Difficulties or mistakes in diagnosing type 1 diabetes in children?--demographic factors influencing delayed diagnosis

Pediatr Diabetes. 2009 Dec;10(8):542-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-5448.2009.00516.x. Epub 2009 May 28.


Background: Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) development in children with new-onset type 1 diabetes (T1DM) is often the main consequence of delayed diagnosis. The aim of the study was to estimate the frequency of difficulties in T1DM diagnosis and to investigate if and how the demographic factors (gender, patient's age at presentation, family history of T1DM, level of maternal education, place of residence, and health service unit the patient called at) have any influence on diagnostic delays.

Subjects and methods: Retrospective analysis of 474 children (243 boys-51.27% and 231 girls -48.73%) with new-onset T1DM aged below 17 yr and living in the Pomeranian region of Poland was carried out. The delay in diagnosis was recognized if the patient was not diagnosed on the first visit because of omission, wrong interpretation of main diabetic symptoms, exclusive treatment of additional signs, or concomitant diseases.

Results: Difficulties in diagnosing T1DM were found in 67 cases (14.13%) and they are the main cause of DKA development in these children (p = 0.00). Among the examined demographic factors, mainly the patient's age at presentation has a significant influence on diagnostic delays (p = 0.01), especially in children below 2 yr (p = 0.00). Most frequently family doctors were responsible for wrong preliminary diagnosis.

Conclusions: Difficulties in diagnosing T1DM are a significant cause of DKA development in children with new-onset disease. Patient's age at presentation is the main risk factor of delayed diagnosis, especially in children below 2 yr. The increase in awareness among pediatricians concerning the possibility of T1DM development in children is needed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / diagnosis*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / epidemiology*
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis / diagnosis*
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis / epidemiology*
  • Diagnostic Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Poland / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors