatment
  5. Cushing’s syndrome, 2012. National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases: National Institutes of Health. http://endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/cushings/cushings.aspx#treatment
  6. Newell-Price, John, Peter Trainer, Michael Besser and Ashley Grossman. The diagnosis and differential diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome and pseudo-Cushing’s states, 1998. Endocrine Reviews: Endocrine Society
  7. Carroll, TB and JW Findling. The diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome, 2010. Reviews in Endocrinology and Metabolic Disorders: Springer
  8. Ifedayo, AO and AF Olufemi. Urinary free cortisol in the diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome: How useful?, 2013. Nigerian Journal of Clinical Practice: Medknow.
  9. Cushing’s syndrome, 2012. National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases: National Institutes of Health. http://endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/cushings/cushings.aspx#treatment
  10. Tirabassi, Giacomo, Emanuela Faloia, Roberta Papa, Giorgio Furlani, Marco Boscaro, and Giorgio Arnaldi. Use of the Desmopressin test in the differential diagnosis of pseudo-Cushing state from Cushing’s disease, 2013. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism: Endocrine Society.
  11. Cushing’s syndrome, 2012. National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases: National Institutes of Health. http://endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/cushings/cushings.aspx#treatment
  12. Cushing’s syndrome, 2012. National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases: National Institutes of Health. http://endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/cushings/cushings.aspx#treatment
  13. Tirabassi, Giacomo, Emanuela Faloia, Roberta Papa, Giorgio Furlani, Marco Boscaro, and Giorgio Arnaldi. Use of the Desmopressin test in the differential diagnosis of pseudo-Cushing state from Cushing’s disease, 2013. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism: Endocrine Society.
  14. Galdelha, Monica R. and Leonardo Vieira Neto. Efficacy of medical treatment in Cushing’s disease: a systematic review, 2014. Clinical Endocrinology: John Wiley & Sons.
  15. Adler, Gail. Cushing syndrome treatment & management, 2014. MedScape: WebMD.

Adapted from https://www.center4research.org/cushings-syndrome-frequent-misdiagnosis/?fbclid=IwAR1lfJPilmaTl1BhR-Esi69eU7Xjm3RlO4f8lmFBIviCtHHXmVoyRxOlJqE

ℹ️ Basics: What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is a hormone which produced by the adrenal gland (cortex) to control blood sugar. The production of cortisol is triggered by the pituitary hormone ACTH. Cortisol is a glucocorticoid which stimulates an increase in blood glucose. Cortisol will also stimulate the release of amino acids from muscle tissue and fatty acids from adipose tissue. The amino acids are then converted in the liver to glucose (for use by the brain). The fatty acids can be used by skeletal muscles for energy (rather than glucose) thereby freeing up glucose for selective utilization by the brain. Cortisol levels are often measured to evaluate the function of the pituitary or adrenal glands. Some of the cortisol is metabolized by the liver to produce 17 hydroxycorticosteroids, which is then excreted in the urine.

The primary stress hormone. Cortisol is the major natural GLUCOCORTICOID (GC) in humans.

Synthetic cortisol, also known as hydrocortisone, is used as a drug mainly to fight allergies and inflammation.

Physiology
The amount of cortisol present in the serum undergoes diurnal variation, with the highest levels present in the early morning, and lower levels in the evening, several hours after the onset of sleep. Information about the light/dark cycle is transmitted from the retina to the paired suprachiasmatic nuclei in the hypothalamus. Changed patterns of the serum cortisol levels have been observed in connection with abnormal ACTH levels, clinical depression, psychological stress, and such physiological stressors as hypoglycemia, illness, fever, trauma, surgery, fear, pain, physical exertion or extremes of temperature. There is also significant individual variation, although a given person tends to have consistent rhythms.

Cortisol also inhibits the secretion of corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH), resulting in feedback inhibition of ACTH secretion. Some researchers believe that this normal feedback system may break down when animals are exposed to chronic stress.

