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Open access

Seong Keat Cheah, David Halsall, Peter Barker, John Grant, Abraham Mathews, Shyam Seshadri and Singhan Krishnan

Summary

A frail 79-year-old lady with dementia presented with a 2-year history of frequent falls. Recurrent hypoglycaemic episodes were diagnosed and treated with continuous glucose infusion in multiple hospital admissions. Hypoadrenalism and hypothyroidism were ruled out. Whilst hypoglycaemic (blood glucose 1.6 mmol/L), both plasma C-peptide and proinsulin concentrations, were inappropriately elevated at 4210 pmol/L (174–960) and >200 pmol/L (0–7) respectively with plasma insulin suppressed at 12 pmol/L (0–180). Whilst reported cases of proinsulinoma are typically pancreatic in origin, radiological investigations of the pancreas in this patient did not identify abnormalities. Unexpectedly contrast CT identified a heterogeneously enhancing mass (6.6 cm) at the lower pole of the left kidney consistent with renal cell carcinoma. Non-islet cell tumour-induced hypoglycaemia has been associated with renal malignancy; however, a serum IGF2:IGF1 ratio measured at <10 effectively excludes this diagnosis. Concomitantly on the CT, extensive peripherally enhancing heterogeneous mass lesions in the liver were identified, the largest measuring 12 cm. A palliative approach was taken due to multiple comorbidities. On post-mortem, the kidney lesion was confirmed as clear cell renal carcinoma, whilst the liver lesions were identified as proinsulin-secreting neuroendocrine tumours. In conclusion, the diagnosis of proinsulinoma can be missed if plasma proinsulin concentration is not measured at the time of hypoglycaemia. In this case, the plasma insulin:C-peptide ratio was too high to be accounted for by the faster relative clearance of insulin and was due to proinsulin cross-reactivity in the C-peptide assay. In addition, the concomitant malignancy proved to be a challenging red herring.

Learning points:

  • Even in non-diabetics, hypoglycaemia needs to be excluded in a setting of frequent falls. Insulin- or proinsulin-secreting tumours are potentially curable causes.

  • Whilst investigating spontaneous hypoglycaemia, if plasma insulin concentration is appropriate for the hypoglycaemia, it is prudent to check proinsulin concentrations during the hypoglycaemic episode.

  • Proinsulin cross-reacts variably with C-peptide and insulin assays; the effect is method dependent. In this case, the discrepancy between the insulin and C-peptide concentrations was too great to be accounted for by the faster relative clearance of insulin, raising the suspicion of assay interference. The C-peptide assay in question (Diasorin liaison) has been shown to be 100% cross reactive with proinsulin based on spiking studies with a proinsulin reference preparation.

  • Whilst reported cases of proinsulinoma and 99% of insulinomas are of pancreatic origin, conventional imaging studies (CT, MRI or ultrasound) fail to detect neuroendocrine tumours <1 cm in 50% of cases.

  • The concomitant renal mass identified radiologically proved to be a red herring.

  • In view of the rarity of proinsulinoma, no conclusive association with renal cell carcinoma can be established.

Open access

Katia Regina Marchetti, Maria Adelaide Albergaria Pereira, Arnaldo Lichtenstein and Edison Ferreira Paiva

Summary

Adrenacarcinomas are rare, and hypoglycemic syndrome resulting from the secretion of insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II) by these tumors have been described infrequently. This study describes the case of a young woman with severe persistent hypoglycemia and a large adrenal tumor and discusses the physiopathological mechanisms involved in hypoglycemia. The case is described as a 21-year-old woman who presented with 8 months of general symptoms and, in the preceding 3 months, with episodes of mental confusion and visual blurring secondary to hypoglycemia. A functional assessment of the adrenal cortex revealed ACTH-independent hypercortisolism and hyperandrogenism. Hypoglycemia, hypoinsulinemia, low C-peptide and no ketones were also detected. An evaluation of the GH–IGF axis revealed GH blockade (0.03; reference: up to 4.4 ng/mL), greatly reduced IGF-I levels (9.0 ng/mL; reference: 180–780 ng/mL), slightly reduced IGF-II levels (197 ng/mL; reference: 267–616 ng/mL) and an elevated IGF-II/IGF-I ratio (21.9; reference: ~3). CT scan revealed a large expansive mass in the right adrenal gland and pulmonary and liver metastases. During hospitalization, the patient experienced frequent difficult-to-control hypoglycemia and hypokalemia episodes. Octreotide was ineffective in controlling hypoglycemia. Due to unresectability, chemotherapy was tried, but after 3 months, the patient’s condition worsened and progressed to death. In conclusion, our patient presented with a functional adrenal cortical carcinoma, with hyperandrogenism associated with hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia and blockage of the GH–IGF-I axis. Patient’s data suggested a diagnosis of hypoglycemia induced by an IGF-II or a large IGF-II-producing tumor (low levels of GH, greatly decreased IGF-I, slightly decreased IGF-II and an elevated IGF-II/IGF-I ratio).

