Severe Hypoglycemia-Induced Fatal Cardiac Arrhythmias Are Augmented by Diabetes and Attenuated by Recurrent Hypoglycemia

Diabetes. 2017 Dec;66(12):3091-3097. doi: 10.2337/db17-0306. Epub 2017 Sep 8.


We previously demonstrated that insulin-mediated severe hypoglycemia induces lethal cardiac arrhythmias. However, whether chronic diabetes and insulin deficiency exacerbates, and whether recurrent antecedent hypoglycemia ameliorates, susceptibility to arrhythmias remains unknown. Thus, adult Sprague-Dawley rats were randomized into four groups: 1) nondiabetic (NONDIAB), 2) streptozotocin-induced insulin deficiency (STZ), 3) STZ with antecedent recurrent (3 days) hypoglycemia (∼40-45 mg/dL, 90 min) (STZ+RH), and 4) insulin-treated STZ (STZ+Ins). Following treatment protocols, all rats underwent hyperinsulinemic (0.2 units ⋅ kg-1 ⋅ min-1), severe hypoglycemic (10-15 mg/dL) clamps for 3 h with continuous electrocardiographic recordings. During matched nadirs of severe hypoglycemia, rats in the STZ+RH group required a 1.7-fold higher glucose infusion rate than those in the STZ group, consistent with the blunted epinephrine response. Second-degree heart block was increased 12- and 6.8-fold in the STZ and STZ+Ins groups, respectively, compared with the NONDIAB group, yet this decreased 5.4-fold in the STZ+RH group compared with the STZ group. Incidence of third-degree heart block in the STZ+RH group was 5.6%, 7.8-fold less than the incidence in the STZ group (44%). Mortality due to severe hypoglycemia was 5% in the STZ+RH group, 6.2-fold less than that in the STZ group (31%). In summary, severe hypoglycemia-induced cardiac arrhythmias were increased by insulin deficiency and diabetes and reduced by antecedent recurrent hypoglycemia. In this model, recurrent moderate hypoglycemia reduced fatal severe hypoglycemia-induced cardiac arrhythmias.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / etiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / complications*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Heart Rate
  • Hypoglycemia / complications*
  • Male
  • Potassium / blood
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Recurrence
  • Streptozocin


  • Streptozocin
  • Potassium