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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

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

Xin Chen, Dina Kamel, Braden Barnett, Evan Yung, Adrienne Quinn and Caroline Nguyen

Summary

There has been an increasing awareness of post gastric bypass hypoglycemia (PGBH). Histopathologic findings from such patients who underwent partial/total pancreatomy, however, can vary widely from minimal changes to classic nesidioblastosis, making the pathologic diagnosis challenging. PGBH typically presents as postprandial hypoglycemia, as opposed to insulinoma, which presents as fasting hypoglycemia. Herein, we describe an unusual case of a patient with PGBH who initially presented with postprandial hypoglycemia three years after surgery, but later developed fasting hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia as the disease progressed. Our hypothesis for this phenomenon is that this disease is progressive, and later in its course, the insulin release becomes dissociated from food stimulation and is increased at baseline. Future studies are needed to investigate the prevalence as well as etiology of this progression from postprandial to fasting hypoglycemia.

Learning points:

  • There has been an increasing awareness of post gastric bypass hypoglycemia (PGBH).

  • Histopathologically, PGBH can vary from minimal changes to nesidioblastosis.

  • Although uncommon, patients with PGBH after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass may present with both postprandial and fasting hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia as disease progresses.

  • Our hypothesis for this phenomenon is that the insulin release becomes dissociated from food stimulation and is increased at baseline with disease progression.

Open access

Sarah Y Qian, Matthew J L Hare, Alan Pham and Duncan J Topliss

Summary

Insulinomas are rare neuroendocrine tumours that classically present with fasting hypoglycaemia. This case report discusses an uncommon and challenging case of insulinoma soon after upper gastrointestinal surgery. A 63-year-old man presented with 6 months of post-prandial hypoglycaemia beginning after a laparoscopic revision of Toupet fundoplication. Hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia was confirmed during a spontaneous episode and in a mixed-meal test. Localisation studies including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) and gallium dotatate positron emission tomography (68Ga Dotatate PET) were consistent with a small insulinoma in the mid-body of the pancreas. The lesion was excised and histopathology was confirmed a localised well-differentiated neuroendocrine pancreatic neoplasm. There have been no significant episodes of hypoglycaemia since. This case highlights several key points. Insulinoma should be sought in proven post-prandial hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia – even in the absence of fasting hypoglycaemia. The use of nuclear imaging targeting somatostatin and GLP1 receptors has improved accuracy of localisation. Despite these advances, accurate surgical resection can remain challenging.

Learning points:

  • Hypoglycaemia is defined by Whipple’s triad and can be provoked by fasting or mixed-meal tests.

  • Although uncommon, insulinomas can present with post-prandial hypoglycaemia.

  • In hypoglycaemia following gastrointestinal surgery (i.e. bariatric surgery or less commonly Nissen fundoplication) dumping syndrome or non-insulinoma pancreatogenous hypoglycaemia syndrome (NIPHS) should be considered.

  • Improved imaging techniques including MRI, endoscopic ultrasound and functional nuclear medicine scans aid localisation of insulinomas.

  • Despite advances in imaging and surgical techniques, accurate resection of insulinomas remains challenging.

Open access

Yasutaka Takeda, Yukihiro Fujita, Kentaro Sakai, Tomoe Abe, Tomonobu Nakamura, Tsuyoshi Yanagimachi, Hidemitsu Sakagami, Jun Honjo, Atsuko Abiko, Yuichi Makino and Masakazu Haneda

Summary

MEN1-associated pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pNETs) may potentially express distinct hormones, but the mechanism has not been elucidated. Transcription factors such as MafA and Pdx1 have been identified to lead to beta cell differentiation, while Arx and Brn4 to alpha cell differentiation in developing pancreas. We hypothesized those transcription factors are important to produce specific hormones in pNETs, similarly to developing pancreas, and examined the expression of transcription factors in a case of MEN1 who showed immunohistological coexistence of several hormone-producing pNETs including insulinoma. A 70-year-old woman was found to manifest hypoglycemia with non-suppressed insulinemia and hypercalcemia with elevated PTH level. She was diagnosed as MEN1 based on the manifestation of primary hyperparathyroidism, pituitary adenoma and insulinoma, with genetic variation of MEN1 gene. She had pylorus-preserving pancreaticoduodenectomy because CT scan and SACI test indicated that insulinoma was localized in the head of the pancreas. Histopathological finding was MEN1-associated NET, G1. Interestingly, immunohistological examination of the resected pancreas revealed that two insulinomas, a glucagon-positive NET and a multiple hormone-positive NET coexisted. Hence, we examined the expression of transcription factors immunohistochemically to elucidate the role of the transcription factors in MEN1-associated hormone-producing pNETs. We observed homogeneous expressions of MafA and Pdx1 in insulinomas and Arx in glucagon-positive NET, respectively. Moreover, multiple hormone-positive NETs expressed several transcription factors heterogeneously. Collectively, our results suggested that transcription factors could play important roles in the production of specific hormones in MEN1-associated pNETs, similar to islet differentiation.

