Background: Glycemic control is increasingly being recognized as a priority in the treatment of critically ill patients. Titration and monitoring of insulin infusions involve frequent blood glucose measurement to achieve target glucose ranges and prevent adverse events related to hypoglycemia. Therefore, it is imperative that bedside glucose testing methods be safe and accurate.
Objective: To determine the accuracy and clinical impact of three common methods of bedside point-of-care testing for glucose measurements in critically ill patients receiving insulin infusions.
Design: Prospective observational study.
Setting: A 21-bed mixed medical/surgical intensive care unit of a tertiary care teaching hospital.
Patients: Thirty consecutive critically ill patients who were vasopressor-dependent (n = 10), had significant peripheral edema (n = 10), or were admitted following major surgery (n = 10).
Measurements: Findings from three different methods of glucose measurement were compared with central laboratory measurements: (1) glucose meter analysis of capillary blood (fingerstick); (2) glucose meter analysis of arterial blood; and (3) blood gas/chemistry analysis of arterial blood. Patients were enrolled for a maximum of 3 days and had a maximum of nine sets of measurements determined during this time.
Results: Clinical agreement with the central laboratory was significantly better with arterial blood analysis (69.9% and 76.5% for glucose meter and blood gas/chemistry analysis, respectively) than with capillary blood analysis (56.8%; p = .039 and .001, respectively). During hypoglycemia, clinical agreement was only 26.3% with capillary blood analysis and 55.6% and 64.9% for glucose meter and blood gas/chemistry analysis of arterial blood (p = .010 and <.001, respectively). Glucose meter analysis of both arterial and capillary blood tended to provide higher glucose values, whereas blood gas/chemistry analysis of arterial blood tended to yield lower glucose values.
Conclusions: The magnitude of the differences in the glucose values offered by the four different methods of glucose measurement led to frequent clinical disagreements regarding insulin dose titration in the context of an insulin infusion protocol for aggressive glucose control.