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Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
Primary adrenal insufficiency
Adrenal cortical carcinoma
Thyroglossal duct cyst
Thyroid eye disease (NORD)
Toxic multinodular goiter
Euthyroid sick syndrome
Subacute granulomatous thyroiditis
Growth hormone deficiency
Constitutional growth delay
Syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion (SIADH)
Premature ovarian failure
Polycystic ovary syndrome
Androgen insensitivity syndrome
Autoimmune polyglandular syndrome type 1 (NORD)
Multiple endocrine neoplasia
Pancreatic neuroendocrine neoplasms
Opsoclonus myoclonus syndrome (NORD)
Adrenal insufficiency: Pathology review
Adrenal masses: Pathology review
Hyperthyroidism: Pathology review
Hypothyroidism: Pathology review
Thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer: Pathology review
Parathyroid disorders and calcium imbalance: Pathology review
Diabetes mellitus: Pathology review
Cushing syndrome and Cushing disease: Pathology review
Pituitary tumors: Pathology review
Hypopituitarism: Pathology review
Diabetes insipidus and SIADH: Pathology review
Multiple endocrine neoplasia: Pathology review
Neuroendocrine tumors of the gastrointestinal system: Pathology review
Adrenal masses: Pathology review
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Jung Hee Lee, MScBMCSalma Ladhani, MD
Daniel Afloarei, MD
Sam Gillespie, BSc
While doing your rounds, you see two individuals. First is Jessica, who comes in with lumbar pain, anuria, and constipation. Examination is unremarkable and she doesn’t have any history of kidney disease. The other person is 38-year-old Dan, who is obese and has an abnormally round face. He is also hypertensive and hyperglycemic. Dan is not taking any medications but he’s complaining of severe lumbar pain on the left side. Abdominal CT scans were obtained for both. In Jessica’s case, imaging detected a mass in the right adrenal cortex. In Dan’s case, CT detected a mass in the left adrenal cortex.
Ok, so both seem to have some type of adrenal masses. But first, a little bit of physiology. Each adrenal gland has two main components: the cortex and the medulla. For your exam, something high-yield to keep in mind is that the cortex is composed of 3 zones. The zona glomerulosa, the outer zone, contains clustered cells that produce mineralocorticoids, mainly aldosterone, which regulates blood pressure and electrolyte balance. The zona fasciculata, the middle zone, contains foamy-looking cells in columns that are responsible for the production of glucocorticoids, predominantly cortisol, which increases blood sugar levels via gluconeogenesis, suppresses the immune system, and aids in metabolism. And the innermost zone is the zona reticularis, which has basophilic cells arranged in anastomosing cords that produce gonadocorticoids, especially androgens like dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA.
The medulla is composed of special cells called chromaffin cells. These are modified postganglionic sympathetic neurons that originate from the neural crest. Normally, when a fetus is in its 5th week of development, special cells called neural crest cells start migrating along the midline of the embryo. In the thoracic region, neural crest cells differentiate into the neurons of the sympathetic chain on either side of the developing spinal cord. In the lumbar region, neural crest cells differentiate into the cells of the adrenal medulla.
Adrenal masses are abnormal growths or lumps on the adrenal glands. The most common type of adrenal mass is a non-cancerous (benign) tumor, but several types of cancer can occur in the adrenal glands.
The symptoms of an adrenal mass depend on its size and location. Smaller tumors may not cause any symptoms, while larger tumors can cause pain, pressure, or other problems depending on their location.
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