Article

Intensive Insulin Therapy in Mixed Medical/Surgical Intensive Care Units: Benefit Versus Harm

Department of Intensive Care Medicine, University Hospital Gasthuisberg, University of Leuven, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium.
Diabetes (Impact Factor: 8.1). 11/2006; 55(11):3151-9. DOI: 10.2337/db06-0855
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT

Intensive insulin therapy (IIT) improves the outcome of prolonged critically ill patients, but concerns remain regarding potential harm and the optimal blood glucose level. These questions were addressed using the pooled dataset of two randomized controlled trials. Independent of parenteral glucose load, IIT reduced mortality from 23.6 to 20.4% in the intention-to-treat group (n = 2,748; P = 0.04) and from 37.9 to 30.1% among long stayers (n = 1,389; P = 0.002), with no difference among short stayers (8.9 vs. 10.4%; n = 1,359; P = 0.4). Compared with blood glucose of 110-150 mg/dl, mortality was higher with blood glucose >150 mg/dl (odds ratio 1.38 [95% CI 1.10-1.75]; P = 0.007) and lower with <110 mg/dl (0.77 [0.61-0.96]; P = 0.02). Only patients with diabetes (n = 407) showed no survival benefit of IIT. Prevention of kidney injury and critical illness polyneuropathy required blood glucose strictly <110 mg/day, but this level carried the highest risk of hypoglycemia. Within 24 h of hypoglycemia, three patients in the conventional and one in the IIT group died (P = 0.0004) without difference in hospital mortality. No new neurological problems occurred in survivors who experienced hypoglycemia in intensive care units (ICUs). We conclude that IIT reduces mortality of all medical/surgical ICU patients, except those with a prior history of diabetes, and does not cause harm. A blood glucose target <110 mg/day was most effective but also carried the highest risk of hypoglycemia.

Full-text

Available from: Roger Bouillon, Nov 15, 2015
Original Article
Intensive Insulin Therapy in Mixed Medical/Surgical
Intensive Care Units
Benefit Versus Harm
Greet Van den Berghe,
1
Alexander Wilmer,
2
Ilse Milants,
1
Pieter J. Wouters,
1
Bernard Bouckaert,
2
Frans Bruyninckx,
3
Roger Bouillon,
2
and Miet Schetz
1
Intensive insulin therapy (IIT) improves the outcome of
prolonged critically ill patients, but concerns remain re-
garding potential harm and the optimal blood glucose level.
These questions were addressed using the pooled dataset
of two randomized controlled trials. Independent of paren-
teral glucose load, IIT reduced mortality from 23.6 to
20.4% in the intention-to-treat group (n 2,748; P 0.04)
and from 37.9 to 30.1% among long stayers (n 1,389; P
0.002), with no difference among short stayers (8.9 vs.
10.4%; n 1,359; P 0.4). Compared with blood glucose of
110 –150 mg/dl, mortality was higher with blood glucose
>150 mg/dl (odds ratio 1.38 [95% CI 1.10 –1.75]; P 0.007)
and lower with <110 mg/dl (0.77 [0.61– 0.96]; P 0.02).
Only patients with diabetes (n 407) showed no survival
benefit of IIT. Prevention of kidney injury and critical
illness polyneuropathy required blood glucose strictly
<110 mg/day, but this level carried the highest risk of
hypoglycemia. Within 24 h of hypoglycemia, three patients
in the conventional and one in the IIT group died (P
0.0004) without difference in hospital mortality. No new
neurological problems occurred in survivors who experi-
enced hypoglycemia in intensive care units (ICUs). We
conclude that IIT reduces mortality of all medical/surgical
ICU patients, except those with a prior history of diabetes,
and does not cause harm. A blood glucose target <110
mg/day was most effective but also carried the highest risk
of hypoglycemia. Diabetes 55:3151–3159, 2006
W
e previously performed two randomized con-
trolled trials, one of surgical (n 1,548) and
one of medical (n 1,200) intensive care unit
(ICU) patients, investigating the impact of
intensive insulin therapy (IIT) during critical illness (1,2).
In both studies, mean blood glucose levels in the conven-
tional and IIT groups were, on average, 150 –160 vs. 90 –100
mg/dl, respectively. In the surgical study, in-hospital mor-
tality was lowered from 10.9 to 7.2% in the total group of
1,548 patients, which was explained by a much larger
effect among patients treated at least a few days. Indeed,
mortality was reduced from 20.6 to 13.6% among patients
treated at least 3 days and from 26.3 to 16.8% for patients
treated at least 5 days. The medical ICU study used an
identical study protocol and, based on the results of the
surgical study, was statistically powered for an effect
among patients in ICUs for at least 3 days. The intention-
to-treat analysis of all 1,200 medical patients showed no
significant difference in hospital mortality (39.9% in the
control group and 37.2% in the IIT group). However,
among the 767 patients in the ICU 3 days, IIT signifi-
cantly reduced hospital mortality from 52.5 to 43.0%.
Among the patients treated 3 days, more deaths oc-
curred in the IIT than in the conventional group, but the
numbers were too small to draw definitive conclusions on
causality.