In normal release, cortisol has widespread actions which help restore homeostasis after stress. It acts as a physiological antagonist to insulin by promoting gluconeogenesis, breakdown of lipids, and proteins, and mobilization of extrahepatic amino acids and ketone bodies. This leads to increased blood glucose concentrations, resulting in increased glycogen formation in the liver (Freeman, 2002). It also increases blood pressure. In addition, immune and inflammatory cells have their responses to stress attenuated by cortisol, and the hormone thus lowers the activity of the immune system. Bone formation is also lowered by cortisol.

These normal endogenous functions are the basis for the physiological consequences of chronic stress – prolonged cortisol secretion causes muscle wastage, hyperglycemia, and suppresses immune / inflammatory responses. The same consequences arise from long-term use of glucocorticoid drugs.

Also, long-term exposure to cortisol results in damage to cells in the hippocampus. This damage results in impaired learning. However, short-term exposure of cortisol helps to create memories; this is the proposed mechanism for storage of flash bulb memories.

Pharmacology
As an oral or injectable drug, cortisol is also known as hydrocortisone. It is used as an immunosuppressive drug, given by injection in the treatment of severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis and angioedema, in place of prednisolone in patients who need steroid treatment but cannot take oral medication, and peri-operatively in patients on long-term steroid treatment to prevent an Addisonian crisis.

It is given by topical application for its anti-inflammatory effect in allergic rashes, eczema and certain other inflammatory conditions. It may also be injected into inflamed joints resulting from diseases such as gout.

Compared to prednisolone, hydrocortisone is about 1/4th the strength. Dexamethasone is about 40 times stronger than hydrocortisone. For side effects, see corticosteroid and prednisolone.

A certain amount of cortisol is necessary for life. Without cortisol even a small amount of stress will kill you. Addison’s disease is a disease which causes low cortisol levels, and which is treated by cortisol replacement therapy.

Cortisol…

  • helps maintain blood pressure and cardiovascular function;
  • helps slow the immune system’s inflammatory response;
  • helps balance the effects of insulin in breaking down sugar for energy; and
  • helps regulate the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

 

ℹ️ Basics: Testing: Inferior Petrosal Sinus Sampling

Personal Stories:

From MaryO’s bio:  (At the NIH in October 1987) The MRI still showed nothing, so they did a Petrosal Sinus Sampling Test. That scared me more than the prospect of surgery. (This test carries the risk of stroke and uncontrollable bleeding from the incision points.)

Catheters were fed from my groin area to my pituitary gland and dye was injected. I could watch the whole procedure on monitors. I could not move during this test or for several hours afterwards to prevent uncontrollable bleeding from a major artery.

The test did show where the tumor probably was located.

Also done were more sophisticated dexamethasone suppression tests where drugs were administered by IV and blood was drawn every hour (they put a heplock in my arm so they don’t have to keep sticking me). I got to go home for a weekend and then went back for the surgery…

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From Karen’s Story: https://cushingsbios.com/2016/11/18/doc-karen-pituitary-and-bla-bio/

At that time, there was evidence of a pit tumor but it wasn’t showing up on an MRI. So, I had my IPSS scheduled. An IPSS stands for Inferior Petrosal Sinus Sampling. It is done because 60 % of Cushing’s based pituitary tumors are so small that they do not show up on an MRI. Non Cushing’s experts do not know this so they often blow patients off, even after the labs show a high level of ACTH in the brain through blood work. An overproduction of the hormone ACTH from the pituitary communicates to the adrenal glands to overproduce cortisol. Well, the IPSS procedure is where they put catheters up through your groin through your body up into your head to draw samples to basically see which side of your pituitary the extra hormone is coming from, thus indicating where the tumor is. U of C is the only place in IL that does it.

