Socioeconomic and Racial Disparities in Diabetic Ketoacidosis Admissions in Youth With Type 1 Diabetes

J Hosp Med. 2021 Aug 18. doi: 10.12788/jhm.3664. Online ahead of print.


Objective: We sought to determine whether census tract poverty, race, and insurance status were associated with the likelihood and severity of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) hospitalization among youth with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

Methods: We conducted a retrospective population-based cohort study using Cincinnati Children's Hospital electronic medical record (EMR) data from January 1, 2011, to December 31, 2017, for T1D patients ≤18 years old. The primary outcome was admission for DKA. Secondary outcomes included DKA severity, defined by initial pH and bicarbonate, and length of stay. Exposures were the poverty rate for the youth's home census tract, parent-reported race, and insurance status. We used multivariable logistic regression to analyze effects on odds of admission.

Results: We identified 439 patients with T1D; 152 were hospitalized. The cohort was 48% female, 25% Black, and 36% publicly insured; the median age was 14 years. For every 10% increase in a youth's census tract poverty rate, the adjusted odds of admission increased by 22% (95% CI, 1.03-1.47). Public insurance status was associated with DKA admission (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 2.71, 95% CI, 1.62-4.55) while race was not. There were no clinically meaningful differences in pH or bicarbonate by census tract poverty, race, or insurance status; however, Black patients experienced differences in care (eg, longer length of stay).

Conclusion: Youth with T1D living in high poverty areas and on public insurance were significantly more likely to be admitted for DKA. Severity upon presentation was similar across exposures. Understanding contextual mechanisms by which disparities emerge will inform changes aimed at equitably improving care.