Objective: To report a case that substantiates the presence of hypoglycemia at the time of death of a young man with type 1 diabetes, who was found unresponsive in his undisturbed bed in the morning.
Methods: We describe a 23-year-old man with a history of type 1 diabetes treated with an insulin pump, who had recurrent severe hypoglycemia. In an effort to understand these episodes better and attempt to eliminate them, a retrospective (non-real-time) continuous subcutaneous glucose monitoring system (CGMS) was attached to the patient. He was found dead in his undisturbed bed 20 hours later. The insulin pump and CGMS were both downloaded for postmortem study.
Results: Postmortem download of the data in the CGMS demonstrated glucose levels below 30 mg/dL around the time of his death, with only a minimal counter-regulatory response. This finding corresponded to a postmortem vitreous humor glucose of 25 mg/dL. An autopsy showed no major anatomic abnormalities that could have contributed to his death.
Conclusion: To our knowledge, this is the first documentation of hypoglycemia at the time of death in a patient with the "dead-in-bed" syndrome. This report should raise the awareness of physicians to the potentially lethal effects of hypoglycemia and provide justification for efforts directed at avoiding nocturnal hypoglycemia.