Hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state: a historic review of the clinical presentation, diagnosis, and treatment

Diabetes Care. 2014 Nov;37(11):3124-31. doi: 10.2337/dc14-0984.


The hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state (HHS) is the most serious acute hyperglycemic emergency in patients with type 2 diabetes. von Frerichs and Dreschfeld described the first cases of HHS in the 1880s in patients with an "unusual diabetic coma" characterized by severe hyperglycemia and glycosuria in the absence of Kussmaul breathing, with a fruity breath odor or positive acetone test in the urine. Current diagnostic HHS criteria include a plasma glucose level >600 mg/dL and increased effective plasma osmolality >320 mOsm/kg in the absence of ketoacidosis. The incidence of HHS is estimated to be <1% of hospital admissions of patients with diabetes. The reported mortality is between 10 and 20%, which is about 10 times higher than the mortality rate in patients with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Despite the severity of this condition, no prospective, randomized studies have determined best treatment strategies in patients with HHS, and its management has largely been extrapolated from studies of patients with DKA. There are many unresolved questions that need to be addressed in prospective clinical trials regarding the pathogenesis and treatment of pediatric and adult patients with HHS.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications*
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis / mortality
  • Glycosuria / etiology*
  • Glycosuria / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemic Hyperosmolar Nonketotic Coma* / diagnosis
  • Hyperglycemic Hyperosmolar Nonketotic Coma* / physiopathology
  • Hyperglycemic Hyperosmolar Nonketotic Coma* / therapy
  • Incidence
  • Osmolar Concentration