I am admitting a patient with diabetes mellitus (DM) due to chronic pancreatitis. Should I manage her diabetes any differently than my other patients with DM?

You may have to!  That’s because patients with DM due to pancreatic disease (also known as “pancreatogenic [Type 3C] diabetes”) tend to have more labile blood glucoses with particular predisposition to severe hypoglycemic episodes due to the impairment of glucagon production by pancreatic alpha-cells. 1-3

This observation dates back to a 1977 study where a high rate of hypoglycemic episodes was found among 59 patients with chronic pancreatitis (most with insulin-dependent DM), including 3 deaths and 2 suffering from severe brain damage following hypoglycemic coma. Interestingly, low basal glucagon levels were found in the latter patients, supporting impairment in glucagon synthesis. Of note, while hypoglycemia is a serious problem in these patients, they are not spared from complications of chronic hyperglycemia, including retinopathy and kidney disease.2

As for the blood glucose management in type 3C DM, since the principle endocrine defect is insulin deficiency, insulin therapy is preferred for most patients, particularly those who are acutely ill or are hospitalized. For otherwise more stable patients with mild hyperglycemia, metformin is an ideal agent as it enhances hepatic insulin sensitivity without the risk of hypoglycemia. As a bonus, metformin may also decrease the risk of pancreatic cancer in chronic pancreatitis, based on observational studies. 4

Also, don’t forget that concurrent pancreatic exocrine insufficiency is common in patients with type 3C DM and requires oral pancreatic enzyme requirement with meals.

Fascinating Pearl: Did you know that in patients with type 3C DM, hyperglycemia is mediated not only by decreased production of insulin, but also by decreased synthesis of pancreatic polypeptide, a peptide that mediates hepatic insulin sensitivity and glucose production? 5

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References

  1. Linde, J, Nilsson LH, Barany FR. Diabetes and hypoglycemia in chronic pancreatitis. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2012;12, 369–373. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/867001
  2. Andersen D. The practical importance of recognizing pancreatogenic or type 3c diabetes. Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2012;28:326-328. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/dmrr.2285
  3. Cui YF, Andersen DK. Pancreatogenic diabetes: Special considerations for management. Pancreatology. 2011;11(3):279-294. doi:10.1159/000329188. https://jhu.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/pancreatogenic-diabetes-special-considerations-for-management-4
  4. Evans J, Donnelly L, Emsley-Smith A. Metformin and reduced risk of cancer in diabetic patients. Br Med J. 2005;330:1304-1305. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7888859_Metformin_and_reduced_risk_of_cancer_in_diabetic_patients
  5. Rabiee A. Gafiatsatos P, Salas-Carnillo R. Pancreatic polypeptide administration enhances insulin sensitivity and reduces the insulin requirement of patents on insulin pump therapy. Diabetes Sci Technol 2011;5:1521-28.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3262724/

Contributed by Hugo Torres, MD, MPH, Hospital Medicine Unit, Mass General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts

I am admitting a patient with diabetes mellitus (DM) due to chronic pancreatitis. Should I manage her diabetes any differently than my other patients with DM?

Why does my patient with alcoholic cirrhosis have macrocytic anemia?

Macrocytic anemia is commonly due to folate or vitamin B12 (cobalamin) deficiency.1 Deficiency in these vitamins can be related broadly to poor intake, poor absorption, or drug interference. In patients with chronic excess alcohol consumption, both intake and/or absorption of these vitamins may be affected.