Since the publication of these trials, concerns have risen
about the benefit versus potential harm by IIT when
implemented in ICUs with a medical/surgical case mix; on
the impact in certain subgroups of patients, such as those
with sepsis or short stayers; on the optimal blood glucose
target; and on the role of parenteral nutrition (3–7). To
address these issues, we pooled the databases of the two
randomized controlled trials (n 2,748). This created the
statistical power to investigate potential harm evoked by
brief (3 days) treatment in mixed medical/surgical pop-
ulations (8). Furthermore, the large sample size allowed
attempts to identify subgroups of patients who may not
benefit from IIT, to determine the optimal level of blood
glucose control, and to study consequences of hypoglycemia.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
The study design has been previously reported (1,2). In brief, upon ICU
admission, patients were randomly assigned to IIT or the conventional
approach. Assignment to treatment groups was done by blinded envelopes,
stratified according to diagnostic category, and balanced with the use of
permuted blocks of 10. In the conventional group, continuous insulin infusion
of 50 IU Actrapid HM (Novo Nordisk, Bagsvaerd, Denmark) in 50 ml NaCl
(0.9% using a Perfusor-FM pump [B. Braun, Melsungen, Germany]) was started
only when blood glucose levels exceeded 215 mg/dl and adjusted to keep
blood glucose between 180 and 200 mg/dl. When blood glucose fell 180
mg/dl, insulin infusion was tapered and eventually stopped. In the IIT group,
insulin infusion was started when blood glucose levels exceeded 110 mg/day
and adjusted to maintain normoglycemia (80 –110 mg/day). Maximal insulin
dose was arbitrarily set at 50 IU/h. At discharge from the ICU, a conventional
approach was adopted (maintenance of blood glucose levels 200 mg/dl).
From the
1
Department of Intensive Care Medicine, Catholic University of
Leuven, Leuven, Belgium; the
2
Department of Medicine, Catholic University of
Leuven, Leuven, Belgium; and the
3
Department of Physical Medicine and
Rehabilitation, Catholic University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.
Address correspondence and reprint requests to Greet Van den Berghe, MD,
PhD, Department of Intensive Care Medicine, University Hospital Gasthuis-
berg, University of Leuven, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium. E-mail: greta.
vandenberghe@med.kuleuven.be.
Received for publication 23 June 2006 and accepted in revised form 26 July
2006.
G.V.d.B. has received a research grant from Novo Nordisk, Denmark.
EMG, electromyography; ICU, intensive care unit; IIT, intensive insulin
therapy.
DOI: 10.2337/db06-0855
© 2006 by the American Diabetes Association.
The costs of publication of this article were defrayed in part by the payment of page
charges. This article must therefore be hereby marked “advertisement” in accordance
with 18 U.S.C. Section 1734 solely to indicate this fact.
DIABETES, VOL. 55, NOVEMBER 2006 3151
Page 1
Insulin dose was adjusted according to whole blood glucose levels, measured
at 1- to 4-h intervals in arterial blood (or when an arterial line was not
available, capillary blood was used) using the ABL700 analyzer (Radiometer
Medical, Copenhagen, Denmark) or a point-of-care glucometer (HemoCue
B-glucose; HemoCue, A
´
ngelholm, Sweden). Both were calibrated to plasma
glucose. The normal nursing staff (one nurse taking care of two patients)
performed the insulin titration.
When patients were hemodynamically stable, feeding was started accord-
ing to European guidelines (9). In both studies, patients who were anticipated
not to be able to take normal oral feeding within 5 days received enteral
feeding as early as possible. When sufficient amount of calories could not be
given enterally, parenteral supplements were given to meet estimated caloric
needs. Written informed consent was obtained from the closest family
member. The study protocols were approved by the institutional review board
of the Catholic University of Leuven.
Outcome measures. Since the two previous studies had identical protocols
and were performed sequentially between 2000 and 2005 in one academic
center with randomization using permuted blocks of 10, pooling of the
databases (n 2,748) allowed us to address benefit versus harm in a larger
sample. The impact of IIT in this mixed population was assessed by analysis
of the intention-to-treat group (n 2,748). To determine whether brief (3
days) IIT caused harm, analyses were also done for the long-stay (3 days in
ICU; n 1,389) and short-stay (3 days in ICU; n 1,359) equal-sized
subgroups. To define whether certain subgroups, identifiable upon ICU
admission, may not benefit from IIT, the large diagnostic subgroups (contain-
ing at least 400 patients) were considered separately. These were patients with
surgical or medical 1) cardiovascular insults, 2) respiratory insults, 3)
gastrointestinal insults as reason for ICU admission, 4) sepsis, 5) malignancy,
and 6) with a prior history of diabetes. To address whether the major role of
IIT may be to prevent toxicity of high-parenteral glucose load (4,5,7), we
stratified patients into three tertiles of daily intravenous glucose load. The
independent impact of blood glucose level (mean daily value 110 mg/day,
110 –150 mg/day, or 150 mg/day) and of insulin dose was also evaluated.
For morbidity, we here focused on the two major end points that were not
affected by the unblinded study design, including 1) newly acquired kidney
injury occurring during time in the ICU (defined using modified RIFLE [risk,
injury, failure, loss, end-stage kidney disease] criteria as at least doubling of
admission plasma creatinine [10]) and 2) critical illness polyneuropathy. All
patients still in the ICU on day 7 after admission (n 825) were screened for
critical illness polyneuropathy by electromyography (EMG) of all limbs. EMG
was repeated weekly for the duration of ICU stay. Patients with preexisting
neuromuscular disorders were excluded. EMGs had been evaluated by an
independent investigator who was unaware of treatment allocation. The
diagnosis of critical illness polyneuropathy was exclusively based on the
presence of abundant spontaneous activity in the form of positive sharp waves
and fibrillation potentials in multiple distal and proximal muscles in all
extremities. Muscles innervated by nerves susceptible to pressure palsies
were avoided.
Consequences of hypoglycemia (blood glucose 40 mg/dl) were assessed
independently by two investigators (I.M. and B.B.) who were unaware of
insulin treatment allocation. This analysis was done by reviewing all ICU and
hospital charts of the patients with hypoglycemia. Actions taken upon
diagnosis of hypoglycemia and time to normalization of blood glucose were
noted. Sweating, hemodynamic collapse or arrhythmia, decreased conscious-
ness, epilepsy, or coma within8hofhypoglycemia were considered to be
possible immediate consequences. Altered neurological status, epilepsy,
TABLE 1
Baseline patient characteristics
Intention to treat
(n 2,748)
In ICU at least 3 days
(n 1,389)
In ICU 3 days
(n 1,359)
Insulin treatment
Conven-
tional Intensive P value
Conven-
tional Intensive P value
Conven-
tional Intensive P value
n 1,388 1,360 702 687 686 673
Medical ICU 606 (43.6) 595 (43.8) 0.9 381 (54.3) 386 (56.2) 0.5 224 (32.7) 209 (31.0) 0.5
Male sex 939 (67.7) 900 (66.2) 0.2 458 (65.2) 434 (63.2) 0.4 481 (70.1) 466 (69.2) 0.7
Age (years) 63 15 63 15 0.4 63 16 62 15 0.3 63 14 65 14 0.009
BMI (kg/m
2
)
25.4 4.9 25.7 4.9 0.06 25.1 5.3 25.6 5.4 0.07 25.6 4.5 25.8 4.4 0.5
History of diabetes 200 (14.4) 207 (15.2) 0.5 95 (13.5) 95 (13.8) 0.9 105 (15.3) 112 (16.6) 0.5
Insulin treated 84 (6.1) 104 (7.6) 39 (5.6) 57 (8.3) 45 (6.6) 47 (6.9)
Oral antidiabetic
treatment and/or diet 116 (8.3) 103 (7.6) 56 (7.9) 38 (5.5) 60 (8.7) 65 (9.7)
Diagnostic group 0.9 0.8 0.5
Cardiovascular
disease/high-risk
cardiac or
complicated vascular
surgery 549 (39.6) 533 (39.2) 172 (24.5) 156 (22.7) 377 (54.9) 377 (56.0)
Respiratory/complicated
pulmonary or
esophageal surgery 317 (22.8) 317 (23.3) 204 (29.1) 229 (33.3) 113 (16.5) 88 (13.1)
Gastrointenstinal or
hepatic
disease/complicated
abdominal surgery 210 (15.1) 199 (14.6) 125 (17.8) 104 (15.1) 85 (12.4) 95 (14.1)
Neurology/neurosurgery 61 (4.4) 63 (4.6) 42 (6.0) 42 (6.1) 19 (2.8) 21 (3.1)
Hematology/oncology 51 (3.7) 46 (3.4) 37 (5.3) 39 (5.7) 14 (2.0) 7 (1.0)
Solid organ transplants 44 (3.2) 46 (3.4) 15 (2.1) 18 (2.6) 29 (4.2) 28 (4.2)
Polytrauma 35 (2.5) 33 (2.4) 29 (4.1) 28 (4.1) 6 (0.9) 5 (0.7)
Renal/metabolic 31 (2.2) 33 (2.4) 21 (3.0) 18 (2.6) 10 (1.5) 15 (2.2)
Other 90 (6.5) 90 (6.6) 57 (8.1) 53 (7.7) 33 (4.8) 37 (5.5)
Sepsis 471 (33.9) 479 (35.2) 0.8 324 (46.1) 345 (50.2) 0.3 147 (21.5) 134 (19.9) 0.7
Active malignancy 247 (17.8) 256 (18.8) 0.5 152 (21.7) 155 (22.6) 0.7 95 (13.8) 101 (15.0) 0.5
Ventilated upon admission 1,186 (85.4) 1,152 (84.7) 0.6 644 (91.7) 627 (91.3) 0.8 542 (79.0) 525 (78.0) 0.7
Baseline APACHE II score 16 915 10 0.4 18 918 10 0.9 13 912 8 0.2
On admission blood
glucose (mg/dl) 152 60 148 59 0.2 157 64 154 61 0.5 146 55 142 57 0.2
Data are n (%) or means SD. Sepsis was defined using modified Bone criteria (ref. 21) as suspected or documented infection on ICU
admission day and fulfilment of at least two of three systematic inflammatory response syndrome criteria for which data were available: 1)
receiving ventilatory support, 2) white blood cell count 4,000 or 12,000/l, and 3) temperature 36 or 38°C. Patients after cardiac surgery
or trauma were excluded for this definition.
BENEFIT VS. HARM BY INTENSIVE INSULIN THERAPY
3152 DIABETES, VOL. 55, NOVEMBER 2006
Page 2
coma, or death at any time thereafter, until hospital discharge, were noted as
possible late sequellae.