Learning points:

  • To date, it has been shown that different hormone-producing tumors coexist in MEN1-associated pNETs; however, the underlying mechanism of the hormone production in MEN1-associated pNETs has not been well elucidated.

  • Although this case presented symptomatic hypoglycemia, several hormone-producing pNETs other than insulinoma also coexisted in the pancreas.

  • Immunohistochemical analysis showed MafA and Pdx1 expressions distinctly in insulinoma, and Arx expression particularly in a glucagon-positive NET, while a multiple hormone-positive NET expressed MafA, Pdx1 and Arx.

  • Collectively, clinicians should consider that several hormone-producing pNETs may coexist in a MEN1 case and examine both endocrinological and histopathological analysis of pNETs, regardless of whether symptoms related to the excess of hormones are observed or not.

Open access

Athanasios Fountas, Zoe Giotaki, Evangelia Dounousi, George Liapis, Alexandra Bargiota, Agathocles Tsatsoulis and Stelios Tigas

Summary

Proteinuric renal disease is prevalent in congenital or acquired forms of generalized lipodystrophy. In contrast, an association between familial partial lipodystrophy (FPLD) and renal disease has been documented in very few cases. A 22-year-old female patient presented with impaired glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinemia, hirsutism and oligomenorrhea. On examination, there was partial loss of subcutaneous adipose tissue in the face, upper and lower limbs, bird-like facies with micrognathia and low set ears and mild acanthosis nigricans. Laboratory investigations revealed hyperandrogenism, hyperlipidemia, elevated serum creatine kinase and mild proteinuria. A clinical diagnosis of FPLD of the non-Dunnigan variety was made; genetic testing revealed a heterozygous c.1045C > T mutation in exon 6 of the LMNA gene, predicted to result in an abnormal LMNA protein (p.R349W). Electromyography and muscle biopsy were suggestive of non-specific myopathy. Treatment with metformin and later with pioglitazone was initiated. Due to worsening proteinuria, a renal biopsy was performed; histological findings were consistent with mild focal glomerular mesangioproliferative changes, and the patient was started on angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor therapy. This is the fourth report of FPLD associated with the c.1045C > T missense LMNA mutation and the second with co-existent proteinuric renal disease. Patients carrying this specific mutation may exhibit a phenotype that includes partial lipodystrophy, proteinuric nephropathy, cardiomyopathy and atypical myopathy.

Learning points:

  • Lipodystrophy is a rare disorder characterized by the complete or partial loss of subcutaneous adipose tissue, insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus and hyperlipidemia.

  • Proteinuric renal disease is a prevalent feature of generalized lipodystrophy but rare in familial partial lipodystrophy.

  • Patients carrying the c.1045C > T missense LMNA mutation (p.R349W) may present with familial partial lipodystrophy, proteinuric nephropathy, cardiomyopathy and atypical myopathy.

Open access

Adriana de Sousa Lages, Isabel Paiva, Patrícia Oliveira, Francisco Portela and Francisco Carrilho

Summary

Insulinomas are the most frequent cause of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia. Although surgical enucleation is the standard treatment, a few other options are available to high-risk patients who are elderly or present with co-morbidities. We present a case report of an 89-year-old female patient who was admitted to the emergency department due to recurrent hypoglycaemia, especially during fasting. Laboratory work-up raised the suspicion of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia, and abdominal CT scan revealed a 12 mm nodular hypervascular lesion of the pancreatic body suggestive of neuroendocrine tumour. The patient was not considered a suitable candidate for surgery, and medical therapy with diazoxide was poorly tolerated. Endoscopic ultrasound-guided ethanol ablation therapy was performed and a total of 0.6 mL of 95% ethanol was injected into the lesion by a transgastric approach; no complications were reported after the procedure. At 5 months of follow-up, no episodes of hypoglycaemia were reported, no diazoxide therapy was necessary, and revaluation abdominal CT scan revealed a pancreatic nodular lesion with a size involution of about half of its original volume. The patient is regularly followed-up at the endocrinology clinic and shows a significant improvement in her wellbeing and quality of life.

Learning points:

  • Insulinomas are the most frequent cause of hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia.

  • Surgical enucleation is the standard treatment with a few other options available to high-risk patients.

  • Endoscopic ultrasound-guided ethanol ablation therapy is one feasible option in high-risk patients with satisfactory clinical outcomes, significant positive impact on quality of life and low complication rates related to the procedure.

