Aims/hypothesis: Cerebral oedema complicating diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) remains the major cause of morbidity and mortality in children with type 1 diabetes, but its aetiology remains unknown. Our objective was to determine the impact of baseline biochemical factors and of treatment-related variables on risk of the development of cerebral oedema in children with DKA.
Materials and methods: This was a national UK case-control study. Through the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit we identified 43 cases of cerebral oedema. Through a parallel reporting system, we also identified 2,940 episodes of DKA and selected 169 control subjects on the basis of comparable age, sex, numbers of new or known cases of diabetes and date of admission. Baseline biochemical data and treatment-related variables were extracted from the clinical notes of cases and control subjects.
Results: Allowing for differences in age, sex and new or known diabetes, cases were more acidotic at diagnosis of DKA (odds ratio [OR] for events in the least acidotic compared with the most acidotic tertile=0.02 [95% CI: 0.002-0.15], p<0.001). In addition, cases had higher potassium and urea levels at baseline. Calculated osmolality and baseline glucose were not significantly different. After allowing for severity of acidosis, insulin administration in the first hour (OR 12.7 [1.41-114.5], p=0.02) and volume of fluid administered over the first 4 h (OR 6.55 [1.38-30.97], p=0.01) were associated with risk. Low baseline plasma sodium and an elevated p(a)CO(2) also contributed to risk in the final regression model. Bicarbonate administration was not associated with increased risk of an event when corrected for acidosis.
Conclusions/interpretation: In this case-control study of DKA, baseline acidosis and abnormalities of sodium, potassium and urea concentrations were important predictors of risk of cerebral oedema. Additional risk factors identified were early administration of insulin and high volumes of fluid. These observations should be taken into account when designing treatment protocols.