Statistical analysis. Baseline and outcome variables were compared using
Student’s t test,
2
test, and Mann-Whitney U test. The effect of the interven
-
tion on mortality and morbidity was assessed by comparing crude proportions
using
2
test. In addition, odds ratios (ORs) were calculated by logistic
regression analysis, correcting for baseline APACHE (Acute Physiology and
Chronic Health Evaluation) II score (11) and for malignancy.
To assess the impact of the level of blood glucose control, a similar
regression analysis was performed, replacing the randomized intervention
(conventional versus intensive insulin) by 1) one of three strata of mean
morning blood glucose (110 mg/day; 110 –150 mg/day; or 150 mg/day) and
2) the mean daily insulin dose. Since a history of diabetes predisposed to
being in the 150 mg/dl group, the outcome analysis per strata of blood
glucose control was also corrected for the history of diabetes.
Time to in-hospital death was assessed by Kaplan-Meier estimates and
TABLE 2
Insulin therapy, nutrition, blood glucose control, and hypoglycemia
Intention to treat (n 2,748)
In ICU at least 3 days
(n 1,389) In ICU 3 days (n 1,359)
Conven-
tional Intensive P value
Conven-
tional Intensive P value
Conven-
tional Intensive P value
n 1,388 1,360 702 687 686 673
Total amount of feeding (kcal
kg
1
day
1
)
15 815 8 0.2 20 619 7 0.06 10 510 5 0.7
Amount of parenteral
calories (kcal kg
1
day
1
)*
13 713 7 0.7 16 716 7 0.9 10 510 5 0.7
Amount of enteral calories
(kcal kg
1
day
1
)†
2.3 0.1 1.9 0.1 0.1 4.2 0.2 3.5 0.2 0.08 0.4 0.07 0.2 0.04 0.4
Number of patients
receiving predominantly
parenteral calories‡ 1,166 (85) 1,175 (87) 0.2 525 (75) 531 (77) 0.3 641 (96) 644 (97) 0.3
Average daily amount of
intravenous glucose
(g/day)* 160 66 161 64 0.8 179 65 179 64 0.9 141 62 143 60 0.6
Number of patients
receiving at least some
enteral nutrition‡ 555 (40) 511 (38) 0.2 468 (67) 443 (64) 0.4 87 (13 ) 68 (10) 0.1
Daily insulin dose (IU/day) 1 (0–24) 59 (37–84) 0.0001 7 (0–36) 68 (47–96) 0.0001 0 (0–12) 48 (30–73) 0.0001
Mean blood glucose level
(mg/dl) 152 32 105 24 0.0001 152 27 103 21§ 0.0001 151 35 107 27§ 0.0001
In lowest tertile of
intravenous glucose 149 37 107 26 0.0001 147 28¶ 103 14 150 41 109 31 0.0001
In middle tertile of
intravenous glucose 151 30 105 22 0.0001 152 27 105 19 0.0001 151 32 104 32 0.0001
In highest tertile of
intravenous glucose 154 28 104 24 0.0001 155 27¶ 103 24 0.0001 153 29 105 22 0.0001
Patients per strata of blood
glucose control 0.0001 0.0001 0.0001
150 mg/dl 656 (47.5) 41 (3.0) 353 (50.3) 10 (1.5) 303 (44.5) 31 (4.6)
110–150 mg/dl 639 (46.2) 374 (27.7) 322 (45.9) 160 (23.4) 317 (46.6) 214 (32.1)
110 mg/dl 87 (6.3) 935 (69.3) 27 (3.8) 514 (75.1)# 60 (8.8) 421 (63.2)#
Hypoglycemia 25 (1.8) 154 (11.3) 0.0001 20 (2.8) 130 (18.9) 0.0001 5 (0.7) 24 (3.6) 0.0003
More than one hypoglycemic
event 5 (0.4) 31 (2.3) 0.0001 3 (0.4) 30 (4.4) 0.0001 2 (0.3) 1 (0.2) 0.6
Level of blood glucose during
hypoglycemia (mg/dl) 32 733 5 0.7 32 733 5 0.7 32 832 6 0.99
Hypoglycmia without insulin 6 (0.4) 5 (0.4) 0.8 5 (0.7) 4 (0.6) 0.8 1 (0.1) 1 (0.1) 1.0
Mean daily amount of kilocal
administered to patients
with hypoglycemia (kcal
kg
1
day
1
)
20 720 7 0.9 23 522 6 0.4 9 511 5 0.5
Mean daily amount of kilocal
administered to patients
without hypoglycemia
(kcal kg
1
day
1
)
15 814 7 0.0002 20 619 7 0.0002 10 510 5 0.5
Among patients with
hypoglycemia (n) 25 154 20 130 5 24
Immediate (8 h) symptoms 3 (12.0) 6 (3.9) 0.1 2 (10.0) 5 (3.8) 0.3 1 (20.0) 1 (4.2) 0.4
Death within 24 h of
hypoglycemia 3 (12.0) 1 (0.6) 0.0004 3 (15.0) 0 (0.0) 0.0001 0 (0.0) 1 (4.2) 0.6
Hospital mortality 13 (52.0) 78 (50.6) 0.9 13 (65.0) 71 (54.6) 0.4 0 (0.0) 7 (29.2) 0.2
Late neurological sequellae
(survivors) 0 (0.0) 3 (3.9)** 0.5 0 (0.0) 3 (5.1)** 0.5 0 (0.0) 0 (0.0) 1.0
Data are n (%), means SD, or median (interquartile range) unless otherwise indicated. *All intravenous calories were counted, including
those for nonnutritional purposes such as solutes for intravenous drugs and bolus injections for correction of hypoglycemia. †Non–normally
distributed data are represented as means SE; P values calculated by Mann-Whitney-U test. ‡Less than one-third of administered calories
via the enteral route. §P 0.02 for the difference between blood glucose control between IIT groups treated at least 3 days and those treated
3 days. P 0.05 and P 0.01 for comparison between the two marked tertiles among one randomization goup. #P 0.0001 for the
difference in distribution of patients in the different strata of blood glucose control among short-stay patients compared with long-stay
patients. **Suffering from coma or epilepsy prior to hypoglycemia.
G. VAN DEN BERGHE AND ASSOCIATES
DIABETES, VOL. 55, NOVEMBER 2006 3153
Page 3
log-rank testing. Patients discharged alive from the hospital were considered
survivors. The effect on time to a positive EMG diagnosis of critical illness
polyneuropathy was assessed by cumulative hazard estimates and log-rank
testing, censoring for early deaths.
Data are presented as means SD or medians (25th–75th percentile)
unless indicated otherwise. P values were not adjusted for multiple compar-
isons, and values 0.05 were considered significant.
RESULTS
Baseline patient characteristics are described in Table 1.
The study groups were comparable at baseline.
Nutrition and blood glucose control. Details on nutri-
tional intake, insulin doses, and blood glucose control are
shown in Table 2.
Impact on outcome of the mixed medical/surgical
population and the optimal level of blood glucose
control. Morbidity and mortality were significantly lower
in the IIT group than in the conventional group, in the
intention-to-treat analysis, and even more so in the long-
stay subgroup (Table 3 and Figs. 1 and 2).
In the intention-to-treat group, in-hospital mortality was
higher when the mean blood glucose level was 150 mg/dl
(OR 1.38 [95% CI 1.10 –1.75]; P 0.007) and lower when
the mean blood glucose level was 110 mg/day (0.77
[0.61– 0.96]; P 0.02) compared with 110 –150 mg/dl. The
benefit of a mean blood glucose level 110 mg/day,
compared with 110 –150 mg/dl, was even larger in the
long-stay subgroup (0.71 [0.54 0.94]; P 0.02) (Fig. 1). In
the intention-to-treat group, but not in the long-stay sub-
group, a higher mean daily insulin dose for any given blood
glucose level was associated with higher hospital mortality
(per 10 units of insulin per day: 1.04 [1.03–1.06]; P
0.0001).
In the intention-to-treat analysis, the OR for newly
acquired kidney injury when on IIT was 0.56 ([95% CI
0.41– 0.78]; P 0.0005). The OR for developing critical
illness polyneuropathy when treated with IIT was 0.49
([0.37– 0.65]; P 0.0001) compared with conventional
therapy. A blood glucose level 110 mg/day was most
effective to achieve these morbidity benefits (Fig. 2).
Potential harm by brief (<3 days) IIT. Among patients
treated 3 days, morbidity or mortality were similar in IIT
and conventional therapy groups (Table 3 and Fig. 1) and
similar for the three strata of blood glucose control (Fig.
1).
Impact of IIT among subgroups of patients: who may
not benefit? In all large diagnostic subgroups, except
patients with a prior history of diabetes, morbidity and
mortality were lower in the IIT than in the conventional
group (Table 4). Among patients with diabetes, risk of
death for the three strata of blood glucose control mir-
rored the pattern observed among patients without diabe-
tes (Fig. 3). Among patients with diabetes, in-hospital
mortality was 21.2% when mean blood glucose was 110
150 mg/dl; it was 21.6% among patients with a mean blood
glucose level 150 mg/dl (OR 0.98 [95% CI 0.54 –1.77]; P
0.9) compared with 110–150 mg/dl and 26.2% when mean
blood glucose level was 110 mg/day (1.28 [0.69 –2.35];
P 0.4) compared with 110 –150 mg/dl. The insulin dose
was not significantly associated with risk of death among
patients with diabetes. Also, incidence of hypoglycemia in
patients with diabetes was not higher than in other large
subgroups (Table 4). The cause of death in nonsurvivors
with a prior history of diabetes was more often of cardiac
origin than among patients without a history of diabetes
(P 0.04) in both the IIT and conventional groups. In
TABLE 3
Outcome of mixed medical/surgical patients
Intention to treat group In ICU at least 3 days In ICU 3 days
Insulin treatment Conventional Intensive P value Conventional Intensive P value Conventional Intensive P value
n 1,388 1,360 702 687 686 673
Deaths during intensive care 225 (16.2) 179 (13.2) 0.02 195 (27.8) 149 (21.7) 0.009 30 (4.4) 30 (4.4) 0.9
OR (95% CI)* 0.76 (0.60–0.96) 0.02 0.67 (0.51–0.87) 0.003 1.27 (0.69–2.31) 0.4
In-hospital deaths 327 (23.6) 277 (20.4) 0.04 266 (37.9) 207 (30.1) 0.002 61 (8.9) 70 (10.4) 0.4
OR (95% CI)* 0.80 (0.65–0.98) 0.03 0.65 (0.51–0.83) 0.0001 1.42 (0.93–2.17) 0.2
New kidney injury 107 (7.7) 61 (4.5) 0.0005 101 (14.4) 56 (8.2) 0.0003 6 (0.9) 5 (0.7) 0.8
OR (95% CI)* 0.58 (0.42–0.80) 0.0009 0.53 (0.38–0.75) 0.0003 1.28 (0.34–4.81) 0.7
In ICU at least 7 days
Conventional Intensive P value
n 436 389
Critical ilness polyneuropathy
(% of screened) 216 (49.5) 127 (32.6) 0.0001
OR (95% CI)* 0.49 (0.37–0.65) 0.0001
Data are n (%) unless otherwise indicated. *Corrected for APACHE-II score and malignancy. P values calculated by
2
.
