Rapid appearance of transient secondary adrenocortical insufficiency after alpha-particle radiation therapy for cushing's disease

David M. Cook, Richard M. Jordan, John W. Kendall, John A. Linfoot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


A 17-year-old women received 12, 000 rads of alpha-particle radiation for the treatment of Cushing's disease. One day after the completion of therapy, the patient developed nausea, vomiting, headache, and postural hypotension. Laboratory evaluation demonstrated a marked fall of the previously elevated urinary 17-hydroxycorticosteroids (17-OHCS) and undetectable plasma cortisols. The urinary 17-OHCS transiently returned to supranormal levels but over a 2½-week period decreased and then remained low. The patient also demonstrated a subnormal urinary aldosterone excretion in relation to plasma renin activity (PRA) during 10 mEq/24 h sodium restriction. The remainder of the endocrine evaluation was normal, suggesting that pituitary function otherwise remained intact. One and one-half years after alpha-particle therapy, the patient's urinary 17-OHCS were normal and responded normally to metyrapone. The relationship between urinary aldosterone excretion and PRA also was normal. It is postulated that there was an infarction of an ACTH secreting pituitary tumor leaving the remainder of the pituitary intact. A chronically elevated circulating level of ACTH with sudden loss of ACTH secretion appeared to have been responsible for the initial low urinary aldosterone as well as the low urinary 17-OHCS. This is the first reported case of a presumed pituitary tumor infarction in association with alpha-particle pituitary radiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-300
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1976


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical

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