DKA (Diabetic Ketoacidosis)

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Page 1: DKA (Diabetic Ketoacidosis)


Tulsi Ram Shrestha

Page 2: DKA (Diabetic Ketoacidosis)

DIABETIC KETOACIDOSIS• Biochemical triad of ketonaemia, hyperglycaemia and

acidaemia.• A medical emergency and remains a serious cause of

morbidity, principally in people with type 1 diabetes• However, an increasing number of patients presenting

with DKA have underlying type 2 diabetes. • Lack of a diabetic history does not exclude the diagnosis

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EPIDEMIOLOGY• 4.6 to 8 episodes per 1000 patients with diabetes in USA.

(Johnson 1980, Faich 1983)• More than 11% of people with Type 1 diabetes had an

episode of DKA in England between 2004 and 2009. (National Diabetes Audit 2008–2009)• Remains a significant clinical problem in spite of

improvements in diabetes care (Fishbein 1995, Umpierrez 19997).

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MORTALITY• Mortality rates have fallen significantly in the last 20

years from 7.96% to 0.67% (Lin 2005).• Still high in developing countries and among non

hospitalized patients (Otieno 2005)• Children and adolescents• Cerebral oedema

• Adults• Hypokalaemia• Acute respiratory distress syndrome• Comorbidities: MI, sepsis or pneumonia (Hamblin 1989)

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• Infection• Pneumonia, sepsis, UTI

• Lack of insulin• Insulin pump failure• Nonadherence to insulin treatment plans

• Other physiologic stressors• Arterial thrombosis, cerebrovascular accident, Cushing disease,

hemochromatosis, myocardial infarction, pancreatitis, pregnancy, psychological stress, shock/hypovolemia, trauma

• Drugs• Antipsychotic agents: clozapine, olanzapine,  risperidone• Others: corticosteroids, glucagon, interferon

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DIAGNOSISCardinal biochemical features • Hyperketonaemia (≥ 3 mmol/L) and ketonuria (>2+ on

standard urine sticks) • Hyperglycaemia (blood glucose ≥ 11 mmol/L (~200

mg/dL)) • Metabolic acidosis (venous bicarbonate <15 mmol/L

and/or venous pH < 7.3)

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Plasma glucose (mg/dL) > 250 > 250 > 250Arterial pH 7.25-7.30 7.00-7.24 < 7.00Sodium Bicarbonate (mEq/L) 15 – 18 10 - 15 < 10

Urine Ketones Positive Positive PositiveSerum Ketones Positive Positive PositiveSerum Osmolality (mOsm/kg) Variable Variable Variable

Anion Gap (mmol/L) > 10 > 12 > 12

Mental Status Alert Alert/Drowsy Stupor/Coma

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CLINICAL FEATURESSymptoms• Polyuria, thirst• Weight loss• Weakness• Nausea, vomiting• Leg cramps• Blurred vision• Abdominal pain

Signs• Dehydration• Hypotension (postural or supine)• Cold extremities/peripheral

cyanosis• Tachycardia• Air hunger (Kussmaul breathing)• Smell of acetone• Hypothermia• Confusion, drowsiness, coma


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DIFFERENTIAL DIAGNOSIS• Gastroenteritis• Hyperosmolar hyperglycemic

state• Myocardial infarction• Pancreatitis• Starvation ketosis

• High anion gap metabolic acidosis:• Alcoholic ketoacidosis• Ethylene glycol intoxication• Lactic acidosis• Methanol intoxication• Paraldehyde ingestion• Rhabdomyolysis• Salicylate intoxication• Uremia

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INVESTIGATIONS• Venous blood• Urea • Na+/ K+ • Glucose• Bicarbonate• Ketones

• Urine• Ketones• Leucocyte esterase

• ECG• Possible MI

• Infection screen• Full blood count• Blood and urine culture• C-reactive protein• Chest X-ray