BENEFIT VS. HARM BY INTENSIVE INSULIN THERAPY
3154 DIABETES, VOL. 55, NOVEMBER 2006
Page 4
FIG. 1. Impact of IIT (upper panels) and of the level of blood glucose control (lower panels) on time to hospital mortality among short- and
long-stay ICU patients. Numerical P values were obtained by log-rank test. Symbols reflect P values obtained by
2
testing for logistic regression
analysis per level of blood glucose control. *P 0.02; **P 0.007; £P 0.07.
FIG. 2. Impact of IIT (upper panels) and of the level of blood glucose control (lower panels) on new kidney injury during ICU stay (left panels,
n 2,748) and on the time to a first positive EMG diagnosis of critical illness polyneuropathy among all screened patients (right panels, n 825
in ICU at least 7 days). Compared with a mean blood glucose level of 110 –150 mg/dl, the OR for new kidney injury when mean blood glucose was
<110 mg/day was 0.66 (95% CI 0.44 0.97) and 1.25 (0.86–1.83) when mean blood glucose was >150 mg/dl. P values for kidney injury were
obtained by
2
testing in the lower panels for logistic regression analysis per level of blood glucose control. Bars reflect proportions and 95% CIs.
P values for critical illness polyneuropathy were obtained by log-rank testing.
G. VAN DEN BERGHE AND ASSOCIATES
DIABETES, VOL. 55, NOVEMBER 2006 3155
Page 5
contrast, with the lack of effect on mortality, morbidity
tended to be reduced when patients with diabetes received
IIT (Table 4).
The benefit of IIT was independent of parenteral glucose
load as mortality was lowered in the lowest and the
highest tertile of parenteral glucose (Fig. 4). For long-stay
patients, mortality in the three parenteral glucose sub-
groups treated conventionally was similar (P 0.6) and
IIT reduced it from 37 to 23% in the lowest tertile (P
0.0003), from 36 to 29% in the middle tertile (P 0.05), and
from 39 to 34% in the highest tertile (P 0.04) of
parenteral glucose (Fig. 4). In the conventional groups,
blood glucose levels were slightly higher in the highest
than the lowest tertile. In the IIT group, blood glucose
levels were identical or lower with higher parenteral
glucose load (Table 2).
Potential consequences of hypoglycemia. Hypoglyce-
mia occurred in 1.8% of patients treated conventionally
and 11.3% of patients treated with IIT (P 0.0001) (Table
2). Risk of hypoglycemia increased with lower mean blood
glucose (2.9% at 150 mg/dl, 4.3% at 110 –150 mg/dl, and
10.7% at 110 mg/day; P 0.0001). Hypoglycemia oc-
curred in patients who received more, not less, calories
(Table 2).
In 62% of patients with hypoglycemia, blood glucose
was normalized (by stopping the insulin infusion and/or
administering extra glucose) within 1 h and in all but two
patients within 4 h. Immediate symptoms (sweating or
decreased consciousness) occurred in 5% of patients with
hypoglycemia: three in the conventional group and six in
the IIT group (P 0.1); all fully recovered within 8 h. For
seven patients, this evaluation was inconclusive due to
deep sedation or presence of these symptoms before
hypoglycemia. Within 24 h of first hypoglycemia, three
(12%) patients in the conventional and one (0.6%) in the IIT
group died (P 0.0004) (Table 2).
Hospital mortality (percent) was comparable among
hypoglycemic patients in the conventional and IIT groups
(Table 2). Median time from hypoglycemia to death was
221 h (range 54 –530) in the conventional and 152 h
(87– 407) in the IIT group (P 0.9). Risk of hypoglycemia
in both conventional and IIT groups coincided with a high
risk of death (Table 2). Spontaneous hypoglycemia (occur-
ring in patients not receiving insulin; n 11) (Table 2) was
associated with a 1.7-fold higher mortality than with
insulin (P 0.03).
Among survivors with hypoglycemia during intensive
care, late neurological sequellae were absent in all but
three IIT patients. However, these three patients suffered
from coma or epilepsy before hypoglycemia; thus, no
conclusions on causality were possible (Table 2).
