Insulin therapy in critically ill patients
Samer Ellahham and Associates, Falls Church, VA, USA
Abstract: Hyperglycemia frequently occurs with acute medical illness, especially among patients with cardiovascular disease, and has been linked to increased morbidity and mortality in critically ill patients. Even patients who are normoglycemic can develop hyperglycemia in response to acute metabolic stress. An expanding body of literature describes the benefits of normalizing hyperglycemia with insulin therapy in hospitalized patients. As a result, both the American Diabetes Association and the American College of Endocrinology have developed guidelines for optimal control of hyperglycemia, specifically targeting critically ill, hospitalized patients. Conventional blood glucose values of 140–180 mg/dL are considered desirable and safely achievable in most patients. More aggressive control to <110 mg/dL remains controversial, but has shown benefits in certain patients, such as those in surgical intensive care. Intravenous infusion is often used for initial insulin administration, which can then be transitioned to subcutaneous insulin therapy in those patients who require continued insulin maintenance. This article reviews the data establishing the link between hyperglycemia and its risks of morbidity and mortality, and describes strategies that have proven effective in maintaining glycemic control in high-risk hospitalized patients.
Keywords: hyperglycemia, cardiovascular disease, insulin, intensive care, critical care
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