I was scheduled to get an IPSS at U of C on June 28th, 2011 to locate the tumor. Two days after the IPSS, I began having spontaneous blackouts and ended up in the hospital for 6 days. The docs out here had no clue what was happening and I was having between 4-7 blackouts a day! My life was in danger and they were not helping me! We don’t know why, but the IPSS triggered something! But, no one wanted to be accountable so they told me the passing out, which I was not doing before, was all in my head being triggered by psychological issues. They did run many tests. But, they were all the wrong tests. I say all the time; it’s like going into Subway and ordering a turkey sandwich and giving them money and getting a tuna sandwich. You would be mad! What if they told you, “We gave you a sandwich!” Even if they were to give you a dozen sandwiches; if it wasn’t turkey, it wouldn’t be the right one. This is how I feel about these tests that they ran and said were all “normal”. The doctors kept telling us that they ran all of these tests so they could cover themselves. Yet, they were not looking at the right things, even though, I (the patient) kept telling them that this was an endocrine issue and had something to do with my tumor! Well, guess how good God is?!!!!

Fast forward, I ended up in the hospital with these blackouts after my IPSS. The doctors, including MY local endocrinologist told me there was no medical evidence for my blackouts. In fact, he told the entire treatment team that he even doubted if I even had a tumor! However, this is the same man who referred me for the IPSS in the first place! I was literally dying and no one was helping me! We reached out to Dr. Ludlam in Seattle and told him of the situation. He told me he knew exactly what was going on. For some reason, there was a change in my brain tumor activity that happened after my IPSS. No one, to this day, has been able to answer the question as to whether the IPSS caused the change in tumor activity. The tumor, for some reason, began shutting itself on and off. When it would shut off, my cortisol would drop and would put me in a state of adrenal insufficiency, causing these blackouts!

Dr. Ludlam said as soon as we were discharged, we needed to fly out to Seattle so that he could help me! The hospital discharged me in worse condition then when I came in. I had a blackout an hour after discharge! But get this…The DAY the hospital sent me home saying that I did not have a pit tumor, my IPSS results were waiting for me! EVIDENCE OF TUMOR ON THE LEFT SIDE OF MY PITUITARY GLAND!!!

_____

From Kirsty: https://cushingsbios.com/2013/06/25/kirsty-kirstymnz-ectopic-adrenal-bio/

The hardest of all these was what they call a petrusal vein sampling (this is where they insert a catheter into the groin through the femoral vein which goes up to the base of the brain to look at the pituitary, they do this while awake – I could actually feel them moving around in my head.)

This test concluded that my Cushing’s was being caused by a tumor somewhere other than the pituitary (this only happens in 1% of cases, and there is about a 1 in 10 million chance of getting it). The question now was “where is the tumor?”

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Find other bios with which mention this test at https://cushingsbios.com/tag/ipss/

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This topic on these message boards:  https://cushings.invisionzone.com/forum/54-css-ct-ipss-ivp-mri-np-59-scan-octreoscan-pss-sonogram-ultrasound/

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Thoughts from Dr. James Findling: https://cushieblogger.com/2019/03/24/cushings-syndrome-expert-a-standout-in-clinical-practice/

Another defining moment in my career from a research perspective was when I was a fellow, I had to do a project. We were seeing a lot of patients with Cushing’s — of course, that’s why I went there — and in those days we had no good imaging. There were no CT scans, no MRI, there was no way to image the pituitary gland to find out whether there was a tumor. By the late ’70s it became obvious that some patients with Cushing’s syndrome didn’t have pituitary tumors. They had tumors in their lungs and other places, and there was no good way of sorting these patients from the pituitary patients.

My mentor at UCSF, Blake Tyrrell, MD, had the idea of sampling from the jugular vein to see if there was a gradient across the pituitary. I took the project up because I didn’t think this is going to be helpful due to there being too much venous admixture in the jugular vein from other sources of cerebral venous drainage. We went into the radiology suite to do the first patient. As I was sampling blood from the peripheral veins, the interventional radiologist, David Norman, MD, says, “Would you like to sample the inferior petrosal sinus?” I said, “Why not? It sounds like a good idea to me.” That turned out to be helpful. We then studied several patients, and it eventually went to publication. Now everybody acknowledges it is necessary, maybe not in all patients with Cushing’s, but in many patients with Cushing’s to separate pituitary from nonpituitary Cushing’s syndrome.