DISCUSSION
Both previous randomized controlled trials (1,2) on the
impact of IIT during critical illness clearly demonstrated
reduced morbidity and mortality of patients treated at
least a few days in the ICU. However, a substantial fraction
of medical and surgical patients require intensive care only
for 1 or 2 days. The previous medical ICU study had
revealed a higher number of deaths in the group of
short-stay patients on IIT. Although this difference was not
statistically significant and likely explained by selection
bias, it was of concern to the practicing clinician. Indeed,
if IIT would be harmful when given only briefly, it would
be difficult to direct this therapy to the target population
TABLE 4
Outcome of subgroups
Insulin treatment Conventional Intensive
Cardiovascular
disease/high-risk cardiac
or complicated vascular
surgery 549 533
New kidney injury 35 (6.4) 17 (3.2)
Critical illness
polyneuropathy (% of
screened) 41 (40.6) 17 (23.3)
ICU mortality 34 (6.2) 18 (3.4)
Hospital mortality 48 (8.7) 34 (6.4)
Hypoglycemia 3 (0.5) 21 (3.9)
Respiratory/complicated
pulmonary or esophageal
surgery 317 317
New kidney injury 36 (11.4) 20 (6.3)
Critical illness
polyneuropathy (% of
screened) 71 (52.9) 48 (35.0)
ICU mortality 83 (26.2) 68 (21.5)
Hospital mortality 128 (40.4) 103 (32.5)
Hypoglycemia 6 (1.9) 58 (18.3)
Gastrointenstinal or hepatic
disease/complicated
abdominal surgery 210 199
New kidney injury 11 (5.2) 7 (3.5)
Critical illness
polyneuropathy (% of
screened) 38 (51.4) 18 (32.7)
ICU mortality 34 (16.2) 27 (13.6)
Hospital mortality 60 (28.6) 50 (25.1)
Hypoglycemia 6 (2.9) 22 (11.0)
Sepsis 471 479
New kidney injury 49 (10.4) 34 (7.0)
Critical illness
polyneuropathy (% of
screened) 114 (53.3) 69 (31.9)
ICU mortality 128 (27.2) 112 (23.3)
Hospital mortality 172 (36.5) 160 (33.4)
Hypoglycemia 14 (2.9) 94 (19.6)
Active malignancy 247 256
New kidney injury 23 (9.3) 16 (6.3)
Critical illness
polyneuropathy (% of
screened) 54 (54.5) 31 (30.7)
ICU mortality 77 (31.2) 62 (24.2)
Hospital mortality 105 (42.5) 95 (37.1)
Hypoglycemia 3 (1.2) 39 (15.2)
History of diabetes 200 207
New kidney injury 14 (7.0) 11 (5.3)
Critical illness
polyneuropathy (% of
screened) 25 (43.9) 14 (32.6)
ICU mortality 27 (13.5) 27 (13.0)
Hospital mortality 44 (22.0) 48 (23.2)
Hypoglycemia 8 (4.0) 29 (14.0)
Data are n or n (%). Sepsis was defined using modified Bone criteria
(ref. 21) as suspected or documented infection on ICU admission day
and fulfilment of at least two of three systematic inflammatory
response syndrome criteria for which data were available: 1) receiv-
ing ventilatory support, 2) white blood cell count 4,000 or
12,000/l, and 3) temperature 36 or 38°C. Patients after cardiac
surgery or trauma were excluded for this definition.
BENEFIT VS. HARM BY INTENSIVE INSULIN THERAPY
3156 DIABETES, VOL. 55, NOVEMBER 2006
Page 6
who would benefit from it, as long-stay patients cannot be
identified with certainty on ICU admission. Hence, as
benefit versus harm remained unclear, the question re-
mained whether IIT should be applied to all ICU patients,
including short stayers.
Pooling the two datasets of the randomized controlled
trials generated equal-sized samples of long-stay and short-
stay medical/surgical ICU patients. Hence, the current
analysis had the statistical power to show the morbidity
and mortality benefits of IIT in the intention-to-treat group,
explained by a larger effect when continued for at least 3
days in ICU and to exclude harm by brief (3 days)
intervention. In the intention-to-treat group, avoiding
blood glucose levels 150 mg/dl appeared to be most
crucial to reduce mortality, but more survival benefit was
achieved by strictly maintaining blood glucose levels 110
mg/day. When continued for at least a few days, the
benefits of blood glucose control 110 mg/day further
increased. A blood glucose level kept strictly 110 mg/day
from ICU admission onwards was necessary to obtain the
protective effect of IIT on the kidney and the peripheral
nervous system and did not cause harm to short-stay
patients.
The somewhat higher proportion of patients among long
stayers than short stayers, with blood glucose levels
strictly 110 mg/dl, may have contributed to the lack of
benefit with IIT for short stayers. However, although
statistically significant, a mean difference in blood glucose
of 4 mg/dl may not be clinically relevant. The underlying
disease for which admission to ICU was needed also does
not explain the absence of effect among short stayers, as
short stayers more often suffered from diseases with a
lower risk of death (cardiovascular subgroup) for which a
clear benefit was shown.
Most subgroups of patients benefited from IIT, including
patients with sepsis upon admission, with quite similar
absolute risk reduction for mortality in all the subgroups.
In view of the varying baseline risk of death among the
different diagnostic subgroups, future and ongoing studies
should take this effect size into account for power calcu-
lation. Only for patients with a history of diabetes was no
survival benefit present, and the risk of death appeared
FIG. 3. Impact of the level of blood glucose control on time to hospital mortality among ICU patients with and without a history of diabetes.
Numerical P values were obtained by log-rank testing. Symbols reflect P values obtained by
2
testing for logistic regression analysis per level
of blood glucose control. P 0.03; **P 0.002; ***P < 0.001. F, patients with a mean blood glucose level >150 mg/dl; O, patients with a mean
blood glucose level of 110 –150 mg/dl; E, patients with a mean blood glucose level <110 mg/day.
