Evaluation of an intensive insulin protocol for septic patients in a medical intensive care unit

Stephanie B Clayton, Joseph E Mazur, Stacey Condren, Kathie L Hermayer, Charlie Strange
Critical Care Medicine 2006, 34 (12): 2974-8

OBJECTIVE: Intensive insulin therapy to normalize blood glucose may improve outcome in intensive care unit patients. We prospectively evaluated the implementation of an intensive insulin protocol in medical intensive care patients to identify and overcome obstacles that this complex therapy creates.

DESIGN: This prospective, quality assessment study was designed to establish a standard protocol for glucose control in critically ill patients.

SETTING: The study took place in the medical intensive care unit at the Medical University of South Carolina, a tertiary care center.

PATIENTS: Patients diagnosed with sepsis and two consecutive blood glucose measurements of >120 mg/dL were included in the study.

INTERVENTIONS: The protocol, targeting blood glucose of 80-120 mg/dL, was a multidisciplinary initiative involving extensive education of house staff before subject enrollment. Based on predefined criteria, patients were monitored daily for glycemic control, inclusion criteria, and protocol adherence. Protocol improvements were assessed at 6 and 12 months via nursing surveys.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Seventy patients receiving insulin infusion for >8 hrs were included in data analysis, accounting for 4,920 glucose readings. Eighty-six hypoglycemic events were recorded, with the number of events decreasing from 7.6% to 0.3% by the final version of the protocol. Average duration on protocol was 6 days, and average time to target range was 5.4 hrs. Identifiable causes of hypoglycemia and survey results led to four protocol revisions by study completion.

CONCLUSIONS: In comparison to studies suggesting that normoglycemia is an easily achievable goal, our protocol often recorded glucose values <80 mg/dL, although values <60 mg/dL were rare and usually due to protocol violations. In the interval before automated glucose-sensing insulin infusion devices become available for the intensive care unit, the current protocol is available to assist others in achieving target glucose levels shown to improve mortality rate in an intensive care unit population.

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