Drug-induced hypoglycemic coma in 102 diabetic patients

Arch Intern Med. 1999 Feb 8;159(3):281-4. doi: 10.1001/archinte.159.3.281.


Background: Hypoglycemic coma is a continuous threat for diabetic patients treated with insulin and/or oral hypoglycemic agents; it may be associated with substantial morbidity and mortality.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed our clinical experience with drug-induced hypoglycemic coma during a 7-year period.

Results: The study consisted of 102 patients and included 61 females and 41 males. The median age was 72 years. Ninety-two patients suffered from type 2 diabetes mellitus; 10 patients had type 1 diabetes mellitus. The median lowest blood glucose level was 1.77 mmol/L (32 mg/dL). Drug-induced hypoglycemic coma occurred in 99 patients out of the hospital, while 3 patients developed it during hospitalization. Drug-induced hypoglycemic coma occurred in patients undergoing treatment with insulin, glyburide, and combined therapy with insulin and glyburide, insulin and metformin, or glyburide and metformin. Ninety-three patients had at least 1 of the following risk factors: age older than 60 years, renal dysfunction, decreased intake of energy, and infection. Fourteen patients concomitantly received drugs that potentiated hypoglycemia. Forty patients responded to treatment within the first 12 hours, while 62 patients had protracted hypoglycemia of 12 to 72 hours' duration. Morbidity included physical injuries in 7 patients, myocardial ischemia in 2 patients, and stroke in 1 patient. Death occurred in 5 patients.

Conclusions: Hypoglycemic coma is a serious and not an uncommon problem among elderly patients with diabetes mellitus and treated with insulin and/or oral hypoglycemic drugs. Risk factors contribute substantially to the morbidity and mortality of patients with drug-induced hypoglycemic coma. Enhanced therapeutic monitoring may be warranted when hypoglycemic drugs are administered to an elderly patient with the above predisposing factors and potentiating drugs for hypoglycemia.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Coma / chemically induced*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Blood Glucose
  • Hypoglycemic Agents