Journal of Endocrinological Investigation

, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 531–537 | Cite as

A case of pseudo-Nelson’s syndrome: cure of ACTH hypersecretion by removal of a bronchial carcinoid tumor responsible for Cushing’s syndrome

  • Jean-Daniel Lalau
  • D. Vieau
  • F. Tenenbaum
  • P. F. Westeel
  • A. Mesmacque
  • F. Lenne
  • J. Quichaud
Case Report


It may sometimes be difficult to distinguish Cushing’s disease from ectopic ACTH syndrome. A case is described here of a patient with a Cushing’s syndrome and diagnostic difficulties. Initial features were consistent with a Cushing’s disease (in particular metopirone test was positive). Because of relapse of hypercortisolism after mitotane therapy, total adrenalectomy was performed. Thereafter features occurred that evoked Nelson’s syndrome, including high plasma ACTH levels and a pituitary mass syndrome. Pituitary reserve testings by vasopressin or cortico-tropin-releasing factor were positive, although inconstantly, in that plasma ACTH increased. A lung tumor was discovered about 20 yr after the first clinical signs of hypercortisolism. Its removal led to the discovery of a bronchial carcinoid tumor and was followed by normalization of plasma ACTH levels. An analysis of proopiomelanocortin-related peptides was performed postoperatively on the blood drawn before and after the tumor resection and on the tumor; the results of this study would have been contributive to the diagnosis of occult ectopic ACTH tumor. In conclusion this case demonstrates the limitations of the conventional procedures in the diagnosis of the ectopic ACTH syndrome. At contrast the newer biochemical procedures may be very useful in determining the type of hypercortisolism.


Ectopic ACTH syndrome Nelson’s syndrome ectopic tumor proopiomelanocortin Cushing’s syndrome 


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Copyright information

© Italian Society of Endocrinology (SIE) 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean-Daniel Lalau
    • 1
  • D. Vieau
    • 2
  • F. Tenenbaum
    • 1
  • P. F. Westeel
    • 1
  • A. Mesmacque
    • 1
  • F. Lenne
    • 2
  • J. Quichaud
    • 1
  1. 1.Service de Médecine Interne, EndocrinologieCentre Hospitalier RégionalAmiens CedexFrance
  2. 2.Centre de Récherches sur les Maladies EndocriniennesHôpital CochinParisFrance

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