Low blood glucose levels in hospitalized patients linked to increased mortality risk

November 17, 2016

Washington, DC--In hospitalized patients, low blood sugar--also known as hypoglycemia--is associated with increased short- and long-term mortality risk, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The study's publication comes as a coalition of diabetes stakeholders issues a strategic and actionable blueprint to address the deadly threat hypoglycemia poses to people with diabetes.

More than 29 million Americans are living with diabetes and an additional 86 million are at risk for developing the disease, according to the Society's Endocrine Facts & Figures Report. One complication of diabetes, hypoglycemia, occurs most often in people taking medications to manage their blood sugar. These treatments can raise insulin levels too high, which can in turn cause blood glucose levels to drop too low. Hypoglycemia can be dangerous and, depending on the severity, can lead to various symptoms, including dizziness, confusion, anxiety, seizure or loss of consciousness.

"Hypoglycemia is common among hospitalized patients with and without diabetes mellitus," said the study's senior author, Amit Akirov, MD, of Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva, Israel. "Our findings suggest that hypoglycemia, whether insulin-related or non-insulin related, is associated with short- and long-term mortality risk."

This study included nearly 3,000 patients with hypoglycemia, defined as blood glucose levels lower than 70 mg/dl, during hospitalization at a 1,330-bed university-affiliated medical center. Researchers evaluated medical records and the hospital's mortality database to investigate the association between hypoglycemia and mortality in hospitalized patients. They found that for patients with hypoglycemia, 31.9 percent had died at the end of the follow-up period.

Mortality risk was higher in insulin-treated patients with moderate hypoglycemia (40-70 mg/dL), compared to patients without insulin treatment with similar glucose values. However, with severe hypoglycemia (<40 mg>

"These data are a timely reminder that hypoglycemia of any cause carries the association with increased mortality," said Akirov.

To increase awareness of hypoglycemia in people with diabetes and to foster initiatives focused on reducing its incidence, the Endocrine Society established the Hypoglycemia Quality Collaborative (HQC), a coalition of medical specialty societies, payers, industry, patient advocates, diabetes educators and research organizations.

The new HQC blueprint provides recommendations and tactics in multiple strategic areas including reducing gaps in care, advocating for increased focus on hypoglycemia and improving quality of care for patients who experience hypoglycemia.

Recommendations include:
The study, "Mortality among Hospitalized Patients with Hypoglycemia: Insulin-related and Noninsulin Related," will be published online at http://press.endocrine.org/doi/10.1210/jc.2016-2653, ahead of print.

Other authors of the study include: Tzipora Shochat, Alon Grossman and Ilan Shimon of Rabin Medical Center and Tel Aviv University in Israel.

Endocrinologists are at the core of solving the most pressing health problems of our time, from diabetes and obesity to infertility, bone health, and hormone-related cancers. The Endocrine Society is the world's oldest and largest organization of scientists devoted to hormone research and physicians who care for people with hormone-related conditions.

The Society, which is celebrating its centennial in 2016, has more than 18,000 members, including scientists, physicians, educators, nurses and students in 122 countries. To learn more about the Society and the field of endocrinology, visit our site at http://www.endocrine.org. Follow us on Twitter at @TheEndoSociety and @EndoMedia.

The Endocrine Society

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