• Amylase/ lipase• Rule out Pancreatitis

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NEW PRINCIPLES• Measurement of blood ketones, venous pH and bicarbonate and

their use as treatment markers• Monitoring of ketones and glucose using bedside meters• Replacing ‘sliding scale’ insulin with weight-based fixed rate IV

insulin infusion • Use of venous blood rather than arterial blood in blood gas

analysers• Monitoring of electrolytes on the blood gas analyser with

intermittent laboratory confirmation• Continuation of long acting insulin analogues as normal• Involvement diabetes specialist team as soon as possible

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MANAGEMENTA. Hour 1: Immediate management upon diagnosis: 0 to 60

minutes.Aims• Commence IV 0.9% sodium chloride solution• Fixed rate IVII but only after fluid therapy has been

commenced• Establish monitoring regime appropriate to patient: • hourly blood glucose and ketone measurement• at least 2 hourly serum K+ for the first 6 hours

• Clinical / biochemical assessment of the patient• Involvement of diabetes specialist team ASAP

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Action 1 - Intravenous access and initial investigations• Rapid ABC (Airway, Breathing, Circulation)• Large bore iv cannula and iv fluid replacement• Clinical assessment• RR; Temp, BP, PR, SpO2• Glasgow Coma Scale (A drowsy patient in the context of DKA

is serious and the patient requires critical care input. Consider NG tube with airway protection to prevent aspiration.)• Full clinical examination

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• Initial investigations• Continuous cardiac monitoring• Continuous pulse oximetry• Consider precipitating causes and treat appropriately• Establish usual medication for diabetes

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Action 2 – Restoration of circulating volume

Average loss of fluid and electrolytes in adult DKA of moderate severity• Water 6L• Na+ 500 mmol• Cl- 400 mmol• K+ 350 mmol

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• Commence crystalloid (NS)a. If systolic BP < 90 mmHg• Give 500 mL over 10–15 mins• Repeat if SBP< 90mmHg

b. If systolic BP ≥ 90 mmHg (for a previously well 70kg adult)• 1L over 1st hour• 1L over next 2 hours• 1L over next 2 hours• 1L over next 4 hours• 1L over next 4 hours• 1L over next 6 hours

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Exercise caution in the following patients• Young people aged 18-25 years• Elderly• Pregnant• Heart or kidney failure• Other serious co-morbidities

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Action 3 - Commence a fixed rate intravenous insulin infusion• 50 U human soluble insulin in 50 mL 0.9% sodium

chloride • IV infusion at 0.1 U/kg/hr (i.e. 7ml/hr if weight is 70kg)• Targets • ↓ blood ketone by 0.5 mmol/L/hour• ↑ bicarbonate by 3 mmol/L/hour• ↓ glucose by 3 mmol/L/hour• K+ 4.0 - 5.0 mmol/L

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Action 4 - Potassium replacement• Serum potassium is often high on admission but falls precipitously

upon treatment with insulin. • Potassium replacement

Plasma K+ > 5.5 mmol/L Nil3.5–4.5 mmol/L 20 mmol/L< 3.5 mmol/L 40 mmol/L

• If K+ < 3.5 mmol/L, K+ replacement before insulin

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B. 60 minutes to 6 hoursAims• Clear the blood of ketones and suppress ketogenesis• Achieve the targets • Fall of ketones of at least 0.5 mmol/L/hr• Rise of bicarbonate by 3 mmol/L/hr• Fall of blood glucose by 3 mmol/L/hr

• Maintain serum K+ in normal range• Avoid hypoglycaemia

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Action 1 – Re-assess patient, monitor vital signs• Urinary catheterization if incontinent or anuric (not

passed by 60 min)• NG tube if patient obtunded or if persistently vomiting• Accurate fluid balance chart, minimum urine output

0.5ml/kg/hr• Continuous cardiac monitoring in severe DKA

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Action 2 – Review metabolic parameters• Measure blood ketones and capillary glucose hourly • Review patient’s response to fixed rate IVII hourly by

calculating rate of change of ketone level fall (or rise in bicarbonate or fall in glucose).