Although folate deficiency is increasingly rare in many developed countries due to mandatory folate fortification of flour and uncooked-grain, alcohol use can be associated with malnourishment severe enough to causes folate deficiency. In addition, alcohol itself can alter folate metabolism and absorption.  More specifically, chronic alcohol consumption has been shown to be associated with decreased folate absorption by the small intestine, altered intrahepatic processing and distribution between the systemic and enterohepatic folate circulations as well as increased folate urinary excretion. 2 Though uncommon,3 alcohol can also be associated with a food B12 malabsorption process, whereby despite adequate intake, B12 is not released or absorbed from food. 4

But what if serum folate and B12 levels return as normal in our patient with macrocytosis? It turns out that alcohol consumption, independent of folate or B12 deficiency, may also cause macrocytosis. 5 Though the exact mechanism is unknown, it may be related to alcohol’s direct toxicity or that of its metabolites; alcohol is oxidized to acetaldehyde, which affects membranes of red blood cells (RBCs) and their precursors by forming adducts with erythroid proteins,6 and interfering with cell division.7 Interestingly, alcohol-related macrocytosis may appear before anemia is detected and can resolve within 2-4 months of abstinence.

In addition to alcohol, cirrhosis itself may be associated with macrocytic anemia caused by lipid deposition on RBC membranes.1

See also a related pearl at  https://pearls4peers.com/2019/07/26/my-patient-with-anemia-has-an-abnormally-high-mean-red-blood-cell-corpuscular-volume-mcv-what-conditions-should-i-routinely-consider-as-a-cause-of-his-macrocytic-anemia   

References

  1. Hoffbrand V, Provan D. ABC of clinical haematology: macrocytic anaemias. BMJ 2011;314(7078):430–430. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9040391
  2. Medici V, Halsted CH. Folate, alcohol, and liver disease. Mol Nutr Food Res 2013;57(4):596–606. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23136133
  3. Bode C, Bode CJ. Effect of alcohol consumption on the gut. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol [Internet] 2003;17(4):575–92. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1521691803000349
  4. Dali-Youcef N, Andrès E. An update on cobalamin deficiency in adults. QJM 2009;102(1):17–28. https://academic.oup.com/qjmed/article/102/1/17/1502492
  5. Savage DG, Ogundipe A, Allen RH, Stabler SP, Lindenbaum J. Etiology and diagnostic Evaluation of macrocytosis. Am J Med Sci [Internet] 2000;319(6):343–52. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0002-9629(15)40772-4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10875288
  6. Latvala J, Parkkila S, Melkko J, Niemelä O. Acetaldehyde adducts in blood and bone marrow of patients with ethanol-induced erythrocyte abnormalities. Mol Med 2001;7(6):401–5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11474133
  7. Wickramasinghe SN, Malik F. Acetaldehyde causes a prolongation of the doubling time and an increase in the modal volume of cells in culture. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 1986;10(3):350–4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3526962

 

Contributed by Kim Schaefer, Harvard medical student, Boston, MA

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Why does my patient with alcoholic cirrhosis have macrocytic anemia?

My hospitalized patient with sepsis has persistently elevated lactic acid despite volume resuscitation, source control, and adequate oxygenation. What could I be missing?

Although the causes of lactic acidosis are legion (eg, sepsis, tissue hypoperfusion, ischemic bowel, malignancy, medications, liver dysfunction), thiamine deficiency (TD) is an often-overlooked cause of persistently elevated serum lactic acid (LA) in critically ill hospitalized patients,1 reported in 20-70% of septic patients.2  Septic shock patients may be particularly at risk of TD because of increased mitochondrial oxidative stress, decreased nutritional intake and presence of comorbid conditions (eg,  alcoholism, persistent vomiting).3

Early recognition of TD in hospitalized patients may be particularly difficult because of the frequent absence of the “classic” signs and symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy (eg, ataxia, cranial nerve palsies and confusion) and lack of readily available confirmatory laboratory tests.4

TD-related lactic acidosis should be suspected when an elevated LA persists despite adequate treatment of its putative cause(s) (4,5). Administration of IV thiamine in this setting may result in rapid clearance of LA.3-5

TD causes lactic acidosis type B which is due to the generation of excess LA, not impairment in tissue oxygenation, as is the case for lactic acidosis type A. Thiamine is an essential co-factor in aerobic metabolism, facilitating the conversion of pyruvate to acetyl-CoA which enters the citric acid (Krebs) cycle within the mitochondria. In TD, pyruvate does not undergo aerobic metabolism and is converted to LA instead, leading to lactic acidosis.

