Prehospital Intranasal Glucagon for Hypoglycemia

Prehosp Emerg Care. 2023;27(3):356-359. doi: 10.1080/10903127.2022.2045406. Epub 2022 Mar 2.


Background: Prehospital hypoglycemia is usually treated with oral or intravenous (IV) dextrose in a variety of concentrations. In the absence of vascular access, intramuscular (IM) glucagon is commonly administered. Occupational needle-stick injury remains a significant risk while attempting to obtain vascular access or administer medications intramuscularly in the prehospital setting. We sought to determine if intranasal (IN) glucagon is effective in the prehospital treatment of hypoglycemia.

Methods: We performed a retrospective analysis of all consecutive cases where recombinant glucagon was administered IN by paramedics from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2020. Excluded were cases without pre or post administration blood glucose documentation, and cases where another form of treatment for hypoglycemia was administered at any time during the EMS encounter. The primary outcome was clinical response to IN glucagon documented by paramedics; secondary outcomes included pre and post administration blood glucose values.

Results: Out of 44 cases that met study inclusion criteria, 14 patients (32%) had substantial improvement, 13 patients (30%) had slight improvement, and 17 patients (38%) had no improvement in mental status after administration of IN glucagon. In cases with substantial improvement (n = 14), the mean pre administration blood glucose was 33.8 mg/dl and the mean post administration blood glucose was 87.1 mg/dl (mean increase 53.3 mg/dl, 95% CI: 21.5 to 85.1). In cases with slight improvement (n = 13), the mean pre administration blood glucose was 23.9 mg/dl and the mean post administration blood glucose was 53.8 mg/dl (mean increase 29.9 mg/dl, 95% CI = 2.9 to 56.9). In case with no improvement (n = 17) the mean pre administration blood glucose was 30.1 mg/dl and the mean post administration glucose was 33.1 mg/dl (mean difference 3.1 mg/dl, 95% CI: -10.1 to 3.9).

Conclusion: Intranasal administration of recombinant glucagon for hypoglycemia resulted in a clinically significant improvement in mental status and a corresponding increase in blood glucose levels in select cases in the prehospital setting.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Emergency Medical Services* / methods
  • Glucagon / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia* / complications
  • Hypoglycemia* / drug therapy
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Glucagon
  • Blood Glucose