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Burden of insulin-related hypoglycemia high in elderly.

Severe hypoglycemia related to overly "tight" insulin control for type 2 diabetes prompts nearly 100,000 emergency department visits and 30,000 hospitalizations each year and is particularly common among older patients, according to a report.

In an analysis of data from a nationally representative sample of hospitals in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-Cooperative Adverse Drug Event Surveillance project, researchers estimated that 97,648 ED visits occurred annually during a 5-year period among adults with type 2 diabetes who presented with hypoglycemia-related shock, loss of consciousness, seizure, injury or fall, or altered mental status. Most cases involved blood glucose levels of 50 mg/dL or less, said Dr. Andrew I. Geller of the division of healthcare quality promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and his associates.

The case rate was 34.9 per 1,000 insulin-treated patients among those aged 80 years and older. In comparison, the rate was only 13.7 per 1,000 among those aged 45-64 years. Older patients were more than twice as Likely as younger ones to require an ED visit and nearly five times as likely to hospitalized, Dr. Geller and his associates said (JAMA Intern. Med. 2014 March 10 [doi: 10.1001/ja-mainternmed.2014.136]).

The most common precipitating factor was "meal-related misadventure" - failing to eat shortly after taking rapid-acting insulin or failing to adjust the insulin regimen to account for a missed or very small meal. Hypoglycemia also was frequently preceded by the patient taking the wrong dose of insulin or the wrong insulin product, usually taking rapid-acting insulin instead of long-acting insulin.

"These data probably underestimate the total burden of hypoglycemic events because hypoglycemia, although a frequent cause of [emergency medical services] calls, is most often cared for outside the ED setting. Patients who have hypoglycemia unawareness and whose episodes do not result in EMS or ED care [were] not counted, nor [were] those who died en route to the ED," they added.


Major finding: Insulin-related hypoglycemia causes an estimated 97,648 ED visits every year, with the highest rate (34.9 cases per 1,000 patients) occurring among the oldest diabetic patients.

Data source: An analysis of nationally representative public health surveillance data on adverse drug events, focusing on hypoglycemia resulting from insulin overdose.

Disclosures: No financial conflicts of interest were reported.
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Title Annotation:ENDOCRINOLOGY
Author:Moon, Mary Ann
Publication:Internal Medicine News
Date:Apr 15, 2014
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