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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Intensive insulin therapy and mortality in critically ill patients

Miriam M Treggiari1, Veena Karir2, N David Yanez3, Noel S Weiss4, Stephen Daniel3 and Steven A Deem1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Anaesthesiology, Box 359724, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington School of Medicine, 325 Ninth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104, USA

2 Department of Pharmacy, Harborview Medical Center, 325 Ninth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104, USA

3 Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington, 1959 NE Pacific Street, Seattle, WA, 98195, USA

4 Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, 1959 NE Pacific Street, Seattle, WA, 98195, USA

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Critical Care 2008, 12:R29  doi:10.1186/cc6807

Published: 29 February 2008

Abstract

Introduction

Intensive insulin therapy (IIT) with tight glycemic control may reduce mortality and morbidity in critically ill patients and has been widely adopted in practice throughout the world. However, there is only one randomized controlled trial showing unequivocal benefit to this approach and that study population was dominated by post-cardiac surgery patients. We aimed to determine the association between IIT and mortality in a mixed population of critically ill patients.

Methods

We conducted a cohort study comparing three consecutive time periods before and after IIT protocol implementation in a Level 1 trauma center: period I (no protocol); period II, target glucose 80 to 130 mg/dL; and period III, target glucose 80 to 110 mg/dL. Subjects were 10,456 patients admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) between 1 March 2001 and 28 February 2005. The main study endpoints were ICU and hospital mortality, Sequential Organ Failure Assessment score, and occurrence of hypoglycemia. Multivariable regression analysis was used to evaluate mortality and organ dysfunction during periods II and III relative to period I.

Results

Insulin administration increased over time (9% period I, 25% period II, and 42% period III). Nonetheless, patients in period III had a tendency toward higher adjusted hospital mortality (odds ratio [OR] 1.15, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.98, 1.35) than patients in period I. Excess hospital mortality in period III was present primarily in patients with an ICU length of stay of 3 days or less (OR 1.47, 95% CI 1.11, 1.93 There was an approximately fourfold increase in the incidence of hypoglycemia from periods I to III.

Conclusion

A policy of IIT in a group of ICUs from a single institution was not associated with a decrease in hospital mortality. These results, combined with the findings from several recent randomized trials, suggest that further study is needed prior to widespread implementation of IIT in critically ill patients.