Background: We investigated temporal trends and geographic variations in both hospitalizations and in-hospital mortality rates for acute diabetic complications (ADC) in the Italian universal health care system.
Methods and findings: A retrospective review of the medical records of patients with either primary or secondary discharge diagnosis of hyperglycaemic acute complications (ICD-9-CM codes 250.1, 250.2, 250.3) or hypoglycemic coma (ICD-9-CM code 251.0) was performed in period 2001-2010. Standardized rates by age and gender on 2001 Italian population and by diabetic population were calculated. We identified 7,601.883 diabetes-related hospital discharges. Out of them, 266,374 (3.5%) were due to ADC, either ketoacidosis/hyperosmolarity (94.4%) or hypoglycemic coma (5.6%). The rate of discharge for ADC decreased by 51.1% from 2001 to 2010 (14.4 vs. 7.1 discharge rate/1,000 diabetic people; 5.7% decrease per year, test for trend, p<0.001) with a similar trend for both hyperglycemic and hypoglycemic complications. Diabetic people in the younger age groups (≤ 19 and 20-44 years old) had a significantly greater rate of discharge for ADC than people aged 65 years and over (≤ 19 10-fold increase; 20-44: 2-fold increase). In-hospital mortality rate was 7.6%, with 211 preventable deaths in younger diabetic people (≤ 44 years old). There was a large variability among Italian Regions and the ratio between the highest and the lowest regional discharge rate reached 300% in 2010.
Conclusions: Decreasing temporal trend in hospitalizations for preventable ADC suggests improving outpatient care. In younger diabetic patients, however, both hospitalization rates and in-hospital mortality are still a matter of concern.