Implementation of tight glucose control for critically ill surgical patients: a process improvement analysis

Soumitra R Eachempati, Lynn J Hydo, Jian Shou, Philip S Barie
Surgical Infections 2009, 10 (6): 523-31

BACKGROUND: Tight glucose control has been advocated as a method to improve outcomes of surgical critical care. However, continuous infusion of insulin has potential morbidity (e.g., neurologic consequences of hypoglycemia), and it remains unclear to what degree the glucose concentration must be controlled. We examined our performance in instituting a protocol for tight glucose control in our surgical intensive care unit (ICU).

METHODS: Prospective study of 220 consecutive patients (February, 2003-March, 2006) who received an infusion of insulin for glucose control for >24 h by protocol. Data collected included age, acuity (Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation [APACHE] III) score, sex, history of diabetes mellitus, organ dysfunction (Marshall), and death or survival. Infusion-related data included initial glucose concentration, time to glucose <120 mg/dL, h/day of glucose <110 mg/dL and <140 mg/dL, duration of infusion (days), insulin units/day, year of therapy, and complications. Analysis was performed by chi(2), analysis of variance, and logistic regression, with p < 0.05 considered significant.

RESULTS: Insulin drips were required by 10.2% of patients (287/2,804); 29 of these (10.1%) had diabetes mellitus. The mean APACHE III score for the treated patients was 77 +/- 2 (standard deviation), and the mortality rate was 24%. Hypoglycemia (<60 mg/dL) occurred in 4.2% of patients. The trigger insulin concentration decreased over time (2003 vs. 2005) from 249 +/- 14 to 160 +/- 5 mg/dL, and the h/day of glucose <140 increased from 11 +/- 1 to 16 +/- 1. However, age, acuity, APACHE III, days of insulin, time to achieve glucose <120, h/day of glucose <110, and mortality rate were unchanged. By logistic regression, only the year of treatment (odds ratio [OR] 1.871; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.177, 2.972; p = 0.008] predicted success in controlling the blood glucose concentration to <140 mg/dL; age, illness severity, diabetes history, and trigger glucose concentration [OR 0.996; 95% CI 0.992, 1.001; p = 0.11] did not.

CONCLUSIONS: Success in implementing tight glucose control was modest, albeit improving, despite a specific protocol for administration. No medical reason could be identified for inability to achieve tight glucose control; therefore, successful implementation must be volitional. Education, particularly regarding hypoglycemia, and possible refinement of our protocol may improve our ability to control blood glucose in our ICU.

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