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Official information

Patient information from Canterbury Health Limited Endocrine Services

INFERIOR PETROSAL SINUS SAMPLING WITH CRH STIMULATION

Introduction

You have been diagnosed with Cushing’s syndrome which results from excessive production of the hormone cortisol, made by the adrenal glands. In your case, the adrenal glands are being driven by excessive amounts of another hormone called ACTH. This test is to determine where that ACTH is coming from. Constant high levels of ACTH are usually caused by a tumor. Approximately 80% of cases are tumors of the pituitary gland while the remainder may occur in the lung, pancreas and other sites (known as “ectopic” sites).

This test relies on the fact that if the source of your high ACTH is the pituitary gland blood levels taken from very near the gland will be higher than the blood level in an arm vein. Pituitary gland tumors are often tiny and can’t be seen even with the most modern scanners. This test will help your endocrinologist to know with almost 100% certainty whether the pituitary gland is the source or if a search is needed elsewhere (for example in the lungs or abdomen). This guides treatment, for example the recommendation for Pituitary surgery.

Procedure

You are allowed water only from midnight the night before (nothing else to eat or drink). You will be given a light sedative, but will be awake during the procedure. You will be taken to the Radiology Department where the procedure will take place. The radiologist will place some local anesthetic into the groin on each side over the main vein that drains blood from each leg. Then a fine bore catheter will be passed up the vein, past the heart and into the major vein in the neck (the jugular vein). From there it is passed into a smaller vein that drains blood directly from the pituitary gland, known as the inferior petrosal sinus. The procedure is repeated for the other side. X-ray screening guides the radiologist to know where the catheters are positioned. A small butterfly needle is inserted into an arm vein.

Once the catheters are in place, blood samples will be taken from the right and left petrosal sinus, and an arm vein at exactly the same time. After two baseline samples, a hormone called CRH is injected into the arm vein. This increases ACTH when a pituitary gland tumor is present, but has no effect on ectopic ACTH production. Further blood samples are taken for another 10 to 15 minutes, then the catheters are withdrawn. Pressure is applied to the groins to minimize bruising. Often sampling is continued from the arm vein only, for a total of 90 minutes. You will have to remain lying on your back for at least 2 hours afterwards.

Risks

This procedure is very safe when performed by an experienced radiologist. Rarely, there have been reports of people having a stroke at the time of this procedure but this was related to a catheter of faulty design which is now no longer used. Bruising, which is common in Cushing’s syndrome, may occur after the catheters are pulled out. Some people notice flushing of the face after the CRH and rarely it can result in a fall in blood pressure.

From: http://www.pituitarycenter.com/html/article1.html

INFERIOR PETROSAL SINUS SAMPLING

Patients who are suspected of having a pituitary tumor resulting in Cushing’s syndrome may be referred for inferior petrosal sinus sampling if findings on MRI examination of the pituitary did not reveal a tumor or are inconclusive.

The inferior petrosal sinus sampling procedure is performed in the radiology department. With the patient on the angiography table both groin regions are partially shaved, sterilized, and a local anesthetic is injected into the skin to provide pain relief. A tiny incision is made within the skin and a needle is inserted to puncture the femoral vein which drains blood from the leg. A small catheter is then inserted into the vein and flushed with an intravenous solution. Longer catheters are passed into the shorter catheters and advanced through the large veins traversing the torso into the neck and then into the base of the skull. Thereafter, a microcatheter is advanced through each of these larger guiding catheters and threaded into the inferior petrosal sinuses which lie along the internal aspect of the skull base and drain blood from the pituitary gland. Once these microcatheters have been positioned, contrast dye is injected and X-rays are taken to verify their position in the inferior petrosal sinuses. Next, blood samples are collected from both catheters in the inferior petrosal sinuses and from a peripheral (usually arm) vein. Thereafter, corticotropin-releasing hormone is administered through the peripheral vein. Repeat blood samples are drawn 2, 5, and 10 minutes after the injection. Additional X-rays are taken to confirm that the catheters were not dislodged from their site during the sampling procedure. Thereafter, the catheters are removed and direct pressure is applied to the groin region to decrease the likelihood of bruising. Patients are observed for 4 hours following the procedure to ensure that no bleeding from the femoral vein puncture sites will occur. Normal non-strenuous activity may be resumed 48 hours after the procedure.

Sedatives and pain relievers may be administered during the procedure as necessary. A blood thinner might be used depending on the patient’s anatomy and the clinical suspicion of developing a blood clot. If a blood thinner is used, this may be counteracted with medication at the conclusion of the procedure to ensure that normal blood clotting resumes while removing the catheters. Overall, the inferior petrosal sinus sampling procedure involves minimal discomfort. The risks of the procedure are small. X-rays are used but the radiation doses are minimized. Infection is controlled by using sterile technique. Some patients might have an unexpected allergic reaction to the dye used during the study. A bruise may develop within the groin. Although rare, blood clots have developed in the groin veins following this procedure. Again, steps are taken to minimize the likelihood of each and every one of these complications.

ACTH levels are measured in each of the blood samples obtained during the procedure. The ratios between the petrosal sinus sampling and the peripheral vein samples are compared. The results are used to determine whether ACTH production is due to either a pituitary or a non-pituitary source.

___

From: http://www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/pituitarycenter/html/article1.html

Patients who are suspected of having a pituitary tumor resulting in Cushing’s syndrome may be referred for inferior petrosal sinus sampling if findings on MRI examination of the pituitary did not reveal a tumor or are inconclusive.

The inferior petrosal sinus sampling procedure is performed in the radiology department. With the patient on the angiography table both groin regions are partially shaved, sterilized, and a local anesthetic is injected into the skin to provide pain relief. A tiny incision is made within the skin and a needle is inserted to puncture the femoral vein which drains blood from the leg. A small catheter is then inserted into the vein and flushed with an intravenous solution. Longer catheters are passed into the shorter catheters and advanced through the large veins traversing the torso into the neck and then into the base of the skull. Thereafter, a microcatheter is advanced through each of these larger guiding catheters and threaded into the inferior petrosal sinuses which lie along the internal aspect of the skull base and drain blood from the pituitary gland. Once these microcatheters have been positioned, contrast dye is injected and X-rays are taken to verify their position in the inferior petrosal sinuses. Next, blood samples are collected from both catheters in the inferior petrosal sinuses and from a peripheral (usually arm) vein. Thereafter, corticotropin-releasing hormone is administered through the peripheral vein. Repeat blood samples are drawn 2, 5, and 10 minutes after the injection. Additional X-rays are taken to confirm that the catheters were not dislodged from their site during the sampling procedure. Thereafter, the catheters are removed and direct pressure is applied to the groin region to decrease the likelihood of bruising. Patients are observed for 4 hours following the procedure to ensure that no bleeding from the femoral vein puncture sites will occur. Normal non-strenuous activity may be resumed 48 hours after the procedure.

Sedatives and pain relievers may be administered during the procedure as necessary. A blood thinner might be used depending on the patient’s anatomy and the clinical suspicion of developing a blood clot. If a blood thinner is used, this may be counteracted with medication at the conclusion of the procedure to ensure that normal blood clotting resumes while removing the catheters. Overall, the inferior petrosal sinus sampling procedure involves minimal discomfort. The risks of the procedure are small. X-rays are used but the radiation doses are minimized. Infection is controlled by using sterile technique. Some patients might have an unexpected allergic reaction to the dye used during the study. A bruise may develop within the groin. Although rare, blood clots have developed in the groin veins following this procedure. Again, steps are taken to minimize the likelihood of each and every one of these complications.

