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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.