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G K Dimitriadis, K Gopalakrishnan, R Rao, D K Grammatopoulos, H S Randeva, M O Weickert and N Murthy

Summary

We report the case of a 70-year-old previously healthy female who presented acutely to the Accident and Emergency department with left-sided vasomotor symptoms including reduced muscle tone, weakness upon walking and slurred speech. Physical examination confirmed hemiparesis with VIIth nerve palsy and profound hepatomegaly. A random glucose was low at 1.7 mmol/l, which upon correction resolved her symptoms. In hindsight, the patient recalled having had similar episodes periodically over the past 3 months to which she did not give much attention. While hospitalized, she continued having episodes of symptomatic hypoglycaemia during most nights, requiring treatment with i.v. dextrose and/or glucagon. Blood tests including insulin and C-peptide were invariably suppressed, in correlation with low glucose. A Synacthen stimulation test was normal (Cort (0′) 390 nmol/l, Cort (30′) 773 nmol/l). A computed tomography scan showed multiple lobulated masses in the abdomen, liver and pelvis. An ultrasound guided biopsy of one of the pelvic masses was performed. Immunohistochemistry supported the diagnosis of a gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST) positive for CD34 and CD117. A diagnosis of a non islet cell tumour hypoglycaemia (NICTH) secondary to an IGF2 secreting GIST was confirmed with further biochemical investigations (IGF2=96.5 nmol/l; IGF2:IGF1 ratio 18.9, ULN <10). Treatment with growth hormone resolved the patient's hypoglycaemic symptoms and subsequent targeted therapy with Imatinib was successful in controlling disease progression over an 8-year observation period.

Learning points

  • NICTH can be a rare complication of GISTs that may manifest with severe hypoglycaemia and neuroglucopenic symptoms.
  • NICTH can masquerade as other pathologies thus causing diagnostic confusion.
  • Histological confirmation of GIST induced NICTH and exclusion of other conditions causing hypoglycaemia is essential.
  • Mutational analysis of GISTs should be carried out in all cases as it guides treatment decision.
  • Tailored management of hypoglycaemia, in this case using growth hormone and targeted cyto-reductive therapy, minimizes the risk of possible life-threatening complications.