ACTH levels are measured in each of the blood samples obtained during the procedure. The ratios between the petrosal sinus sampling and the peripheral vein samples are compared. The results are used to determine whether ACTH production is due to either a pituitary or a non-pituitary source.

___

From https://www.uclahealth.org/radiology/interventional-neuroradiology/inferior-petrosal-sinus-sampling

The IPSS test is done in some patients to identify if there is too much ACTH is causing the excess production of cortisol, and where it is coming from.

How do we do an IPSS procedure?

Typically under general anesthesia, we place small tubes (catheters) into the femoral veins (the main vein draining the legs) at the level of the groin. From there, under X-ray guidance, we navigate those catheters to the main veins which drain the Pituitary gland. These are the inferior petrosal sinuses (right and left). We then draw samples from those veins and the main vein of the abdomen and test those samples for ACTH. We also take timed samples after giving a dose of medication which would normally stimulate the production of ACTH to improve the sensitivity of the test.

When we get the results, the different levels of ACTH may help the endocrinologist determine where the tumor is located that is causing the adrenal gland to produce the excess cortisol. If it is from the Pituitary gland, any difference between the right and left samples may help the surgeon determine the surgical plan to remove the tumor yet preserve the normal Pituitary gland.

Example of testing results:

Time Right IPS Left IPS Inf Vena Cava Cortisol
Baseline 1    09:32 40 pg/ml 17 18 25 mcg/dl
Baseline 2    09:34 45 18 15 24
DDAVP inj     09:38
Post 2min    09:40 72 21 18
Post 5min    09:43 157 20 19
Post 10min  09:48 161 30 25
Post 15min  09:53 162 33 26
Post 30min  10:08 124 32 29 30

This example shows elevation of ACTH in the right inferior petrosal sinus, likely indicating a tumor in the right side of the pituitary gland causing Cushing’s Disease.

Picture of contrast injection of the inferior petrosal sinuses:

Picture of contrast injection of the inferior petrosal sinuses

Tips of the catheters in the inferior petrosal sinuses.

📞Webinar on The 20-minute Mini Back Scope Adrenalectomy (MBSA)

 

Dr. Friedman will host Tobias Carling, MD, PhD, FACS
Surgeon-in-Chief & Founder
Carling Adrenal Center
Hospital for Endocrine Surgery
www.adrenal.com
Who will talk on:
The 20-minute Mini Back Scope Adrenalectomy (MBSA)

The Carling Adrenal Center is the world’s busiest adrenal surgery center, operating on patients from all 50 states and all over the world.

Dr. Carling is the most experienced adrenal surgeon in the United States, and by far the world’s most knowledgeable surgeon-scientist when it comes to adrenal gland function and disease, adrenal tumors and cancer, and all forms of adrenal gland surgery. Dr. Carling has more experience with advanced minimally invasive adrenal and endocrine operations than any surgeon in the United States. A fellow of the American College of Surgeons, Dr. Carling is a significant member of both the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons (AAES) and the International Association of Endocrine Surgeons (IAES).

Dr. Carling spent 17.5 years at Yale University and the Yale University School of Medicine where he served as the Chief of Endocrine Surgery, Associate Professor of Surgery, Program Director of the Yale Endocrine Surgery Fellowship and the Founder & Director of the Yale Endocrine Neoplasia Laboratory, a supreme scientific program focused on the molecular pathogenesis of tumors arising in the adrenal, thyroid and parathyroid glands.

Dr. Carling moved his world-renowned adrenal surgery program to Tampa, Florida in early 2020 to start the Carling Adrenal Center. Here, patients needing adrenal surgery have access to the best practices and best techniques the world has to offer.

Dr. Carling works closely with Dr. Friedman and will be able to perform a Mini Back Scope Adrenalectomy with a referral from Dr. Friedman.
Sunday • November 7• 6 PM PST

Via Zoom Click here to join the meeting or
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Slides will be available before the webinar and recording after the meeting at slides

Your phone/computer will be muted on entry. There will be plenty of time for questions using the chat button.
For more information, email us at mail@goodhormonehealth.com