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Open access

Wei Yang, David Pham, Aren T Vierra, Sarah Azam, Dorina Gui and John C Yoon

Summary

Ectopic ACTH-secreting pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors are rare and account for less than 5% of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome cases. We describe an unusual case of metastatic bronchial carcinoid tumor in a young woman presenting with unprovoked pulmonary emboli, which initially prevented the detection of the primary tumor on imaging. The source of ectopic ACTH was ultimately localized by a Gallium-DOTATATE scan, which demonstrated increased tracer uptake in a right middle lobe lung nodule and multiple liver nodules. The histological diagnosis was established based on a core biopsy of a hepatic lesion and the patient was started on a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist and a somatostatin analog. This case illustrates that hypercogulability can further aggravate the diagnostic challenges in ectopic ACTH syndrome. We discuss the literature on the current diagnosis and management strategies for ectopic ACTH syndrome.

Learning points:

  • In a young patient with concurrent hypokalemia and uncontrolled hypertension on multiple antihypertensive agents, secondary causes of hypertension should be evaluated.
  • Patients with Cushing’s syndrome can develop an acquired hypercoagulable state leading to spontaneous and postoperative venous thromboembolism.
  • Pulmonary emboli may complicate the imaging of the bronchial carcinoid tumor in ectopic ACTH syndrome.
  • Imaging with Gallium-68 DOTATATE PET/CT scan has the highest sensitivity and specificity in detecting ectopic ACTH-secreting tumors.
  • A combination of various noninvasive biochemical tests can enhance the diagnostic accuracy in differentiating Cushing’s disease from ectopic ACTH syndrome provided they have concordant results. Bilateral inferior petrosal sinus sampling remains the gold standard.
Open access

A Veltroni, G Zambon, S Cingarlini and M V Davì

Summary

Insulin autoimmune syndrome (IAS), a rare cause of autoimmune hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia, is relatively well known in Japan. The incidence in Caucasians is less than one-fifth of that reported in Japanese people, but it is becoming increasingly recognised worldwide in non-Asians as well. Drugs containing sulphydryl groups are known to be associated with the disease in genetically predisposed individuals. Moreover, several recent reports showed a direct association between the onset of IAS and the consumption of dietary supplements containing alpha-lipoic acid (LA). Insulinoma remains the most prevalent cause of hypersulinaemic hypoglycaemia in Caucasians. Consequently, primary investigation in these patients is generally focused on localisation of the pancreatic tumour, often with invasive procedures followed by surgery. We described a case of an Italian woman presenting to us with severe recurrent hypoglycaemia associated with high insulin and C-peptide levels and no evidence of pancreatic lesions at imaging diagnostic procedures. She had taken LA until 2 weeks before hospitalisation. After an evaluation of her drug history, an autoimmune form of hypoglycaemia was suspected and the titre of insulin autoantibodies was found to be markedly elevated. This allowed us to diagnose LA-related IAS, thus preventing any unnecessary surgery and avoiding invasive diagnostic interventions.

Learning points:

  • IAS is a rare cause of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia that typically affects Asian population, but it has been increasingly recognised in Caucasian patients.
  • It should be considered among the differential diagnosis of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia to avoid unnecessary diagnostic investigations and surgery.
  • It should be suspected in the presence of very high serum insulin levels (100–10  000  μU/mL) associated with high C-peptide levels.
  • There is a strong association with administration of drugs containing sulphydryl groups included LA, a dietary supplement commonly used in Western countries to treat peripheral neuropathy.
Open access

Senhong Lee, Aparna Morgan, Sonali Shah and Peter R Ebeling

Summary

We report a case of a 67-year-old man with type 2 diabetes presented with diabetic ketoacidosis, two weeks after his first dose of nivolumab therapy for non–small-cell lung carcinoma. He was started on empagliflozin two days prior in the setting of hyperglycaemia after the initiation of nivolumab therapy. Laboratory evaluation revealed an undetectable C-peptide and a positive anti-glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) antibody. He was treated with intravenous fluids and insulin infusion and was subsequently transitioned to subcutaneous insulin and discharged home. He subsequently has developed likely autoimmune thyroiditis and autoimmune encephalitis.

Learning points:

  • Glycemic surveillance in patients receiving immune checkpoint inhibitors is recommended.
  • Early glycemic surveillance after commencement of anti-programmed cell death-1 (PD-1) inhibitors may be indicated in selected populations, including patients with underlying type 2 diabetes mellitus and positive anti-glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) antibody.
  • Sodium-glucose co transporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors should be used with caution in patients on immunotherapy.
Open access

