Utility of ketone measurement in the prevention, diagnosis and management of diabetic ketoacidosis

Diabet Med. 2015 Jan;32(1):14-23. doi: 10.1111/dme.12604. Epub 2014 Nov 19.


Ketone measurement is advocated for the diagnosis of diabetic ketoacidosis and assessment of its severity. Assessing the evidence base for ketone measurement in clinical practice is challenging because multiple methods are available but there is a lack of consensus about which is preferable. Evaluating the utility of ketone measurement is additionally problematic because of variability in the biochemical definition of ketoacidosis internationally and in the proposed thresholds for ketone measures. This has led to conflicting guidance from expert bodies on how ketone measurement should be used in the management of ketoacidosis. The development of point-of-care devices that can reliably measure the capillary blood ketone β-hydroxybutyrate (BOHB) has widened the spectrum of applications of ketone measurement, but whether the evidence base supporting these applications is robust enough to warrant their incorporation into routine clinical practice remains unclear. The imprecision of capillary blood ketone measures at higher values, the lack of availability of routine laboratory-based assays for BOHB and the continued cost-effectiveness of urine ketone assessment prompt further discussion on the role of capillary blood ketone assessment in ketoacidosis. In the present article, we review the various existing methods of ketone measurement, the precision of capillary blood ketone as compared with other measures, its diagnostic accuracy in predicting ketoacidosis and other clinical applications including prevention, assessment of severity and resolution of ketoacidosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 3-Hydroxybutyric Acid / blood*
  • Acetoacetates / blood
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Capillaries
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis / blood
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis / diagnosis*
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis / prevention & control*
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis / urine
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Ketones / blood*
  • Ketones / urine*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Urinalysis / methods


  • Acetoacetates
  • Biomarkers
  • Ketones
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • 3-Hydroxybutyric Acid