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Open access

D Cappellani, C Sardella, M C Campopiano, A Falorni, P Marchetti and E Macchia

Summary

Insulin autoimmune syndrome (IAS), or Hirata disease, is a rare hypoglycaemic disorder caused by the presence of high titer of insulin autoantibodies (IAA) in patients without previous exposure to exogenous insulin. Even though its pathogenesis is not fully understood, striking evidences link IAS to previous exposure to sulphydryl-containing medications, like alpha-lipoic acid, a widely used nutritional supplement. Although challenging, a careful differential diagnosis from other causes of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia (such as insulinoma) is mandatory, since these conditions require different therapeutic approaches. In the present study, we report a 35-year-old woman originally from Sri Lanka who was referred to our University Hospital on suspicion of occult insulinoma. Her medical history was positive for endometriosis, treated with estroprogestins and alpha-lipoic acid. The latter supplement was begun 2 weeks before the first hypoglycaemic episode. Our tests confirmed the presence of hypoglycaemia associated with high insulin and C-peptide concentrations. When insulin concentrations were compared using different assays, the results were significantly different. Moreover, insulin values significantly decreased after precipitation with polyethylene glycol. An assay for IAA proved positive (530 U/mL). A genetic analysis revealed the presence of HLA-DRB1*04,15, an immunogenetic determinant associated with IAS. On the basis of clinical data we avoided a first-line approach with immunosuppressive treatments, and the patient was advised to modify her diet, with the introduction of frequent low-caloric meals. During follow-up evaluations, glucose levels (registered trough a flash glucose monitoring system) resulted progressively more stable. IAA titer progressively decreased, being undetectable by the fifteenth month, thus indicating the remission of the IAS.

Learning points:

  • Insulin autoimmune syndrome (IAS) is a rare cause of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia, whose prevalence is higher in East Asian populations due to the higher prevalence of specific immunogenetic determinants. Nevertheless, an increasing number of IAS cases is being reported worldwide, due to the wide diffusion of medications such as alpha-lipoic acid.

  • Differential diagnosis of IAS from other causes of hyperinsulinemic hypoglycaemia is challenging. Even though many tests can be suggestive of IAS, the gold standard remains the detection of IAAs, despite that dedicated commercial kits are not widely available.

  • The therapeutic approach to IAS is problematic. As a matter of fact IAS is often a self-remitting disease, but sometimes needs aggressive immunosuppression. The benefits and risks of any therapeutic choice should be carefully weighted and tailored on the single patient.

Open access

Marianne Geilswijk, Lise Lotte Andersen, Morten Frost, Klaus Brusgaard, Henning Beck-Nielsen, Anja Lisbeth Frederiksen and Dorte Møller Jensen

Summary

Hypoglycemia during pregnancy can have serious health implications for both mother and fetus. Although not generally recommended in pregnancy, synthetic somatostatin analogues are used for the management of blood glucose levels in expectant hyperinsulinemic mothers. Recent reports suggest that octreotide treatment in pregnancy, as well as hypoglycemia in itself, may pose a risk of fetal growth restriction. During pregnancy, management of blood glucose levels in familial hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia thus forms a medical dilemma. We report on pregnancy outcomes in a woman with symptomatic familial hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia, type 3. During the patient’s first pregnancy with a viable fetus octreotide treatment was instituted in gestational age 23 weeks to prevent severe hypoglycemic incidences. Fetal growth velocity declined, and at 37 weeks of gestation, intrauterine growth retardation was evident. During the second pregnancy with a viable fetus, blood glucose levels were managed through dietary intervention alone. Thus, the patient was advised to take small but frequent meals high in fiber and low in carbohydrates. Throughout pregnancy, no incidences of severe hypoglycemia occurred and fetal growth velocity was normal. We conclude that octreotide treatment during pregnancy may pose a risk of fetal growth restriction and warrants careful consideration. In some cases of familial hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia, blood glucose levels can be successfully managed through diet only, also during pregnancy.

Learning points:

  • Gain-of-function mutations in GCK cause familial hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia.

  • Hypoglycemia during pregnancy may have serious health implications for mother and fetus.

  • Pregnancy with hyperinsulinism represents a medical dilemma as hypoglycemia as well as octreotide treatment may pose a risk of fetal growth restriction.

  • In some cases of familial hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia, blood glucose levels can be successfully managed through diet only.

Open access

Rossella Mazzilli, Michele Delfino, Jlenia Elia, Francesco Benedetti, Laura Alesi, Luciana Chessa and Fernando Mazzilli

Summary

We report the case of a 19-year-old boy, presenting several congenital malformations (facial dysmorphisms, cardiac and musculoskeletal abnormalities), mental retardation, recurrent respiratory infections during growth and delayed puberty. Although previously hospitalised in other medical centres, only psychological support had been recommended for this patient. In our department, genetic, biochemical/hormonal and ultrasound examinations were undertaken. The karyotype was 49,XXXXY, a rare aneuploidy with an incidence of 1/85 000–100 000, characterised by the presence of three extra X chromosomes in phenotypically male subjects. The hormonal/biochemical profile showed hypergonadotropic hypogonadism, insulin resistance and vitamin D deficiency. The patient was then treated with testosterone replacement therapy. After 12 months of treatment, we observed the normalisation of testosterone levels. There was also an increase in pubic hair growth, testicular volume and penis size, weight loss, homeostatic model assessment index reduction and the normalisation of vitamin D values. Moreover, the patient showed greater interaction with the social environment and context.

Learning points

  • In cases of plurimalformative syndrome, cognitive impairment, recurrent infections during growth and, primarily, delayed puberty, it is necessary to ascertain as soon as possible whether the patient is suffering from hypogonadism or metabolic disorders due to genetic causes. In our case, the diagnosis of hypogonadism, and then of 49,XXXXY syndrome, was unfortunately made only at the age of 19 years.

  • The testosterone replacement treatment, even though delayed, induced positive effects on: i) development of the reproductive system, ii) regulation of the metabolic profile and iii) interaction with the social environment and context.

  • However, earlier and timely hormonal replacement treatment could probably have improved the quality of life of this subject and his family.