Pathophysiology of ketoacidosis in Type 2 diabetes mellitus

P Linfoot, C Bergstrom, E Ipp
Diabetic Medicine: a Journal of the British Diabetic Association 2005, 22 (10): 1414-9

AIMS: Despite an increasing number of reports of ketoacidosis in populations with Type 2 diabetes mellitus, the pathophysiology of the ketoacidosis in these patients is unclear. We therefore tested the roles of three possible mechanisms: elevated stress hormones, increased free fatty acids (FFA), and suppressed insulin secretion.

METHODS: Forty-six patients who presented to the Emergency Department with decompensated diabetes (serum glucose > 22.2 mmol/l and/or ketoacid concentrations > or = 5 mmol/l), had blood sampled prior to insulin therapy. Three groups of subjects were studied: ketosis-prone Type 2 diabetes (KPDM2, n = 13) with ketoacidosis, non-ketosis-prone subjects with Type 2 diabetes (DM2, n = 15), and ketotic Type 1 diabetes (n = 18).

RESULTS: All three groups had similar mean plasma glucose concentrations. The degree of ketoacidosis (plasma ketoacids, bicarbonate and anion gap) in Type 1 and 2 subjects was similar. Mean levels of counterregulatory hormones (glucagon, growth hormone, cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine), and FFA were not significantly different in DM2 and KPDM2 patients. In contrast, plasma C-peptide concentrations were approximately three-fold lower in KPDM2 vs. non-ketotic DM2 subjects (P = 0.0001). Type 1 ketotic subjects had significantly higher growth hormone (P = 0.024) and FFA (P < 0.002) and lower glucagon levels (P < 0.02) than DM2.

CONCLUSIONS: At the time of hospital presentation, the predominant mechanism for ketosis in KPDM2 is likely to be greater insulinopenia.

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