Comparison of intramuscular glucagon and intravenous dextrose in the treatment of hypoglycaemic coma in an accident and emergency department

Arch Emerg Med. 1990 Jun;7(2):73-7. doi: 10.1136/emj.7.2.73.


Hypoglycaemia remains a serious and much feared complication of insulin therapy. In this study, patients attending an accident and emergency department in hypoglycaemic coma were randomized to treatment with either intravenous dextrose (25g) or intramuscular glucagon (1mg), administered into the right thigh. Restoration of normal conscious level was slower after glucagon than dextrose (9.0 vs 3.0 min, P less than 0.01), although the average duration of hypoglycaemic coma was 120 min. Two patients in the glucagon-treated group, who failed to show satisfactory recovery after 15 min, required additional treatment with intravenous dextrose. On questioning following recovery, all except two patients reported loss of awareness of the onset of hypoglycaemia Intramuscular glucagon is valuable in the treatment of severe hypoglycaemia outwith hospital and, although the slightly slower and less predictable recovery may appear to make it a less attractive option than intravenous dextrose in the accident and emergency department, this must be balanced against the advantages of ease of administration and a lower incidence of serious adverse effects.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / drug therapy*
  • Diabetic Coma / drug therapy*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Glucagon / administration & dosage*
  • Glucose / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemic Hyperosmolar Nonketotic Coma / complications
  • Hyperglycemic Hyperosmolar Nonketotic Coma / drug therapy*
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Glucagon
  • Glucose