Bonus pearl: Did you know that because of its limited tissue storage, thiamine stores may be depleted within only 3 weeks of reduced oral intake!

References

  1. O’Donnell K. Lactic acidosis: a lesser known side effect of thiamine deficiency. Practical Gastroenterol March 2017:24.   https://www.practicalgastro.com/article/176921/Lactic-Acidosis-Lesser-Known-Side-Effect-of-Thiamine-Deficiency
  2. Marik PE. Thiamine: an essential component of the metabolic resuscitation protocol. Crit Care Med 2018;46:1869-70. https://journals.lww.com/ccmjournal/Fulltext/2018/11000/Thiamine___An_Essential_Component_of_the_Metabolic.23.aspx
  3. Woolum JA, Abner EL, Kelly A, et al. Effect of thiamine administration on lactate clearance and mortality in patients with septic shock. Crit Care Med 2018;46:1747-52. https://journals.lww.com/ccmjournal/Fulltext/2018/11000/Effect_of_Thiamine_Administration_on_Lactate.5.aspx
  4. Kourouni I, Pirrotta S, Mathew J, et al. Thiamine: an underutilized agent in refractory lactic acidosis. Chest 2016; 150:247A. https://journal.chestnet.org/article/S0012-3692(16)56459-9/pdf
  5. Shah S, Wald E. Type B lactic acidosis secondary to thiamine deficiency in a child with malignancy. Pediatrics 2015; 135:e221-e224. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/135/1/e221

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My hospitalized patient with sepsis has persistently elevated lactic acid despite volume resuscitation, source control, and adequate oxygenation. What could I be missing?

Why is my hospitalized patient with alcohol withdrawal syndrome so thrombocytopenic?

Although thrombocytopenia associated with chronic alcoholism may be related to complications of cirrhosis (eg, platelet sequestration in spleen due to portal hypertension, poor platelet production, and increased platelet destruction) (1), it may also occur in the absence of cirrhosis due to the direct toxic effect of alcohol on platelet production and survival (2).

 
In a prospective study of patients ingesting the equivalent of a fifth or more daily of 86 proof whiskey admitted for treatment of alcohol withdrawal—without evidence of severe liver disease, infection or sepsis— 81% had initial platelet counts below 150,000/µl, with about one-third having platelet counts below 100,000 µl (as low as 24,000/ul) (3).
In most patients, 2-3 days elapsed before the platelet count began to rise significantly, peaking 5-18 days after admission. Others have also reported that platelet counts rise within 5-7 days and normalize in a few weeks after alcohol withdrawal (1); bleeding complications have been uncommon in this setting.
Perhaps even more intriguing is the report of the association between thrombocytopenia in early alcohol withdrawal and the development of delirium tremens or seizures (sensitivity and specificity ~ 70%, positive predictive value less than 10% but with a negative predictive value of 99%) (4)! In fact, the authors suggested that, if their findings are corroborated, a normal platelet count could potentially be used to identify patients at low risk of alcohol withdrawal syndrome and therefore outpatient therapy. 

References
1. Mitchell O, Feldman D, Diakow M, et al. The pathophysiology of thrombocytopenia in chronic liver disease. Hepatic Medicine: Evidence and Research 2016;8 39-50. https://www.dovepress.com/the-pathophysiology-of-thrombocytopenia-in-chronic-liver-disease-peer-reviewed-article-HMER

2. Cowan DH. Effect of alcoholism on hemostasis. Semin Hematol 1980;17:137-47. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6990498

3. Cowan DH, Hines JD. Thrombocytopenia of severe alcoholism. Ann Intern Med 1971;74:37-43. http://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/685069/thrombocytopenia-severe-alcoholism.

4. Berggren U, Falke C, Berglund KJ, et al. Thrombocytopenia in early alcohol withdrawal is associated with development of delirium tremens or seizures. Alcohol & Alcoholism 2009;44:382-86. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19293148

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Why is my hospitalized patient with alcohol withdrawal syndrome so thrombocytopenic?

