Although hyperglycaemia is relatively frequent in the course of severe illnesses and may be looked upon as the possible result of an uncoordinated insulin response to the increased glucose that the body may need during periods of stress, it is generally agreed that it does not constitute a prediabetic condition. Numerous studies have aimed to explain the pathophysiology of this occurrence but none has looked at which conditions are more prone to develop stress hyperglycaemia (SH). Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the main clinical conditions that may be associated with SH in children. A total of 1199 children was studied: 833 children (439 M, 394 F, mean age 5.2 +/- 4.5 y) admitted for an acute illness or injury constituted the stress-exposed group, while 366 children (222 M, 144 F, mean age 6.2 +/- 4.6 y) admitted for elective minor surgery represented the stress-unexposed group and were considered as the control group. SH was defined as plasma glucose concentrations > or = 8.3 mmol l(-1) during an acute illness. Stress-exposed patients had significantly higher glycaemic levels than controls (5.6 +/- 1.4 vs 4.7 +/- 0.7 mmol l(-1); p < 0.0001). SH was found in 41 (4.9%) stress-exposed patients and in none of the controls. SH was significantly more prevalent in children affected by febrile seizures (12.9%) or traumatic injuries (11.7%; p < 0.008 and p < 0.02, respectively, vs other diagnoses). A significant correlation was found between glycaemia and systolic pressure (r = 0.1; p < 0.01), white cell count (r = 0.12; p < 0.0003) and body temperature (r = 0.16; p < 0.0001). SH was more frequent in patients with body temperature > 39 degrees C (14%) than in those with a temperature < or = 39 degrees C (4%; p < 0.0008). SH was more prevalent in clinical conditions of fever associated with seizures or pain (12.9% and 12.5%, respectively) than fever alone (4.4%). After a mean period of 3.5 +/- 0.6 y of follow-up none of the hyperglycaemic patients had developed diabetes mellitus.
Conclusion: Traumatic injuries, febrile seizures or conditions in which an elevated body temperature may be found are frequently associated with SH in children. In the presence of these conditions specific studies directed towards unmasking a prediabetic state may be unnecessary.