Non-islet cell tumor hypoglycemia as an initial presentation of hepatocellular carcinoma coupled with end-stage liver cirrhosis: A case report and review of literature

World J Hepatol. 2020 Aug 27;12(8):519-524. doi: 10.4254/wjh.v12.i8.519.


Background: Non-islet cell tumor hypoglycemia (NICTH) is a rare cause of persistent hypoglycemia seen in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). It is likely to be underdiagnosed especially in the patients with poor hepatic function and malnutrition. Herein, we report a rare case of NICTH as the initial presentation of HCC in a patient with chronic hypoglycemia due to end-stage liver cirrhosis.

Case summary: A 62-year-old male with chronic fasting hypoglycemia secondary to end-stage hepatitis C-related cirrhosis, presented with altered mental status and dizziness. He was found to have severe hypoglycemia refractory to glucose supplements. Imaging studies and biopsy discovered well differentiated HCC without metastasis. Further evaluation showed low insulin, C-peptide and beta-hydroxybutyrate along with a high insulin-like growth factor-2/insulin-like growth factor ratio, consistent with the diagnosis of NICTH. As patient was not a candidate for surgical resection or chemotherapy, he was started on prednisolone with some improvements in the glucose homeostasis, but soon decompensated after a superimposed hospital acquired pneumonia.

Conclusion: NICTH can occur as the sole initial presentation of HCC and is often difficult to correct without tumor removal. Clinicians should maintain high clinical suspicion for early recognition of paraneoplastic NICTH in patients at risk for HCC, even those with chronic fasting hypoglycemia in the setting of severe hepatic failure and malnutrition.

Keywords: Case report; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Insulin-like growth factor-2; Liver cirrhosis; Non-islet cell tumor hypoglycemia; Paraneoplastic syndrome.

Publication types

  • Case Reports