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The High Prevalence of Testicular Adrenal Rest Tumors in Adult Men With Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia Is Correlated With ACTH Levels

Rossella Mazzilli, Antonio Stigliano, Michele Delfino, Soraya Olana, Virginia Zamponi, Cristina Iorio, Giuseppe Defeudis, Danilo Cimadomo, VincenzoToscano and FernandoMazzilli

Frontiers in Endocrinology – published: 04 June 2019 doi: 10.3389/fendo.2019.00335 – Volume 10 | Article 335

 

Abstract

Introduction: The aims of this study were to determine the prevalence of testicular-adrenal rest tumors (T-ARTs) in patients with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) and to evaluate the related ultrasound (US) features, hormonal profiles, and semen parameters. Therefore, we attempted to understand the potential impact of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) on the persistence or disappearance of T-ART.

Methods: We conducted a longitudinal cohort study including patients with CAH who were undergoing treatment with cortisone and, when indicated, fludrocortisone replacement therapy. We performed andrological examinations, US of the testis, hormone profiling, and semen analysis.

Results: Of the 25 patients (mean ± SD age, 32.2 ± 7.5 years), T-ARTs were detected by US in 14 (56.0%) patients. The mean ± SD diameter of the lesions was 13.2 ± 6.8 mm. Among 3 (21.4%) patients, the lesions were observed in one testis, whereas both testes were affected in the remaining 11 (78.6%) patients. The lesions were hypoechoic in 12 (85.7%) patients and hyperechoic in 2 (14.3%). Plasma ACTH and 17-hydroxyprogesterone (17-OHP) levels were significantly higher in patients with T-ART than in patients without lesions (319.4 ± 307.0 pg/ml and 12.4 ± 2.7 ng/ml vs. 33.5 ± 10.7 pg/ml and 8.2 ± 1.8 ng/ml, respectively; p < 0.01). The mean values of sperm concentration and motility were significantly lower in patients with T-ART than in patients without lesions (12.1 ± 12.4 × 106 cells/ml and 18.4 ± 11.1% vs. 41.5 ± 23.2 × 106 cells/ml and 30.8 ± 15.4%, respectively; p < 0.05). Logistic regression analysis showed ACTH level as a significant predictor of T-ART (p < 0.05). In patients with T-ART, the dose of hydrocortisone was increased by ∼25–30%, while the fludrocortisone treatment remained unchanged. After 6 months of steroid treatment, patients underwent US and hormonal evaluation. Disappearance and a reduction in T-ART were observed in 6 (42.9%) and 5 (35.7%) patients, respectively; a reduction in ACTH levels (from 319.4 ± 307.0 to 48.1 ± 5.1 pg/ml; p < 0.01) was reported. A significant correlation between ACTH level reduction and T-ART diameter reduction was observed (p < 0.5; r = 0.55).

Conclusions: T-ARTs were detected in 56% of patients with CAH and were associated with impaired semen parameters. However, these lesions are potentially reversible, as demonstrated by the disappearance/reduction after adjustment of cortisone therapy and by the reduction in plasma ACTH level. Our study supports the importance of periodic US evaluation and maintenance of plasma ACTH levels within the normal range in men with CAH.