Hypoglycemia in the Treatment of Hyperkalemia With Insulin in Patients With End-Stage Renal Disease

Clin Kidney J. 2014 Jun;7(3):248-50. doi: 10.1093/ckj/sfu026. Epub 2014 Mar 18.


Background: Hypoglycemia is common in patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). We identified the incidence and timing of hypoglycemia and its risk factors in hospitalized patients with ESRD after the treatment of hyperkalemia with insulin.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective study of all hospitalized adult patients treated with hemodialysis who received intravenous insulin to treat hyperkalemia between 1 January 2011 and 31 December 2011. We identified patients who became hypoglycemic [blood glucose <3.3 mmol/L (60 mg/dL)] after insulin administration.

Results: Two hundred and twenty-one episodes of hyperkalemia were treated with insulin, resulting in 29 episodes of hypoglycemia (13%). Factors associated with a higher risk of hypoglycemia included no prior diagnosis of diabetes [odds ratio (OR) 2.3, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.0-5.1, P = 0.05], no use of diabetes medication prior to admission [OR 3.6, 95% CI 1.2-10.7, P = 0.02] and a lower pretreatment glucose level [mean 5.8 ± 0.7 mmol/L (104 ± 12 mg/dL) versus 9.0 ± 0.6 mmol/L (162 ± 11 mg/dL), P = 0.04]. Hypoglycemia occurred at a median of 2 h after insulin administration and persisted for a median of 2 h.

Conclusions: The treatment of hyperkalemia with insulin in hospitalized patients with ESRD may be complicated by hypoglycemia. Patients with a history of diabetes are less susceptible to this complication. Our study supports the use of a protocol to provide dextrose support and blood glucose monitoring for at least 3 h after insulin treatment of hyperkalemia.

Keywords: end-stage renal disease; hyperkalemia; hypoglycemia; insulin.