Objective: To characterize the effects of severe hypoglycemia on the developing brain in children with early-onset type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM).
Study design: Children diagnosed with T1DM before age 6 years were studied. Those with prospectively monitored severe hypoglycemia (coma/seizure; n = 32) were compared with age-matched peers (n = 30) with no history of such events using magnetic resonance imaging. Glycemic control (evaluated based on glycated hemoglobin [HbA(lc)] level), episodes of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), and clinical variables were monitored continuously since diagnosis in all subjects.
Results: Mean HbA(lc) from diagnosis and the duration of T1DM were similar in those with and without a history of severe hypoglycemia (9.0% +/- 0.9% vs 8.8% +/- 0.9%; 7.2 +/- 2.7 years vs 6.7 +/- 2.3 years). A high prevalence of central nervous system (CNS) structural abnormalities was detected (29%), and mesial temporal sclerosis (MTS) was detected in 16% of the total sample (n = 62). The presence of MTS was not associated with a history of severe hypoglycemia or DKA. Analysis of brain matter volumes suggested relatively less gray matter density in those subjects with a history of severe hypoglycemia.
Conclusions: Early age of onset of T1DM per se is associated with a high incidence of CNS abnormalities, particularly MTS, suggesting hippocampal damage. Early-onset severe hypoglycemia may have an effect on gray matter volume.