Objective: To determine whether mild or moderate hypoglycemia that occurs in critically ill patients is independently associated with an increased risk of death.
Patients and methods: Of patients admitted to 2 hospital intensive care units (ICUs) in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, from January 1, 2000, to October 14, 2004, we analyzed all those who had at least 1 episode of hypoglycemia (glucose concentration, <81 mg/dL). The independent association between hypoglycemia and outcome was statistically assessed.
Results: Of 4946 patients admitted to the ICUs, a cohort of 1109 had at least 1 episode of hypoglycemia (blood glucose level, <81 mg/dL). Of these 1109 patients (22.4% of all admissions to the intensive care unit), hospital mortality was 36.6% compared with 19.7% in the 3837 nonhypoglycemic control patients (P<.001). Even patients with a minimum blood glucose concentration between 72 and 81 mg/dL had a greater unadjusted mortality rate than did control patients (25.9% vs 19.7%; unadjusted odds ratio, 1.42; 95% confidence interval, 1.12-1.80; P=.004.) Mortality increased significantly with increasing severity of hypoglycemia (P<.001). After adjustment for insulin therapy, hypoglycemia was independently associated with increased risk of death, cardiovascular death, and death due to infectious disease.
Conclusion: In critically ill patients, an association exists between even mild or moderate hypoglycemia and mortality. Even after adjustment for insulin therapy or timing of hypoglycemic episode, the more severe the hypoglycemia, the greater the risk of death.