Learning points:

  • Hypoglycemyndrome resulting from the secretion of insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II) by adrenal tumors is a rare condition.

  • Hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia associated with hyperandrogenism and blockage of the GH–IGF-I axis suggests hypoglycemia induced by an IGF-II or a large IGF-II-producing tumor.

  • Hypoglycemia in cases of NICTH should be treated with glucocorticoids, glucagon, somatostatin analogs and hGH.

Open access

Chun-Han Lo and Ding-Ping Sun

Summary

Insulinomas are the most common cause of hypoglycemia resulting from endogenous hyperinsulinism. Traditionally, inappropriately elevated levels of insulin in the face of hypoglycemia are the key to diagnosis. However, contradictory levels of insulin and C-peptide do not necessarily exclude the diagnosis. A 50-year-old female was brought to our emergency department because of conscious disturbance on the previous night. She had no history of diabetes mellitus, and was not using any medications or alcohol. Laboratory data showed low sugar, a significantly low insulin level, and elevated C-peptide. After admission, she had multiple episodes of spontaneous hypoglycemia after overnight fasts without discomfort. It was considered that a neuroendocrine tumor was the source of her hypoglycemia. CT scan of the abdomen revealed a 1.1cm hypervascular nodule in the pancreatic tail. Elective laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy was incorporated into her treatment course. A 1.2×1.0cm homogenous well-encapsulated tumor was resected. We monitored her glucose levels in the outpatient clinic every month for a period of six months. She did not have another episode of spontaneous hypoglycemia.

Learning points

  • Insulinoma causes endogenous hypoglycemia – it cannot be ruled out in patients presenting with hypoglycemia and low insulin levels; history and imaging studies should be done for further assessment

  • A 24-h fast test has the same clinical significance as that of 72-h fast test

  • C-peptide is a useful biochemical marker in addition to serum insulin, which can be used to diagnose insulinomas

  • CT scan is used to measure the tumor size and localize the tumor. However, definitive diagnosis is only achieved through histopathologic evaluation of diseased tissue

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

Pinaki Dutta, Anuradha Aggarwal, Yashpal Gogate, Uma Nahar, Viral N Shah, Mandeep Singla, N Khandelwal and Anil Bhansali

Summary

We describe the clinical presentation, diagnostic and management issues in five cases of non-islet cell tumor hypoglycemia (NICTH), diagnosed at a tertiary care institute over a period of 15 years. The clinical, laboratory, and histopathological findings of these patients along with diagnostic utility of IGF2:IGF1 ratio are discussed. The mean age of presentation was 52 years, with a male predominance (3:2). Three patients presented with recurrent episodes of fasting hypoglycemia and it was detected in other two patients during hospitalization. Two patients had acromegaloid features that regressed following treatment. One patient had hypokalemia. Low levels of insulin, C-peptide, GH, and IGF1 were invariably found in all. The IGF2 level was elevated in only one patient; however, IGF2:IGF1 ratio was more than 10 in four of the five patients. The mean tumor size was 16.4 cm and mean weight was 3.6 kg. Four patients had mesenchymal tumors and one had epithelial tumor. NICTH is a rare cause of hypoglycemia. Hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia with low IGF1 and IGF2:IGF1 ratio more than 10 is suggestive of this entity.

Learning points

  • NICTH should be considered in patients presenting with tumor of mesenchymal origin and hypoglycemia.

  • Hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia with low IGF1 is a strong biochemical evidence of NICTH.

  • IGF2:IGF1 ratio of more than 10 is a complementary investigation in the absence of an assay facility for IGF2.