My 35 year old patient with chronic alcoholism blames benign prostatic hypertrophy for his difficulty voiding. Could his bladder dysfunction be related to his alcoholism?

Several case reports in the literature have stressed the association of bladder dysfunction (BD) with chronic alcohol abuse1,2.  Although some cases may be associated with concurrent thiamine deficiency (with its attendant neuropathy), other cases of BD do not appear to be. The mechanism of BD in this setting may be related to the toxic effect of alcohol on peripheral, autonomic and/or central nervous systems2,3.

Binge drinking may also be associated with urinary retention, with spontaneous atraumatic urinary bladder rupture having been reported on several occasions4. Lastly, alcohol withdrawal alone may precipitate urinary retention5.  

Unfortunately, many cases of abdominal pain due to urinary retention in the setting of alcohol abuse or withdrawal may be mistakenly attributed to ascites or other causes5.  High index of suspicion for BD is essential to minimize its complications.

In our patient, given the low prevalence of benign prostatic hypertrophy in men less than 40 years of age, urinary retention due to alcohol-related BD is more likely.

 

References

  1. Yuan R, Carcciolo VJ, Kulaga M. Chronic abdominal distension secondary to urinary retention in a patient with alcoholism. JAMA 2002;287;318-19.
  2. Sheremata WA, Sherwin I. Alcoholic myelopathy with spastic urinary bladder. Dis Nerv Syst 1972;33:136-139.
  3. Mellion M, Gilchrist JM, De La Monte S. Alcohol-related peripheral neuropathy: nutritional, toxic or both? Muscle Nerve 2011;43:309-16.
  4. Muneer M, Abdelrahman H, El-Menyar A, et al. Spontaneous atraumatic urinary bladder rupture secondary to alcohol intoxication: a case report and review of literature. Am J Case Rep 2015;16:778-81.
  5. Iga J-I, Taniguchi T, Ohmori T. Acute abdominal distension secondary to urinary retention in a patient after alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol Alcoholism 2005;40:86-87.
My 35 year old patient with chronic alcoholism blames benign prostatic hypertrophy for his difficulty voiding. Could his bladder dysfunction be related to his alcoholism?

When should I seriously consider active tuberculosis (TB) in my newly-admitted HIV-negative patient with a cough?

Active TB should be suspected based on a combination of epidemiological (eg, exposure, travel to, or residence in a high prevalence area, history of prior TB), clinical (eg, cough lasting 2-3 weeks or longer, fever, night sweats, weight loss, fatigue, less commonly, chest pain, dyspnea, and hemoptysis), chest radiograph abnormalities (eg, infiltrates, fibrosis, cavitation), and histopathologic (eg, caseating granuloma)1.

Among HIV-negative patients, the highest prevalence of TB is found those who have been incarcerated, use intravenous drugs, have alcohol use disorder, or are immunocompromised (including diabetes mellitus)2,3

Patients suspected of TB based on clinical criteria should undergo chest radiography.  Reactivation pulmonary TB (~90% of TB in adults) classically presents with upper lobe and/or the superior segment of the lower lobe disease.  Remember that up to 5% of patients with active pulmonary TB have normal chest radiograph, however4.  

All hospitalized patients suspected of having active TB should be placed on appropriate isolation precautions.

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References

  1. Sia IG, Wieland ML. Current concepts in the management of tuberculosis. Mayo Clin Proc. 2011;86:348-361. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068897/
  2. Center for Disease Control. Tuberculosis: Data and Statistics. https://www.cdc.gov/tb/statistics/default.htm. Accessed October 3, 2016.
  3. World Health Organization. Tuberculosis. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/ factsheets/fs104/en/. Accessed October 3, 2016.
  4. Marciniuk, D, McNab, BD, Martin WT, Hoeppner, VH. Detection of pulmonary tuberculosis in patients with a normal chest radiograph. Chest 1999;115:445-452. https://journal.chestnet.org/article/S0012-3692(15)50590-4/abstract

 

 

Contributed by Charles C. Jain MD, Medical Resident, Massachusetts General Hospital

 

When should I seriously consider active tuberculosis (TB) in my newly-admitted HIV-negative patient with a cough?

