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Flashcards in Adrenal Disease Deck (86)
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Where does the adrenal cortex arise from? Medulla?

cells associated with the coelomic epithelium, which are of mesodermal origin.

Medulla- neural crest


Layers of the adult adrenal cortex. The zona fasciculata makes up about 75% of the cortex

Adrenal medulla


What is the adrenal medulla made of?

chromaffin cells, which synthesize and secrete catecholamines, mainly epi.


What are the adrenocortical hyperfunction diseases?

1) Cushing sydrome

2) hyperaldosteronism

3) adrenogenital or virilizing syndromes


What are the main causes of Cushing's syndrome?

the vast majority are the result of administration of exogenous glucocorticoids (iatrogenic). The rest are endogenous, and the 3 most common disorders are:

1) primary hypothalamic-pituitary diseases with hypersecretion of ACTH (aka Cushing disease) 70% of endogenous cases

2) ectopic ACTH secretion

3) primary adrenocortical neoplasms (adenoma or carcinoma)


Is Cushing disease more common in men or women? What is the major cause?

4x higher in women and primarily in young adulthood. In the vast majority of cases, the pituitary gland contains an ACTH-producing microadenoma (and in the remaining pts. the anterior pitutiary contains areas of corticotroph cell hyperplasia without a discrete adenoma)


What do the adrenal glands in pts. with Cushing disease look like?

variable degress of bilateral nodular cortical hyperplasia, secondayr to elevated levels of ACTH (aka ACTH dependent Cushing syndrome)


Secretion of ectopic ACTH by nonpitutiary tumors accounts for about ____% of cases of Cushing syndrome

10. In many cases the resposnible tumor is a small cell carcinoma of the lung

NOTE: In addition to tumors that elaborate ectopic ACTH, an occasional neuroendocrine neoplasm produces ectopic CRH


Primary adrenal neoplasma, such as adrenal adenoma and carcinoma, and rarely, primary cortical hyperplasia, are responsible for about ___% of cases of endogenous Cushing syndrome

15-20%. This form of Cushing syndrome is designated ACTH-independent or adrenal Cushing syndrome


How can adrenal Cushing syndrome be ID'd?

elevated cortisol with low levels of ACTH


What is a Crooke hyaline change?

In this condition, when high levels of glucocorticoids (endogenous or exogenous) cause Cushing syndrome, the normal granular, basophilic cytoplas of the corticotrophs in the anterior pituitary is replaced by homogenous, lightly basophilic material as the result of accumulation of intermeidate keratin filaments in the cytoplasm. 


How do the adrenal respons to Cushing syndrome caused by exogenous glucocorticoids?

suppression of endogenous ACTH results in bilateral corticol atrophy of the zona fasciculata and reticularisdue to a lack of stimulation from ACTH, while the zona glomerulosa remains the same thickness


In cases of endogenous hyperorticolism, the adrenal are either hyperplastic or contain a corticol neoplasm


________ is found in pts with ACTH-dependent Cushing syndrome

Diffuse hyperplasia of both glands and the adrenal cortex is diffusely thickened and variably nodular (although not as pronounced as in cases of ACTH-independent nodular hyperplasia). The yellow color of the cortex derives from the presence of lipid-rich cells 


How does the cortex of an ACTH-independent Cushing's pts (i.e. primary cortical hyperplasia) look?

replaced almost entirely by lipofuscin filled macro- or micronodules


How do adrenal adenomas or carcinomas present morphologically?

Adrenocortical adenomas are yellow tumors surrounded by a thin capsule and can be distinguished from nodular hyperplasia by its solitary, circumscribed nature (below). Carcinomas tend to be large and nonencapsulated. 

NOTE: the functional status of an adrenocrtical adenoma or carcinoma cannot be determined by morphology. 


What is this?

An adrenocortical adenoma. The neoplastic cells are vacuolated because of the presence of intracytoplasmic lipids. There is mild nulcear pleomorphism and mitotic activity and necrosis are not seen


How does Cushing's syndrome present?

Cushing syndrome develops gradually (Unless if its the result of a paraneoplastic syndrome of small cell carcinomas of the lung). Early manifestations include HTN and weight gain and with time more truncal obesity becomes apparent, as well as moon facies, posterior neck fat (buffalo hump), decreased muscle mass and proximal limb weakness, and other symptoms 


What other symptoms are seen in Cushing's syndrome?

hyperglycemia, glucouria, and polydipsia (mimicking diabetes)

bone resorption and osteoporosis

cutaneous striae in the abdominal area

increased risk of infections

hirutism and menstrual abnormalities

mental disturbances, including mood swings, depression, and frank psychosis


Why does Cushing syndrome cause muscle weakness and loss of muscle mass?

Hypercortisolism causes selective atrophy of fast-twitch (type II) myofibers


What causes secondary hyperaldosteronism?

aldosterone is released in response to activation of the renin system. E.g. in response to decreased renal perfusion (arteriolar nephrosclerosis, renal artery stenosis), arterial hypovolemia and edema (congestive heart failure, cirrhosis, nephrotic syndrome), or pregnancy (due to estrogen-induced increases in plasma renin substrate)


(so renin will be increased as opposed to primary hyperaldosteronism in which renin would be decreased due to negative feedback)


What are some causes of primary hyperaldosteronism?

-bilateral idiopathic hyperaldosteronism

-adrenocrticol neoplasm

-rarely, familial hyperaldosteronism may result from a gain of function mutation of the aldosterone synthase gene, CYP11B2


How is bilateral idiopathic hyperaldosteronism described?

there is bilateral nodular hyperplasia of the adrenal glands. This accouns for 60% of cases of primary hyperaldosteronism but the pathogenesis is unclear


What are the most common adrenocortisol neoplasms causing primary hyperaldosteronism?

functional adenoma (Conn syndrome)

rarely, a carcinoma


Describe aldosterone-secreting adenomas. Age group?

almost always solitary, small (less than 2cm), and well-circumscribed

frequently on the left adrenal gland

Common in women in their 30-40s



How might you differeniate a cortisol vs. aldosterone secreting adenoma based on morphology?

In contrast to cortical adenomas associated with Cushing syndrome, those associated with hyperaldosteronism do not usually suppress ACTH secretion. Therefore, the adjacent adrenal cortex and that of the contralateral gland are not atrophic.


What is seen in the adrenal cortex after tx of hyperaldosteronism with spironolactone?

eosinophilic, laminated cytoplasmic inclusions, known as spironolactone bodies 


How does hyperaldosteronism present?

the hallmark is HTN leading to a compromised CV system, as well as marked hypokalemia which manifests mostly neuromuscularly as weakness, paresthesias, visual disturbances, etc. 



What compounds are secreted by the adrenal cortex for androgen maintanence?

dehydroepiandrosteone (DHEA) and androstenedione, which both require converion to testosterone in peripheral tissue for effect 


What are the common causes of adrenal androgen excess?

-adrenocrticol neoplasms (more likely to be carcinomas)

congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CH) due to hereditary enzymatic deficiencies




NOTE: The main cause of excess adrenal androgens caused by CAH isa ctually defective cortisol enzymes which causes backup and shift to producing more androgens