Diabetic emergencies: new strategies for an old disease

Emerg Med Pract. 2014 Jun;16(6):1-19; quiz 19-20.


Diabetic emergencies are common presentations to the emergency department. It is estimated that diabetes affects 25.8 million people in the United States, at an annual total cost of over $174 billion. There are 2 general categories of diabetic emergencies: hyperglycemic and hypoglycemic. The hyperglycemic emergencies include diabetic ketoacidosis and hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state. Management of these conditions requires a careful hydration strategy to restore volume and improve perfusion, intravenous insulin therapy, and electrolyte monitoring. Management of hypoglycemia includes identification of the underlying etiology, oral food and/or glucose, intravenous dextrose, and consideration of glucagon. This review evaluates the current strategies for management of diabetic emergencies and offers new information regarding effective diagnostic strategies, selection of fluids for rehydration, correction of potassium, the use of subcutaneous insulin for mild hyperglycemia, and management of metformin-induced lactic acidosis.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Critical Pathways
  • Diabetes Complications / diagnosis
  • Diabetes Complications / etiology
  • Diabetes Complications / physiopathology
  • Diabetes Complications / therapy*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Emergencies
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / diagnosis
  • Hyperglycemia / etiology
  • Hyperglycemia / physiopathology
  • Hyperglycemia / therapy*
  • Hypoglycemia / diagnosis
  • Hypoglycemia / etiology
  • Hypoglycemia / physiopathology
  • Hypoglycemia / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged