Long-term non-surgical therapy of severe persistent congenital hyperinsulinism with glucagon

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Pediatrics

Publication Date


Document Type



Blood Glucose; Brain Diseases, Metabolic; Female; Gastrointestinal Agents; Glucagon; Glycogen; Humans; Hypoglycemia; Infant, Newborn; Male; Octreotide; Pancreatectomy; Persistent Hyperinsulinemia Hypoglycemia of; Infancy; Retrospective Studies


Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism | Pediatrics


BACKGROUND: Congenital hyperinsulinism (CHI) is characterized by severe hypoglycemia caused by dysregulated insulin secretion. The long-term outcome is dependent on prevention of hypoglycemic episodes to avoid the high risk of permanent brain damage. Severe cases are usually resistant to diazoxide or nifedipine. In addition, somatostatin analogues are ineffective in a subgroup of patients to achieve stable euglycemia. In these infants the only remaining long-term option has been subtotal pancreatectomy with high risk of diabetes mellitus. Intravenous infusions of glucagon are used as immediate treatment to stabilize euglycemia in affected newborns. The rationale of this treatment comes from the observation of an increased glycogen content of the liver when glycogenolysis is inhibited by insulin.

OBJECTIVE: To review the efficacy and safety of long-term subcutaneous glucagon infusion as a potential therapeutic option for blood glucose stabilization in infants with severe CHI without the need of additional intravenous glucose or immediate surgical intervention.

METHOD: Retrospective review of 9 children with CHI who received continuous subcutaneous infusion of glucagon for weeks or months. Glucagon was added to octreotide to replace octreotide-induced suppression of endogenous glucagon secretion, thereby liberating glucose by stimulation of hepatic glycogenolysis. In 3 cases, a stabilized formulation of glucagon was used to prevent glucagon crystallization that frequently occurs in smaller volumes.

RESULTS: Introduction of glucagon allowed the reduction or discontinuation of central glucose infusion in all children studied. In 2 patients, glucagon was introduced due to recurrent hypoglycemia despite subtotal pancreatectomy. Six out of 9 children were discharged home on this treatment, which their parents were able to continue without further symptomatic hypoglycemia, convulsions or unconsciousness. In 3 children, subcutaneous glucagon was continuously administered for 1-4 years leading to stable euglycemia. However, 2 children with diffuse type still required subtotal pancreatectomy. As a possible side effect, 2 children developed erythema necrolyticum, which resolved after discontinuation of the glucagon infusion. This has been described before in glucagonoma.

CONCLUSION: In this retrospective series, combination therapy of low-dose octreotide and subcutaneous glucagon infusion has been effective in preventing hypoglycemic episodes in severe CHI. We propose this may serve as a therapeutic option in place of high rates of glucose infusion through a central venous catheter and as an alternative to subtotal pancreatectomy in diffuse type of CHI.

DOI of Published Version



Horm Res. 2008;70(1):59-64. Epub 2008 May 21. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Hormone research


At the time of publication, Olga Hardy was not yet affiliated with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

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