A 52-year-old male with visual changes.

Departments of Psychiatry Pathology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Brain Pathology (Impact Factor: 4.74). 07/2012; 22(4):575-8. DOI: 10.1111/j.1750-3639.2012.00607.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT A 52 year-old male with a history of Cushing's Disease at age 18 and bilateral adrenalectomy at age 23 presented with visual changes. An MRI scan showed a pituitary macroadenoma (Nelson's syndrome). Other than the development of diabetes mellitus at age 32, his disease was stable until presentation. Serum studies show markedly elevated ACTH levels, but he had no hyperpigmentation. The tumor was removed by endoscopic surgery. Microscopic examination showed a pituitary adenoma with strong immunostaining for ACTH. In addition, the tumor cells showed Crooke's hyaline change and stained strongly for cytokeratin (Crooke's Cell Adenoma). Normal pituitary was not present. Crooke's cell adenomas are extremely rare and have not been previously reported in Nelson's Syndrome.

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    ABSTRACT: Transsphenoidally removed samples of pituitary adenomas from 14 patients with Cushing's disease and 5 patients with Nelson's syndrome always contained groups of uniform small ACTH-cells. Antibodies against the pro-opiocortin precursor fragments beta-endorphin, ACTH, and 16k-peptide recognized material in typical adenoma cells. A subpopulation of these cells, varying in number from sample to sample, specifically exhibited alpha-melanotropin immunoreactivity. Most periadenomatous samples showed signs of severe degeneration. Typical Crooke cells only occurred in samples from patients with Cushing's syndrome, but, with this exception, no clear differences between pituitaries of patients with Cushing's and Nelson's syndromes could be discerned. Two other forms of ACTH-immunoreactive cells were observed: rare, single, highly immunoreactive cells, with characteristics of both normal and Crooke cells, and numerous syncytial groups of cells in an advanced state of disintegration, presumably the remnants of hyperplastic follicles. The four different corticotrophs are characterized according to their fine structure and immunoreactivity in this study.
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    ABSTRACT: Nelson's syndrome is a potentially life-threatening condition that does not infrequently develop following total bilateral adrenalectomy (TBA) for the treatment of Cushing's disease. In this review article, we discuss some controversial aspects of Nelson's syndrome including diagnosis, predictive factors, aetiology, pathology and management based on data from the existing literature and the experience of our own tertiary centre. Definitive diagnostic criteria for Nelson's syndrome are lacking. We argue in favour of a new set of criteria. We propose that Nelson's syndrome should be diagnosed in any patient with prior TBA for the treatment of Cushing's disease and with at least one of the following criteria: i) an expanding pituitary mass lesion compared with pre-TBA images; ii) an elevated 0800 h plasma level of ACTH (>500 ng/l) in addition to progressive elevations of ACTH (a rise of >30%) on at least three consecutive occasions. Regarding predictive factors for the development of Nelson's syndrome post TBA, current evidence favours the presence of residual pituitary tumour on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) post transsphenoidal surgery (TSS); an aggressive subtype of corticotrophinoma (based on MRI growth rapidity and histology of TSS samples); lack of prophylactic neoadjuvant pituitary radiotherapy at the time of TBA and a rapid rise of ACTH levels in year 1 post TBA. Finally, more studies are needed to assess the efficacy of therapeutic strategies in Nelson's syndrome, including the alkylating agent, temozolomide, which holds promise as a novel and effective therapeutic agent in the treatment of associated aggressive corticotroph tumours. It is timely to review these controversies and to suggest guidelines for future audit.
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