Open access

Dinesh Giri, Prashant Patil, Rachel Hart, Mohammed Didi and Senthil Senniappan

Summary

Poland syndrome (PS) is a rare congenital condition, affecting 1 in 30 000 live births worldwide, characterised by a unilateral absence of the sternal head of the pectoralis major and ipsilateral symbrachydactyly occasionally associated with abnormalities of musculoskeletal structures. A baby girl, born at 40 weeks’ gestation with birth weight of 3.33 kg (−0.55 SDS) had typical phenotypical features of PS. She had recurrent hypoglycaemic episodes early in life requiring high concentration of glucose and glucagon infusion. The diagnosis of congenital hyperinsulinism (CHI) was biochemically confirmed by inappropriately high plasma concentrations of insulin and C-peptide and low plasma free fatty acids and β-hydroxyl butyrate concentrations during hypoglycaemia. Sequencing of ABCC8, KCNJ11 and HNF4A did not show any pathogenic mutation. Microarray analysis revealed a novel duplication in the short arm of chromosome 10 at 10p13–14 region. This is the first reported case of CHI in association with PS and 10p duplication. We hypothesise that the HK1 located on the chromosome 10 encoding hexokinase-1 is possibly linked to the pathophysiology of CHI.

Learning points:

  • Congenital hyperinsulinism (CHI) is known to be associated with various syndromes.

  • This is the first reported association of CHI and Poland syndrome (PS) with duplication in 10p13–14.

  • A potential underlying genetic link between 10p13–14 duplication, PS and CHI is a possibility.

Open access

Chih-Ting Su and Yi-Chun Lin

Summary

Insulin antibodies (IA) associated with exogenous insulin administration seldom caused hypoglycemia and had different characteristics from insulin autoantibodies (IAA) found in insulin autoimmune syndrome (IAS), which was first described by Dr Hirata in 1970. The characteristic of IAS is the presence of insulin-binding autoantibodies and related fasting or late postprandial hypoglycemia. Here, we report a patient with type 1 diabetes mellitus under insulin glargine and insulin aspart treatment who developed recurrent spontaneous post-absorptive hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia with the cause probably being insulin antibodies induced by exogenous injected insulin. Examinations of serial sera disclosed a high titre of insulin antibodies (33%, normal <5%), high insulin concentration (111.9 IU/mL) and undetectable C-peptide when hypoglycemia occurred. An oral glucose tolerance test revealed persistent high serum levels of total insulin and undetectable C-peptide. Image studies of the pancreas were unremarkable, which excluded the diagnosis of insulinoma. The patient does not take any of the medications containing sulfhydryl compounds, which had been reported to cause IAS. After administering oral prednisolone for 3 weeks, hypoglycemic episodes markedly improved, and he was discharged smoothly.

Learning points:

  • Insulin autoimmune syndrome (IAS) or IAS-like situation should be one of the differential diagnosis in patients with hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia.

  • Although less reported, insulin antibodies (IA) caused by exogenous insulin analog should be considered as the cause of hypoglycemia.

  • Patients with suspected insulin autoimmune syndrome (IAS) should be screened for drugs related to autoimmunity to endogenous insulin.

Open access

Anthony Logaraj, Venessa H M Tsang, Shahrir Kabir and Julian C Y Ip

Summary

Adrenal haemorrhage is a rare cause of adrenal crisis, which requires rapid diagnosis, prompt initiation of parenteral hydrocortisone and haemodynamic monitoring to avoid hypotensive crises. We herein describe a case of bilateral adrenal haemorrhage after hemicolectomy in a 93-year-old female with high-grade colonic adenocarcinoma. This patient’s post-operative recovery was complicated by an acute hypotensive episode, hypoglycaemia and syncope, and subsequent computed tomography (CT) scan of the abdomen revealed bilateral adrenal haemorrhage. Given her labile blood pressure, intravenous hydrocortisone was commenced with rapid improvement of blood pressure, which had incompletely responded with fluids. A provisional diagnosis of hypocortisolism was made. Initial heparin-induced thrombocytopenic screen (HITTS) was positive, but platelet count and coagulation profile were both normal. The patient suffered a concurrent transient ischaemic attack with no neurological deficits. She was discharged on a reducing dose of oral steroids with normal serum cortisol levels at the time of discharge. She and her family were educated about lifelong steroids and the use of parenteral steroids should a hypoadrenal crisis eventuate.

Learning points:

  • Adrenal haemorrhage is a rare cause of hypoadrenalism, and thus requires prompt diagnosis and management to prevent death from primary adrenocortical insufficiency.

  • Mechanisms of adrenal haemorrhage include reduced adrenal vascular bed capillary resistance, adrenal vein thrombosis, catecholamine-related increased adrenal blood flow and adrenal vein spasm.

  • Standard diagnostic assessment is a non-contrast CT abdomen.

  • Intravenous hydrocortisone and intravenous substitution of fluids are the initial management.

  • A formal diagnosis of primary adrenal insufficiency should never delay treatment, but should be made afterwards.