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Fasting hypoglycaemia secondary to carnitine deficiency: a late consequence of gastric bypass


Twelve years following gastric bypass surgery, a cachectic 69-year-old woman presented with both fasting and postprandial hypoglycaemia. Postprandial symptoms were relieved by dietary modification and acarbose, as is common in such cases. During a supervised fast, symptomatic hypoglycaemia occurred. Concurrent laboratory testing showed suppression of plasma insulin, c-peptide, proinsulin and insulin-like growth factor II. However, beta-hydroxybutyrate was also low, surprising given insulin deficiency. Elevated plasma free fatty acid (FFA) concentrations suggested that lipolysis was not impaired, making cachexia/malnutrition a less likely cause of hypoglycaemia. The apparent diagnosis was failure to counter-regulate—subsequent plasma carnitine measurements showed carnitine deficiency which presumably prevented FFA transport across mitochondrial membranes for ketogenesis. Repletion with high-dose oral carnitine supplements effected resolution of fasting hypoglycaemia.

  • metabolic disorders
  • malabsorption
  • malnutrition
  • vitamins and supplements
  • gastrointestinal surgery

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