Glucagon: prehospital therapy for hypoglycemia

Ann Emerg Med. 1991 Apr;20(4):375-9. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(05)81658-0.


Study objective: This study evaluated the efficacy of glucagon for prehospital therapy of hypoglycemia in patients without IV access.

Design: Prospective clinical trial.

Setting: Prehospital in a busy, urban emergency medical services system.

Type of participants: Fifty consecutive patients presenting with documented hypoglycemia (ChemStrip BG less than or equal to 80 mg/dL) and symptoms of decreased level of consciousness, syncope, or seizure were enrolled.

Measures and main results: Data collected included pretreatment (ChemStrip BG) and post-treatment serum glucose (hospital assay) as well as assessment of level of consciousness by a quantitative measure, the Glasgow Coma Score, and by a qualitative scale (0 to 3). The mean pretreatment blood glucose of 33.2 +/- 23.3 mg/dL increased after treatment to 133.3 +/- 57.3 mg/dL. Qualitative level of consciousness increased from a mean of 1.26 +/- .96 to 2.42 +/- .94 and Glasgow Coma Score increased from a mean of 9.0 +/- 4.19 to 13.04 +/- 3.68. The mean time until response was 8.8 minutes in those who responded to both level of consciousness criteria 82% (41 of 50). Glucagon administered for hypoglycemia resulted in a glucose increase in 98% (49 of 50) with headache as the only side effect noted in 4% (two of 50) of patients (P less than .0001).

Conclusion: Glucagon is safe and effective therapy for hypoglycemia in the prehospital setting.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Glucagon / administration & dosage
  • Glucagon / adverse effects
  • Glucagon / therapeutic use*
  • Headache / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / blood
  • Hypoglycemia / complications
  • Hypoglycemia / drug therapy*
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Prospective Studies
  • Unconsciousness / etiology


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glucagon