Management of Cushing syndrome in children and adolescents: experience of a single tertiary centre
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The diagnosis and management of paediatric Cushing syndrome (CS) is highly challenging. This study aims to characterise its presentation, diagnosis, management and outcome by a retrospective case review of 30 patients (14 females) followed at a single tertiary paediatric endocrinology centre over a 30-year period. At presentation, median age was 8.9 years (0.2–15.5) and the commonest manifestations were weight gain (23/30), hirsutism (17/30), acne (15/30) and hypertension (15/30). Growth retardation was present in 11/30. Median body mass index (BMI) was +2.1 standard deviation score (SDS) (−6.5 to +4.6). Urinary free cortisol (UFC) was abnormal in 17/18 (94 %), midnight cortisol in 27/27 (100 %) and low-dose dexamethasone suppression (LDDS) test in 20/20 (100 %). High-dose dexamethasone suppression (HDDS) test was abnormal in 6/6 (100 %) of adrenal tumours, 1/10 (10 %) of Cushing disease (CD) and 1/2 (50 %) of ectopic tumours. Bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling (IPSS) identified five CD cases and one ectopic tumour. All patients underwent surgery and subsequently required cortisol replacement. Final diagnoses were 16 CD, 11 adrenal disease, 2 ectopic ACTH-secreting lesions and 1 case of unidentified aetiology. One year post-diagnosis, median BMI was 0.5 SDS (−2.5 to +3.7), hypertension was present in 4/14 (28 %), and 43 % (12/30) of individuals were off hydrocortisone.
What is Known:
•Cushing syndrome is an extremely rare entity in the paediatric and adolescent age groups, so not many cohort studies have been published in this population.
•Several tests can be employed to firstly diagnose hypercortisolaemia and secondly identify the source of origin of it. The efficacy and safety of these tests in children is still uncertain.
What is New:
•This study includes cases due to the different aetiologies of endogenous hypercortisolaemia (pituitary, adrenal and ectopic hypercortisolaemia) allowing us to compare the differences in presentation, diagnosis, management and long-term outcome between the groups.
•There is a difference in the prevalence of Cushing syndrome symptoms and in the performance of the tests in our cohort compared to previously published studies in the literature.
KeywordsCushing syndrome Cushing disease Pituitary function tests Hormone replacement therapy
Body mass index
Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry
High-dose dexamethasone suppression
Inferior petrosal sinus sampling
Low-dose dexamethasone suppression
Magnetic resonance imaging
Positron emission tomography
Primary pigmented nodular adrenal disease
Standard deviation scores
Urinary free cortisol
M. Güemes, P. Murray and M. Dattani designed the study, collected the patients’ data and wrote the manuscript. The rest of the authors have significantly contributed to this study with patient data and writing up of the manuscript.
Compliance with ethical standards
This study was conducted as part of a quality assessment audit and as such ethical approval was not required.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Funding source and financial disclosure
There is no source of funding or financial assistance to declare.
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