Even a modest rise in blood sugar during a stay in the intensive care unit can increase someone's risk of dying, report researchers who studied more than 1,800 consecutive patients admitted to the hospital for various causes.
High blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, is a common problem among critically ill patients, regardless of whether they are diabetic or not. The condition can be caused by a number of factors, including insulin resistance, impaired glucose metabolism, various medications, or even some nutritional supplements. Previous studies have shown hyperglycemia can worsen outcomes for patients. Researchers from the Stanford Hospital in Connecticut decided to investigate the relationship between hyperglycemia and hospital mortality.
Overall, mortality rates rose as average glucose levels rose, with the lowest rate of death (9.6 percent) seen for those with glucose levels of 80 to 99 mg/dL. People with levels considered in the normal range (100 mg/dL to 119 mg/dL) had a mortality rate of 12.2 percent. The highest rate was seen for those with glucose levels above 300 mg/dL. Those patients had a mortality rate of 42.5 percent.
Researchers also noted a stronger effect on nondiabetics than diabetics. The authors write, "The differences in mean glucose values between survivors and nonsurvivors were greater among nondiabetic patients than among diabetic patients. These differences occurred at significantly lower mean glucose values among the nondiabetic patients than among the diabetic patients."
The investigators believe these findings, "provide a compelling justification for conducting trials of intensive glycemic management in a heterogeneous population of critically ill patients."