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Assess resolution of ketoacidosis• If blood ketones not falling by at least 0.5 mmol/L/hr

increase insulin infusion rate by 1 unit/hr increments hourly until ketones falling at target rates• If bicarbonate not rising by at least 3 mmol/L/hr increase

insulin infusion rate by 1 unit/hr increments hourly • If glucose is not falling by at least 3 mmol/L/hr increase

insulin infusion rate by 1 unit/hr increments hourly • Always check the insulin infusion pump if it’s working and

connected and that the correct insulin residual volume is present

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• Measure venous blood gas for pH, bicarbonate and K+ at 60 minutes and 2 hours and 2 hourly thereafter.• If K+ is outside the reference range, assess the

appropriateness of K+ replacement and check it hourly. • Continue insulin until ketones < 0.3 mmol/L, venous pH >

7.3 and/or venous bicarbonate >18 mmol/L. • If glucose falls below 14 mmol/L (~250 mg/dl) add 10%

glucose at 125mls/hour with NS.• Monitor and replace potassium as it may fall rapidly.

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Action 3 – Identify and treat precipitating factors• Infection• Inadequate insulin treatment or noncompliance• Infarcts

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C. 6 to 12 hours.Aims• Ensure that clinical/ biochemical parameters are

improving• Continue IV fluid replacement• Continue insulin administration• Assess for complications of treatment • Continue to treat precipitating factors as necessary• Avoid hypoglycaemia

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Action 1 – Re-assess patient, monitor vital signs• If patient not improving seek senior advice• Ensure referral has been made to diabetes team

Action 2 – Review biochemical and metabolic parameters• At 6 hours check pH, bicarbonate, potassium, blood

ketones and glucose• Resolution is defined as ketones less than 0.3mmol/L,

venous pH over 7.3

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D. 12 to 24 HOURSExpectation: By 24 hours ketonaemia and acidosis should have resolvedAims• Ensure clinical/ biochemical parameters improving/ have

normalised• Continue IV fluids if not eating and drinking.• Continue to treat precipitating factors as necessary• Subcutaneous insulin if patient is eating and drinking


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Action 1 – Re-assess patient, monitor vital signsAction 2 – Review biochemical and metabolic parameters• At 12 hours check pH, bicarbonate, K+, blood ketones and

glucose• Resolution is defined as ketones <0.3mmol/L, venous


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E. Conversion to subcutaneous insulin.• When biochemically stable • Glucose <200 mg/dl• Anion gap <12 meq/L• Bicarbonate >18 meq/L• Ketones < 0.3• pH > 7.3

• and the patient is ready and able to eat

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• Overlap between the insulin infusion and first injection of fast acting insulin of 1- 2 hours• Abrupt discontinuation may lead to acute fall in insulin,

recurrence of hyperglycemia and/ or ketoacidosis.• If unable to take oral nutrition, continue IVII• In insulin-naïve patients, a multi- dose insulin at a dose

0.5- 0.8 U/ kg including a bolus

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COMPLICATIONS• Cerebral oedema

• More common in children than in adults• Occurs within a few hours of initiation of treatment• Recent studies: cerebral hypoperfusion with subsequent reperfusion (Glaser

2001, Glaser 2008, Yuen 2008).• Risk factors (Wolfsdorf 2009, Carlotti  2010)

• Younger age• New-onset diabetes• Longer duration of symptoms• Severe acidosis• Low initial bicarbonate level• Low sodium level• High glucose level at presentation• Rapid hydration

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• Signs of cerebral edema that require immediate evaluation • Headache• Persistent vomiting• Hypertension• Bradycardia• Lethargy

• Treatment• Mannitol (20% 0.5-1 g/kg over 10-15 minutes) or • Hypertonic saline (3% 2.5-5 ml/kg over 10-15 minutes)

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• Acute circulatory failure• Due to hypovolemia• May cause acute renal failure• Corrected by NS• May need ionotropes in severe hypotension• Sepsis treated by antibiotics

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• Acute gastric dilatation• Vomiting and abdominal distension• Auscultation: Succusion splash• Abdominal Xray: ground glass appearance• Treated with NG aspiration

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• Pulmonary oedema • Occurs within a few hours of initiation• Due to rapid infusion of crystalloids over a short period of time

(Dixon 2006)• Elderly patients and those with impaired cardiac function are at

particular risk• Monitoring of cvp should be considered.

