For further evaluation of B-cell secretion in diabetic keto-acidosis (KA) and in non-ketotic hyperosmolar coma (NKHC), basal and post-i.v. tolbutamide blood CPR and IRI values were measured in 34 patients (22 KA and 12 NKHC). FFA, cortisol and HGH measurements were also performed. IRI was low in both KA and NKHC (0.07 +/- 0.01 and 0.082 +/- 0.01 nmol/l) as opposed to CPR which was significantly higher in NKHC (1.14 +/- 0.1 nmol/l) than in KA (0.21 +/- 0.03 nmol/l). After tolbutamide injection, CPR and IRI levels did not change in any of the KA cases, whereas they significantly increased in half of the NKHC cases. Cortisol and FFA values were similarly increased in both situations, as opposed to HGH which was significantly higher (6.1 +/- 1.2 ng/ml) in KA than in NKHC (1.9 +/- 0.2 ng/ml). These results suggest that B-cell function is less deficient in NKHC than in KA. Residual insulin amounts reaching the liver via the portal vein could partly account for the absence of ketosis in NKHC.