The functioning side of the pancreas: a review on insulinomas

J Endocrinol Invest. 2020 Feb;43(2):139-148. doi: 10.1007/s40618-019-01091-w. Epub 2019 Jul 31.


Purpose: Insulinomas are a rare type of neuroendocrine tumors, originating in the pancreas, difficult to diagnose and to treat. Due to its rarity, insulinomas are a not well-known pathological entity; thus, the diagnostic process is frequently a medical challenge with many possible differential diagnoses. The diagnostic process varies between non-invasive procedures, such as the fasting test or imaging techniques, and invasive ones. Insulinomas are rarely malignant, but the glycemic imbalance correlated with this tumor can frequently alter the quality of life of the patients and the consequent hypoglycemia can be extremely dangerous. Moreover, insulinomas can be associated with different genetic syndromes, such as Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia 1, accompanied by other specific symptoms. There are many different treatment strategies, depending on the need to control symptoms or control diseases progression, the only curative one being surgery.

Methods and results: We reviewed the evidences present in the literature on insulinomas and reported its main clinical characteristics and management strategies.

Conclusion: The aim of this review of the literature is to present the current knowledge on insulinomas, exploring the main clinical characteristics, the diagnostic tools, and the therapeutic strategies.

Keywords: Functioning neuroendocrine tumors; Hypoglycemia; Insulinoma; Neuroendocrine tumors; Pancreas.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Insulinoma / metabolism*
  • Insulinoma / pathology
  • Insulinoma / therapy
  • Pancreas / pathology
  • Pancreas / physiology*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / therapy
  • Receptors, Somatostatin / metabolism


  • Receptors, Somatostatin