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• Hypokalaemia and hyperkalaemia• Hypoglycemia• Acute renal failure• Shock

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CONTROVERSIES1. Arterial or venous measurements?• Venous vs arterial pH is 0.02-0.15 pH units and arterial vs

venous bicarbonate is 1.88 mmol/L (Kelly 2006, Gokel 2000). • Not necessary to use arterial blood to measure acid base

status (Ma 2003)• Arterial line insertion: only if its use will influence

management i.e. for frequent arterial oxygen level measurements or monitoring blood pressure in the critically ill patient

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2. Blood ketone measurement?• Frequent repeated measurement of blood ketone has

become a practical option due to availability of bedside meters • Resolution of DKA depends upon the suppression of

ketonaemia• Measurement of blood ketones now represents best

practice in monitoring the response to treatment.

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3. Colloid versus crystalloid?• Many guidelines suggest that in hypotensive patients

initial fluid resuscitation should be with colloid.• However, the hypotension results from a loss of

electrolyte solution and it is more physiological to replace with crystalloid. • A recent Cochrane review did not support the use of

colloid in preference to crystalloid fluid (Perel 2007).

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4. Rate of fluid replacement?• Rapid fluid replacement may lead to cerebral oedema in

children and young adults. • Paediatric guidelines recommend cautious fluid

replacement over 48 hours.

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5. 0.9% saline or Hartmann’s solution for resuscitation?Advantages of NS• Decades of clinical experience• Readily available in clinical areas • Commercially available ready mixed with K+ at required

concentrations, 20mmol/L (0.15%) or 40mmol/L (0.3%)• Supports safe practice with injectable potassium (NPSA

compliant (NPSA alert 2002)

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6. Continuation of long-acting insulin analogues?• Continuation of SC analogues during the initial

management of DKA provides background insulin when the IV insulin is discontinued. • Avoids rebound hyperglycaemia when IV insulin is

stopped and should avoid excess length of stay

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7. Fixed-rate intravenous insulin infusion versus variable rate?• Fixed dose(s) per kg body weight enable rapid blood

ketone clearance• Fixed rate may need to be adjusted in insulin resistant

states if the ketone concentration is not falling fast enough, and/or the bicarbonate level is not rising fast enough.

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8. Initiating treatment with a bolus of insulin?• Bolus doesn’t decrease time to normalization of glucose,

pH, bicarbonate level (Goyal et all 2008)• A bolus dose is not necessary provided that the insulin

infusion is started promptly at a dose of at least 0.1 unit/kg/hour (Kitabchi et all 2008)

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9. Intravenous bicarbonate?• Adequate fluid and insulin therapy will resolve the

acidosis in DKA and the use of bicarbonate is not indicated (Morris 1986, Hale 1984). • Excessive bicarbonate may increase CO2 partial pressure

in CSF and may lead to a paradoxical increase in CSF acidosis (Ohman 1971). • Some evidence suggest bicarbonate treatment leading to

development of cerebral oedema in children and young adults (Glaser 2001)

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10. Use of intravenous phosphate?• Phosphate deficits in DKA: 1 mmol/kg of body weight• No evidence of benefit of phosphate replacement (Wilson

1982)• However, in the presence of respiratory and skeletal

muscle weakness, phosphate measurement and replacement should be considered (Liu 2004).

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• Diabetic education• Blood glucose monitoring• Identification of precipitating factors• Home monitoring of ketones• Supplemental short-acting insulin regimens• Easily digestible liquid diets when sick• Reducing (not eliminating) insulin when patients are not eating• Guidelines for when patients should seek medical attention• Case monitoring of high-risk patients• Special education for patients on pump management

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References• Davidsons Principles and Practice of

Medicine 22nd Edition• Joint British Diabetes Societies

Inpatient Care Group guidelines for The Management of Diabetic Ketoacidosis in Adults • British Society for Paediatric

Endocrinology and Diabetes guidelines for the management of DKA• American diabetic association