Risk for thrombotic events high after Cushing’s syndrome surgery
Approximately 20% of a cohort of adults with Cushing’s syndrome experienced at least one thrombotic event after undergoing pituitary or adrenal surgery, with the highest risk observed for those undergoing bilateral adrenalectomy, according to findings from a retrospective analysis published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society.
“We have previously showed in a recent meta-analysis that Cushing’s syndrome is associated with significantly increased venous thromboembolic events odds vs. the general population, though the risk is lower than in patients undergoing major orthopedic surgery,” Maria Fleseriu, MD, FACE, professor of neurological surgery and professor of medicine in the division of endocrinology, diabetes and clinical nutrition in the School of Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University and director of the OHSU Northwest Pituitary Center, told Healio. “However, patients undergoing many types of orthopedic surgeries have scheduled thromboprophylaxis, especially postsurgery, which is not the standard of care in patients with Cushing’s syndrome. In this study, we wanted to look in more detail at the rates of all thrombotic events, both arterial and venous, in patients at our specialized pituitary center over more than a decade.”
In a retrospective, longitudinal study, Fleseriu and colleagues analyzed data from 208 individuals with Cushing’s syndrome undergoing surgical (pituitary, unilateral and bilateral adrenalectomy) and medical treatment at a single center (79.3% women; mean age at presentation, 45 years; mean BMI, 33.9 kg/m²; 41.8% with diabetes). Individuals with severe illness and immediate mortality were excluded. Thromboembolic events (myocardial infarction, deep venous thrombosis [DVT], and pulmonary embolism or stroke) were recorded at any point up until last patient follow-up. Researchers assessed all patients who received anticoagulation in the immediate postoperative period and up to 3 months after surgery, recording doses and complications for anticoagulation.
Within the cohort, 39 patients (18.2%) experienced at least one thromboembolic event (56 total events; 52% venous), such as extremity DVT (32%), cerebrovascular accident (27%), MI (21%), and pulmonary embolism (14%). Of those who experienced a thromboembolic event, 40.5% occurred within 60 days of surgery.
Researchers found that 14 of 36 patients who underwent bilateral adrenalectomy experienced a thromboembolic event, for an OR of 3.74 (95% CI, 1.69-8.27). Baseline 24-hour urinary free cortisol levels did not differ for patients with or without thromboembolic event after bilateral adrenalectomy.
“Despite following these patients over time, results almost surprised us,” said Fleseriu, also an Endocrine Today Editorial Board Member. “The risk of thromboembolic events in patients with Cushing’s syndrome was higher than we expected, approximately 20%. Many patients had more than one event, with higher risk at 30 to 60 days postoperatively. Use of a peripherally inserted central catheter line clearly increased risk of upper extremity DVT.”
Among 197 patients who underwent surgery, 50 (25.38%) received anticoagulation after surgery with 2% experiencing bleeding complications.
“We clearly need to understand more about what happens in patients with Cushing’s syndrome for all comorbidities, but especially thrombosis, and find the factors that predict higher risk and use anticoagulation in those patients,” Fleseriu said. “We have shown that among patients who had anticoagulation, risks were minimal. We also have to think more about timelines for these thromboembolic events and the duration of anticoagulation, and probably to expand it up to 30 to 60 days postoperatively if there are no contraindications, especially for patients undergoing bilateral adrenalectomy.”
Fleseriu cautioned that the findings do not necessarily suggest that every individual with Cushing’s syndrome needs anticoagulation therapy, as the study was retrospective. Additionally, sex, age, BMI, smoking status, estrogen or testosterone supplementation, diabetes and hypertension — all known factors for increased thrombosis risk among the general population — were not found to significantly increase the risk for developing a thromboembolic event, Fleseriu said.
“As significantly more patients have exogenous Cushing’s syndrome than endogenous Cushing’s syndrome and many of these patients undergo surgeries, we hope that our study increased awareness regarding thromboembolic risks and the need to balance advantages of thromboprophylaxis with risk of bleeding,” Fleseriu said. – by Regina Schaffer
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Maria Fleseriu, MD, FACE, can be reached at email@example.com.
Disclosure: Fleseriu reports she has received research funding paid to her institution from Novartis and Strongbridge and has received consultant fees from Novartis and Strongbridge.