S A A van den Berg and C G Krol

Summary

We present a patient (87 years, female) who was admitted to the emergency department because of loss of consciousness. Previous medical history included advanced-stage hepatocellular carcinoma and associated weight loss. She was found on the ground in an unresponsive state by her daughter and was determined to be hypoglycaemic. Upon bolus administration of 100 mL intravenous glucose (10%), glucose levels increased to 2.9 mmol/L and the patient regained full consciousness. She was admitted to the hospital for further examination, and treatment and continuous intravenous glucose infusion was initiated. As the patient was known to suffer from advanced-stage hepatocellular carcinoma, tumour-associated hypoglycaemia was suspected. Insulin, c-peptide and IGF1 concentrations were indeed low, cortisol concentration was high and IGF2 and Pro-IGF2 were borderline low and borderline high normal respectively. IGF2:IGF1 ratio was 23, confirming the diagnosis of non-islet cell tumour hypoglycaemia. During the initial phase of treatment, euglycaemia was maintained by continuous variable glucose infusion (5%, varying between 1 and 2 L/24 h), and the patient was advised to eat small snacks throughout the day. After euglycaemia was established and the diagnosis was confirmed, prednisolone was started (30 mg, 1 dd) and glucose infusions were halted. Under prednisolone treatment, glucose levels were slightly increased and no further hypoglycaemic episodes occurred. At her request, no surgery was performed. After 19 days, the patient was discharged to a hospice and died 3 weeks later.

Learning points:

  • Hepatocellular carcinoma may be associated with non-islet cell tumour hypoglycaemia (NICTH).
  • NICTH-induced hypoglycaemia is associated with low insulin and IGF1.
  • Measurement of IGF2 only (without measurement of Pro-IGF2 and IGF1) may be insufficient to prove NICTH.
Open access

Kamel Mohammedi, Charbel Abi Khalil, Sophie Olivier, Imane Benabad, Ronan Roussel and Michel Marre

Summary

Hypoglycemia is a common medical emergency. It is the most frequent complication induced by anti-diabetic treatment. However, it can be observed in other conditions unrelated to diabetes such as insulinoma, autoimmune disorders, and neoplasia. Herein, we report the case of a rare cause of severe and recurrent hypoglycemia in a 77-year-old woman with a malignant solitary fibrous tumor (MSFT). A 77-year-old woman was admitted to the emergency department for loss of consciousness induced by severe hypoglycemia. Her standard laboratory findings were unremarkable. HbA1c, albumin, renal, liver, thyroid, and adrenal function tests were normal. Cerebral CT scan was also normal. At the time of confirmed hypoglycemia, the serum level of insulin and C-peptide was low. On the basis of the past medical history and the absence of other comment etiologies, a paraneoplastic cause was suspected. Thus, the diagnosis of a non-islet cell tumor-induced hypoglycemia (NICTH) was established by the presence of incompletely processed precursors of IGF2 (big IGF2) in plasma electrophoresis. However, the IGF1 level was low. Therapy with corticosteroids improved hypoglycemia and clinical symptoms. NICTH is a rare cause of hypoglycemia. It should be considered in patients with mesenchymal or malignant epithelial tumors suffering from recurrent episodes of hypoglycemia. The diagnosis will be established in the case of low serum insulin concentrations and elevated levels of big IGF2. Treatment with corticosteroids, GH, or both can improve hypoglycemic symptoms and restore plasma glucose to normal levels.

Learning points

  • NICTH is a very rare condition that should be considered in patients known to have mesenchymal or malignant epithelial tumors and suffering from recurrent episodes of hypoglycemia.
  • The diagnosis of an NICTH is established on the basis of the hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia, the MSFT history, and the presence of paraneoplastic secretion of IGF1 or an immature form of IGF2.
  • Treatment with corticosteroids, GH, or both can improve hypoglycemic symptoms and restore plasma glucose to normal levels in NICTH.

Open access

S Solomou, R Khan, D Propper, D Berney and M Druce

Summary

A 33-year-old male was diagnosed with a metastatic neuroendocrine carcinoma of uncertain primary. He defaulted from follow-up without therapy and some months later developed episodic severe hypoglycaemia, which was found to be associated with inappropriately elevated insulin and C-peptide levels. It was considered likely that the neuroendocrine tumour was the source of the insulin secretion. Diazoxide and somatostatin analogue were used to control hypoglycaemia. Much later in the course of the disease, he developed metabolic derangement, increased skin pigmentation and psychological disturbance, without frankly Cushingoid physical findings. Investigations revealed highly elevated cortisol levels (the levels having previously been normal) with markedly raised ACTH levels, consistent with the co-secretion of ACTH and insulin by the tumour. Treatment with metyrapone improved his psychological state and electrolyte imbalance. Unfortunately, despite several cycles of first-, second- and third-line chemotherapy from the start of the first hormonal presentation onwards, imaging revealed widespread progressive metastatic disease and the patient eventually passed away. This case highlights the importance of keeping in mind the biochemical heterogeneity of endocrine tumours during their treatment.

Learning points

  • The clinical presentation of insulin-secreting tumours includes symptoms of neuroglycopaenia and sympathetic overstimulation.
  • Tumour-associated hypoglycaemia can be due to pancreatic insulinomas, and although ectopic hormone production occurs in a number of tumours, ectopic secretion of insulin is rare.
  • A possible switch in the type of hormone produced can occur during the growth and progression of neuroendocrine tumours and, when treating neuroendocrine tumours, it is important to keep in mind their biochemical heterogeneity.