The clinical impact of inpatient hypoglycemia

J Diabetes Complications. Jul-Aug 2014;28(4):565-72. doi: 10.1016/j.jdiacomp.2014.03.002. Epub 2014 Mar 10.


Hypoglycemia is common in hospitalized patients and is associated with poor outcomes, including increased mortality. Older individuals and those with comorbidities are more likely to suffer the adverse consequences of inpatient hypoglycemia. Observational studies have shown that spontaneous inpatient hypoglycemia is a greater risk factor for death than iatrogenic hypoglycemia, suggesting that hypoglycemia acts as a marker for more severe illness, and may not directly cause death. Initial randomized controlled trials of intensive insulin therapy in intensive care units demonstrated improvements in mortality with tight glycemic control, despite high rates of hypoglycemia. However, follow-up studies have not confirmed these initial findings, and the largest NICE-SUGAR study showed an increase in mortality in the tight control group. Despite these recent findings, a causal link between hypoglycemia and mortality has not been clearly established. Nonetheless, there is potential for harm from inpatient hypoglycemia, so evidence-based strategies to treat hyperglycemia, while preventing hypoglycemia should be instituted, in accordance with current practice guidelines.

Keywords: Hospital; Hypoglycemia; Inpatient; Intensive insulin therapy; Mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease / therapy*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / blood
  • Hyperglycemia / drug therapy
  • Hyperglycemia / prevention & control
  • Hypoglycemia / diagnosis
  • Hypoglycemia / epidemiology
  • Hypoglycemia / etiology
  • Hypoglycemia / prevention & control*
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / adverse effects
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Precision Medicine*
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Glucose
  • Hypoglycemic Agents