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      Insulin Tolerance Test Causes Hypokalaemia and Can Provoke Cardiac Arrhythmias

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          We report the observation and analysis of a new adverse event during the insulin tolerance test (ITT) and propose additional safety procedures. An 8-year-old girl with growth hormone insufficiency had a cardiac arrest due to ventricular flutter when she was tested for growth hormone deficiency by the ITT. Severe hypokalaemia (K<sup>+</sup> 2.6 mmol/l) was observed after resuscitation. Ergometry ECG revealed catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia, a hereditary arrhythmogenic disease. Consecutive measurements of serum potassium during ITT in 29 short children (21 boys) with growth failure revealed a mean decrease of serum potassium by 1.1 ± 0.4 mmol/l with the nadir at 30 min after the insulin bolus. Hypokalaemia (serum potassium <3.5 mmol/l) occurred in all but one child; severe hypokalaemia (serum potassium <2.9 mmol/l) was measured in every third child. This observation indicates that acute hypokalaemia which is induced by insulin and catecholamine excess occurs frequently in ITT. The case shows that the combination of acute hypokalaemia and the adrenergic counterregulation in ITT is a strong trigger of cardiac arrhythmias, which can become life-threatening if the child has an arrhythmogenic disease. Therefore, we recommend ECG monitoring during ITT to enhance the detection of cardiac arrhythmias. In addition, in the case of a comatose child during ITT the determination of the glucose and potassium level as well as adequate treatment are necessary.

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          Most cited references 10

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            Mechanisms of abnormal cardiac repolarization during insulin-induced hypoglycemia.

            Prolonged cardiac repolarization causes fatal cardiac arrhythmias. There is evidence that these contribute to sudden death associated with nocturnal hypoglycemia in young people with diabetes. We measured cardiac repolarization (QT interval [QTc] and QT dispersion [QTd]) during experimental hypoglycemia with and without beta-blockade and potassium infusion to establish possible mechanisms. Two groups of 10 nondiabetic men (study 1 and study 2) each underwent four hyperinsulinemic clamps: two euglycemic (5 mmol/l) and two hypoglycemic (5 mmol/l and 2.5 mmol/l for 60 min each). Study 1 was performed with and without potassium infusion to maintain normal concentrations and study 2 with and without beta-blockade (atenolol, 100 mg/day for 7 days). QTd was unchanged during euglycemia but increased during hypoglycemia (55 ms, P < 0.0001 vs. baseline), which was prevented by potassium (6 ms, P = 0.78). QTc increased significantly during hypoglycemia alone (67 ms, P < 0.0001) and during potassium replacement (46 ms, P = 0.02). In study 2, the increase in QTd during hypoglycemia (68 ms, P < 0.0001) was prevented by beta-blockade (3 ms, P = 0.88). The increase in QTc during hypoglycemia (55 ms, P < 0.0001) was prevented by beta-blockade (1 ms, P = 0.98). Our data indicate that hypoglycemia causes an acquired long QT syndrome. Sympathoadrenal stimulation is the main cause, through mechanisms that involve but are not limited to catecholamine-mediated hypokalemia. These abnormalities are prevented by selective beta-blockade.
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              Genetics and arrhythmias.

              The availability of chromosomal markers that span the human genome and improved high-throughput technology for genotyping and sequencing have led to major advances against genetic diseases. Genes have been identified for several disorders responsible for arrhythmias and sudden death. These genes all encode ion channels and are referred to as channelopathy genes. Congenital long QT syndrome is caused by mutations in genes encoding sodium or potassium channels. Brugada syndrome, only recently described, is due to mutations in a sodium channel and is an important cause of sudden death, particularly in Southeast Asia. Familial polymorphic ventricular tachycardia is due to a defect in the ryanodine receptor. A locus mapped to 10q32 is responsible for familial atrial fibrillation. Treatments based on knowledge of the molecular defect are being implemented for long QT syndrome and will probably provide paradigms for targeted treatment of acquired arrhythmias.

                Author and article information

                Horm Res Paediatr
                Hormone Research in Paediatrics
                S. Karger AG
                September 2004
                13 September 2004
                : 62
                : 2
                : 84-87
                University Children’s Hospital, Tübingen, and Children’s Hospital, Augsburg, Germany
                79539 Horm Res 2004;62:84–87
                © 2004 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Figures: 3, References: 19, Pages: 4
                Case Report


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