Prolonged cerebellar ataxia: an unusual complication of hypoglycemia

J Gen Intern Med. 2008 Jan;23(1):103-5. doi: 10.1007/s11606-007-0407-x. Epub 2007 Nov 14.


A 51-year-old male with a history of insulin-dependent diabetes and polysubstance abuse presented after overdose on insulin. Soon after resuscitation, he displayed a severe ataxia in all 4 limbs and was unable to walk; all of which persisted for at least 5 days. Laboratory testing was unrevealing, including relatively normal brain magnetic resonance imaging. He had recovered full neurologic function 3 months after the event. This report describes a case of reversible cerebellar ataxia as a rare complication of severe hypoglycemia that may occur in patients with abnormal cerebellar glucose metabolism. Thus, this phenomenon should be included in the differential diagnosis of patients with a history of hypoglycemia who present with ataxia. In this context, the differential diagnosis of cerebellar ataxia is discussed, as is the proposed mechanism for hypoglycemia-induced cerebellar dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Cerebellar Ataxia / etiology*
  • Cerebellar Ataxia / pathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / drug therapy*
  • Drug Overdose
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / complications*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Substance-Related Disorders