Counterproductive effects of sodium bicarbonate in diabetic ketoacidosis

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1996 Jan;81(1):314-20. doi: 10.1210/jcem.81.1.8550770.


Although a growing body of evidence supports that alkali therapy in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) might be counterproductive, our knowledge about the consequences of this treatment on ketone metabolism is limited. Consequently, we performed clinical and animal studies to further examine this topic. The clinical studies assessed seven patients with DKA treated with continuous insulin infusion at a low dosage. Three of them also received sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), whereas the remaining four acted as controls. The group receiving NaHCO3 showed a 6-h delay in the improvement of ketosis as compared with controls. In addition, there was an increase in acetoacetate (AcAc) levels during alkali administration, followed by an increase in 3-hydroxybutyrate (3-OHB) level after its completion. Significant differences were not found between groups in the response of plasma glucose to the overall therapy. The animal study examined the effects of a NaHCO3-rich perfusate on the hepatic production of ketones with the in situ rat-liver preparation. Alkali loading resulted in an immediate increase in the AcAc level followed by increases in both the 3-OHB level and the 3-OHB/AcAc ratio after its completion. Hepatic ketogenesis increased even further, to about twice the basal level, after termination of the NaHCO3 loading. This investigation confirms that alkali administration augments ketone production and unravels an effect of bicarbonate infusion that promotes a selective build up of AcAc in body fluids. The data support that alkali therapy in DKA has nonsaltuary effects in the metabolism and plasma levels of ketones.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis / drug therapy*
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ketone Bodies / metabolism
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sodium Bicarbonate / therapeutic use*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Ketone Bodies
  • Sodium Bicarbonate