The cause of hyperglycemia in extremely-low-birth-weight (ELBW) infants is not well understood. We studied infants weighing <1,000 g to investigate the relationship of hyperglycemia to blood levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I and IGF-II. We also compared two methods of treatment for hyperglycemia: continuous insulin infusion and reduction of glucose intake.Fifty-six ELBW infants were enrolled on day 2 of life. Intravenous glucose intake was increased incrementally to a maximum of 12 mg/kg/min on day 6. Infants who developed hyperglycemia were randomly assigned to receive reduced glucose intake (n = 11) or insulin infusion (n = 12). Infants whose blood sugar remained normal served as controls (n = 33). Blood was drawn on days 3, 8 and 15 in all infants, and again when they developed hyperglycemia. Nutritional intake and laboratory results for the treatment groups were compared with controls.Hyperglycemic infants had lower birth weights than controls. Hyperglycemic infants treated with glucose reduction remained <60 kcal/kg/day longer than control or insulin infusion groups (8.6 ± 1.3 days vs. 4.1 ± 0.2 and 5.5 ± 0.6 days). No infants became hypoglycemic during insulin infusion. There was no difference in baseline blood levels of IGF-I or IGF-II among the groups, and these growth factors did not change in response to hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemic infants had baseline levels of insulin which were similar to normal controls, and endogenous insulin increased in response to hyperglycemia in 15 of the 23 infants who developed hyperglycemia.IGF-I and IGF-II are not related to hyperglycemia. In our population, hyperglycemic infants did not have baseline insulin deficiency and most had a normal insulin response to hyperglycemia. Insulin infusion appears safe in these infants and helped to maintain normal caloric intake, whereas glucose reduction was associated with a prolonged caloric deprivation.