Fatal adrenal crisis due to Addison’s disease arising in the context of autoimmune polyglandular syndrome type 1

  • Kran Suknuntha
  • Qiqi Yu
  • Paul S. Weisman
  • Robert F. CorlissEmail author
Case Report


The autoimmune polyglandular syndromes (APS) are rare immune-mediated endocrinopathies causing destruction of multiple endocrine and non-endocrine organs. Involvement of adrenal glands associated with any type of APS results in Addison’s disease. While patients with Addison’s disease often suffer from symptoms of neuroglycopenia, lethal hypotension and hypoglycemia are uncommon. Here, we report a fatal case of APS type 1 with hypotension and profound hypoglycemia in a 24-year-old man who was found unconsciousness at home and progressively evolved into pulseless electrical activity. Although his condition was initially considered to be possibly due to drug toxicity, subsequent drug screening tests failed to detect alcohol or any other substances. Emergent medical evaluation revealed severe hypotension (51/30 mm/Hg) and profound hypoglycemia (blood glucose of 20–30 mg/dl). Despite vigorous supportive care, the patient died following 3 days of respiratory dependency due to irreversible anoxic brain injury. Postmortem examination revealed severely atrophic adrenal glands with lymphocytic infiltration. Subsequent review of the patient’s medical history and correlation with autopsy findings confirmed the presence of multiple organ involvement, consistent with APS type 1. This case serves as a reminder for forensic pathologists that death from an acute adrenal (Addisonian) crisis, while uncommon, should remain a differential diagnostic consideration. Furthermore, it underscores the fact that Addison’s disease can occur as part of a constellation of autoimmune manifestations within the context of an underlying polyglandular syndrome, such as APS type 1.


Autoimmune polyglandular syndromes APS Hypoglycemia Adrenal insufficiency Addison Arrhythmia 



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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of ScienceMahidol UniversityBangkokThailand
  2. 2.Chakri Naruebodindra Medical Institute, Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi HospitalMahidol UniversitySamut PrakanThailand
  3. 3.Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, School of Medicine and Public HealthUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA

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