Limited communication and management of emergency department hyperglycemia in hospitalized patients

J Hosp Med. 2009 Jan;4(1):45-9. doi: 10.1002/jhm.400.


Background: Hyperglycemia is often overlooked and unaddressed in hospitalized patients, and early and intensive management may improve outcomes.

Objective: To evaluate communication and early management of emergency department (ED) hyperglycemia.

Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study of patients with an initial serum glucose >or=140 mg/dL at an urban, academic institution. We randomly selected cases from a consecutive sample of ED visits with at least 1 serum glucose result during a 1-year period. We recorded clinical data and compared the content of inpatient and ED-written discharge instructions.

Results: Of the 27,688 initial ED glucose results during the study period, 3517 (13%) were 140-199 mg/dL, and 2304 (8%) values were >or=200 mg/dL. In our sample of 385 patients, 293 (76%) patients were hospitalized. Inpatient or ED discharge instructions informed 36 (10%) patients of their hyperglycemia and 23 (6%) of a plan for further evaluation and management. There was no difference between inpatient and ED instructions for either of these variables (P = 0.73 and 0.16, respectively). Overall, 107 (55%) patients with glucose values 140-199 mg/dL and 31 (16%) patients with glucose >or=200 mg/dL had no prior diabetes diagnosis. Only 61 (16%) received insulin in the ED for their hyperglycemia, and hyperglycemia was charted as a diagnosis in 36 (9%) cases.

Conclusions: Most ED patients with even mild hyperglycemia were hospitalized. Recognition, communication, and management of ED hyperglycemia were suboptimal and represent a missed opportunity to identify undiagnosed diabetes and to initiate early glycemic control for hospitalized patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Communication*
  • Disease Management
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / blood
  • Hyperglycemia / drug therapy*
  • Insulin / administration & dosage
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Insulin