Academic Forensic Pathology

The Official Publication of the National Association of Medical Examiners

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Title: Fatal Rotavirus Infection in a 4-Year-Old with Unsuspected Autoimmune Adrenal Insufficiency
Author(s): Krywanczyk AlisonBundock Elizabeth A.
Citation: Acad Forensic Pathol. 2017 Mar; 7(1):130-135.
Type: Case of the Month
Keywords: Forensic pathology, Addison disease, Autoimmune, Pediatric, Rotavirus, Adrenal
Abstract: The diagnosis of adrenal insufficiency is often delayed, as the presenting symptoms of fatigue, abdominal pain, and anorexia are vague and nonspecific. However, timely diagnosis and treatment with replacement steroids are needed to prevent fatal adrenal crisis. While the most common cause of primary adrenal insufficiency in childhood is congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a significant minority (13–23%) is caused by autoimmune destruction of the gland. We present a case of a 4-year-old, previously healthy child who had a one-day history of nausea and vomiting, and was found unresponsive by her caretaker. Despite emergency rescue and transport to the hospital, she was pronounced dead. At autopsy, the adrenal glands were atrophied. Histologic examination revealed lymphocytic infiltration of the adrenal glands consistent with autoimmune adrenal insufficiency. Fecal viral antigen testing was positive for rotavirus. The cause of death was determined to be adrenal crisis in the setting of rotavirus gastroenteritis due to adrenal insufficiency (Addison disease).
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