My patient with chronic alcoholism is showing signs of alcohol withdrawal even though his blood alcohol level (BAL) is still elevated. Is this possible?

Absolutely! For patients with chronic alcohol dependence, any acute decline in their BAL may precipitate withdrawal (1).

For example, if a patient typically drinks enough alcohol on a daily basis to sustain a BAL of 350 mg/dl, any significant drop in BAL (e.g. down to 125 mg/dl) may be associated with early signs of withdrawal such as nervousness, tachycardia and elevated blood pressure.

Another scenario that could lead to withdrawal symptoms despite an elevated BAL involves patients who use both alcohol and benzodiazepines chronically. In such patients— because the 2 substances have cross-reactive effects on the brain— a significant reduction in the dose or frequency of benzodiazepines may also lead to withdrawal despite an elevated BAL.  Also remember that symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal may begin within 24 h or up to 2 weeks following its cessation (2).

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Reference

  1. Roffman JL, Stern TA.  Alcohol withdrawal in the setting of elevated blood alcohol levels. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2006; 8(3):170-173 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1540391/
  2. Greenberg MI. Benzodiazepine withdrawal: potentially fatal, commonly missed, Emergency Medicine News 2001;23:18. https://journals.lww.com/em-news/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2001&issue=12000&article=00013&type=Fulltext

 

Contributed by Stephanie Meller, MD, Boston, MA

 

 

My patient with chronic alcoholism is showing signs of alcohol withdrawal even though his blood alcohol level (BAL) is still elevated. Is this possible?

How do I interpret an elevated serum C-reactive protein (CRP) and normal erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) or vice-versa?

 

Discordance between serum CRP and ESR is not uncommon (1,2). This phenomenon may be due to a variety of factors including the fact that the kinetics of these two tests is quite different, as discussed under “Should I order C-reactive protein (CRP) or erythrocyte sedimentation (ESR) on patients suspected of having a new infection?” in this blog.

In a study of CRP/ESR discordance (defined as results differing by 2 or 3 quartiles) in adults, a high CRP/low ESR profile was more likely to be associated with  urinary, GI, blood stream, and pulmonary infections, myocardial infarction, and venous thromboembolism and less likely to be associated with bone and joint infections (1).

In the same study, a high ESR/low CRP was associated with connective tissue diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus and strokes (1).

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References

1. Feldman M, Aziz B, Kang GN, et al. C-reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation rate discordance: frequency and causes in adults. Translational Research 2013;161:37-43. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22921838

2. Colombet I, Pouchot J, Kronz V. Agreement between erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein in hospital practice. Am J Med 2010;123:864.e7-863.e13.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20800157

How do I interpret an elevated serum C-reactive protein (CRP) and normal erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) or vice-versa?

Why is serum AST levels generally higher than ALT in alcohol-induced liver injury?

Alcohol is thought to cause injury to the mitochondria which contains AST but not ALT. In addition, in chronic alcoholics, pyridoxine (vitamin B6) deficiency may reduce the synthesis of ALT more than AST because the former is more B6-dependent (1).  

AST/ALT ratio >1 may be more common in advanced alcohol liver disease (e.g. cirrhosis) than in the setting of high alcohol consumption without severe liver disease (2). 

Also, remember that AST levels greater than 500 U/L and ALT levels greater than 300 U/L are uncommon in alcohol-related liver injury.  In this setting, other causes such as acetaminophen toxicity should be excluded (1).

Referemces

1. Johnston DE. Special considerations in interpreting liver function tests. Am Fam Physician1999;59:2223-30.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10221307  

2. Nyblom H, Berggren U, Balldin J, et al. High AST/ALT ratio may indicate advanced alcoholic liver disease rather than heavy drinking. Alcohol &Alcoholism 2004;39:336-39. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15208167

Why is serum AST levels generally higher than ALT in alcohol-induced liver injury?