Insulinoma: poor recognition of clinical features is the major problem in diagnosis

Med J Aust. 1978 Jul 1;2(1):1-5. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.1978.tb131299.x.


Traditionally it is taught that hypoglycaemia may cause a clinical picture which mimics a variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders. Yet patients with insulinoma continue to baffle many medical specialists, who presumably are not sufficiently aware of the clinical features of hypoglycaemia. After examining medical records of seventeen patients, diagnosed as suffering from "insulinoma" in major Melbourne hospitals from 1971 to 1976, it was evident that these patients frequently undergo extensive investigations for supposed neurological disorders, the correct diagnosis being missed until they develop catastrophic symptoms. Of these seventeen patients, the diagnosis was made with reasonable speed in only six cases, while eight patients were initially discharged from hospital with a completely erroneous diagnosis. It seems likely that a number of patients with insulinoma, whose symptoms are less dramatic than those reported here, are being mistakenly treated as having epileptiform or psychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma, Islet Cell / blood
  • Adenoma, Islet Cell / diagnosis*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Female
  • Gastrins / blood
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / blood
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Proinsulin / blood
  • Time Factors


  • Gastrins
  • Proinsulin