Minimizing morbidity of hypoglycemia in diabetes: a review of mini-dose glucagon

J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2015 Jan;9(1):44-51. doi: 10.1177/1932296814547518. Epub 2014 Aug 26.


Type 1 diabetes is a common chronic disease of childhood and one of the most difficult conditions to manage. Advances in insulin formulations and insulin delivery devices have markedly improved the ability to achieve normal glucose homeostasis. However, hypoglycemia remains the primary limiting factor in achieving normoglycemia and is a frequent complication in children with acute gastroenteritis and/or poor oral intake. In situations of impaired carbohydrate intake or absorption, glucagon therapy is the only out-of-hospital treatment option available to families and caregivers. Glucagon is recommended for the treatment of severe hypoglycemia and rapidly increases blood glucose by increasing hepatic glucose production from glycogenolysis. Mini-dose glucagon is a widely utilized off-label treatment for managing mild or impending hypoglycemia and is administered as a small subcutaneous injection. It was initially described for use in children who were unable to tolerate or absorb oral carbohydrates but not in need of advanced medical care. Yet, mini-dose glucagon may be useful in any individual with relative insulin excess. The regimen aims to prevent severe hypoglycemic episodes and is safe, effective, and easily administered by patients and caregivers in the out-of-hospital setting. By empowering patients and their families, this important tool could help to alleviate the physical, psychosocial, and financial burden evolving from impending hypoglycemia.

Keywords: hypoglycemia; insulin-treated diabetes; subcutaneous; type 1 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / drug effects
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Child
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Glucagon / administration & dosage*
  • Glucagon / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / epidemiology
  • Hypoglycemia / prevention & control*
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Morbidity


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glucagon