Objective: To analyze the clinical characteristics, laboratory features, and outcome in five patients who had biochemically proven adrenal insufficiency attributable to pathologically confirmed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL). Material and Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of all patients at Mayo Clinic Rochester during the period from 1976 to 1994 to identify those with both NHL, as listed in the surgical pathology tissue registry, and adrenal insufficiency. Histologically, the patients were classified on the basis of the working formulation and the revised European- American lymphoma classification. Results: Three patients had diffuse large cell NHL, one patient had small noncleaved NHL, and one patient had cutaneous T-cell NHL. All five patients had stage IV disease. Adrenal insufficiency was confirmed by morning and evening determinations of serum cortisol levels and cosyntropin stimulation tests. All patients demonstrated loss of circadian rhythm. The median age of the patients was 77 years (range, 60 to 89). Three of the five patients died without treatment from 5 to 22 days after assessment. One patient died of a cerebrovascular accident. Despite initiation of chemotherapy, two patients died of progressive NHL at 7 weeks and 7 months. Conclusion: In our experience, biochemically proven adrenal insufficiency in patients with NHL is a manifestation of clinically advanced disease in elderly patients. A stepwise diagnostic approach is critical for the appropriate management of such patients.
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