Alcoholic ketoacidosis

Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 1993 Jun;22(2):209-19.


AKA is an acute metabolic disorder that occurs in ethanol abusers who have usually had a recent binge and who, because of gastritis or another intercurrent illness, stop eating and drinking and often vomit repeatedly. This causes dehydration and ketoacidosis which, unlike in diabetics, is usually associated with little or no hyperglycemia or glucosuria. Despite the ketoacidosis, blood pH findings are variable, depending on the severity of coexisting metabolic alkalosis (owing to vomiting) and respiratory alkalosis (owing to pain or delirium tremens). The metabolic disorders respond rapidly and gratifyingly to parenteral rehydration and administration of glucose, potassium salts, and thiamine. Insulin is usually not necessary, except in patients known or suspected to have diabetes. Because some patients have serious coexisting acute illnesses (which may even have precipitated the acute metabolic disorder), assiduous search for those and the appropriate treatment are essential. The prognosis for the acute metabolic disorder per se is excellent, that for coexisting illness depends on the illness, and that for the ethanol abuse is still often problematic.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / complications*
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Ketosis / diagnosis
  • Ketosis / etiology*
  • Ketosis / physiopathology
  • Ketosis / therapy