G. VAN DEN BERGHE AND ASSOCIATES
DIABETES, VOL. 55, NOVEMBER 2006 3157
Page 7
highest, albeit nonsignificantly, with blood glucose levels
110 mg/day. The latter was not explained by more
hypoglycemia. When confirmed in larger samples, this
observation could suggest that a rapid normalization of
blood glucose levels of patients with diabetes, whose
blood glucose levels presumably were elevated before ICU
admission, could be deleterious. Adaptation to chronic
hyperglycemia, via reduced expression of GLUT transport-
ers in certain cell types, may play a role (12). Such a
mechanism has been proposed to explain exacerbating
complications with rapid metabolic control in patients
with diabetes (13). While awaiting further studies, it may
therefore be advisable to treat this subgroup of patients
with diabetes to a blood glucose target similar to what the
patient had before the acute insult, rather than at a level of
110 mg/day. Such a strategy would be comparable with
blood pressure management of ICU patients with prior
hypertension. The data call for specific attention to the
population with a prior history of diabetes at the time of
interim analyses of ongoing multicenter trials investigating
IIT in ICU patients (14,15).
IIT works irrespective of parenteral glucose load. Long-
stay patients receiving no or small amounts of parenteral
glucose appeared to benefit most, which negates the
suggestion raised in recent editorials that IIT would only
antagonize side effects of excessive parenteral feeding
(4,5). The analysis also suggests that higher mortality,
previously associated with higher amounts of parenteral
feeding (16), an association at first sight that was also
present in our intention-to-treat groups, is explained by
more feeding given to long-stay and, thus, sicker patients
and does not reflect a causal association. Indeed, among
long-stay patients treated conventionally, mortality was
similar for the three strata of intravenous feeding.
There were more episodes of hypoglycemia during IIT
than with conventional therapy and more so when blood
glucose levels were 110 mg/day. This risk was higher
among long-stay compared with short-stay patients. As
most benefit was gained with the tightest blood glucose
control, the risk of hypoglycemia should thus be weighed
against improved outcome. Indeed, our data cannot com-
pletely resolve whether increased risk of brief hypoglyce-
mia with IIT, in ICU conditions and treated promptly as in
our studies, caused any harm. There was no immediate
lethality associated with hypoglycemia, and only rarely
were there immediate transient symptoms. However, im-
FIG. 4. Impact of IIT on time to hospital mortality among short- and long-stay ICU patients, stratified for tertiles of mean daily parenteral glucose
load during ICU stay. The latter comprised all intravenous glucose, including those for nonnutritional purposes. Tertiles for daily parenteral
glucose load were defined according to the distribution in the intention-to-treat group. The two insulin groups were comparable for mean daily
amount of parenteral glucose and for the distribution among the three tertiles. Patients in the lowest tertile (row A) received a mean 90 g glucose
per day (range 0 –135); patients in the middle tertile (row B) received a mean 160 g glucose per day (range 136–185); patients in the highest
tertile (row C) received a mean 230 g glucose per day (range 186 472). Symbols reflect P values obtained by
2
testing for logistic regression
analysis. *P < 0.05; ***P < 0.001. F, conventional; E, IIT.
BENEFIT VS. HARM BY INTENSIVE INSULIN THERAPY
3158 DIABETES, VOL. 55, NOVEMBER 2006
Page 8
paired counterregulatory responses may mask these im-
mediate symptoms and signs in ICU patients. It was
reassuring to document that among survivors, no morbid-
ity was associated with hypoglycemia and that the risk of
hospital death among patients with hypoglycemia was
equal in the conventional and the IIT groups. However, as
more patients in the IIT group experienced hypoglycemia,
it cannot be entirely excluded that hypoglycemia evoked
morbidity or mortality. If this were the case, avoiding
hypoglycemia while maintaining blood glucose levels
110 mg/day would further increase the benefit of IIT
because, even in the group with the highest risk of
hypoglycemia (the 110 mg/day stratum), most lives were
saved. Sepsis, organ failure, and hemodialysis have been
reported as risk factors for developing hypoglycemia with
IIT (17). A recent nested case-control study (18) by the
same group elegantly revealed no causal link between
hypoglycemia in the ICU and death, when case and control
subjects were matched for baseline conditions and for
time in the ICU. Hence, as previously suggested (19),
hypoglycemia during IIT in ICU patients may merely
identify patients at high risk of dying rather then repre-
senting a risk in its own right. Our observation that
spontaneous hypoglycemia had a higher mortality than
hypoglycemia occurring during insulin infusion corrobo-
rates such an interpretation. Less overt consequences
evoked by hypoglycemia during critical illness and the
impact of time to normalization of the blood glucose level,
as well as of the depth of hypoglycemia, remain to be
explored in animal models of critical illness (20).
The statistical association between a high insulin dose
for any given blood glucose level and risk of death can be
interpreted in two ways. Either it points to the known
association between severity of illness and degree of
insulin resistance, or it may suggest that hyperinsulinemia
is deleterious. Our recent animal studies addressed this
question in detail and showed that not hyperinsulinemia,
but rather hyperglycemia, is causing morbidity and mor-
tality in critical illness (20), thus not supporting the latter
interpretation.
In conclusion, IIT significantly reduced morbidity and
mortality in mixed medical/surgical ICU patients in an
intention-to-treat analysis and more so when continued for
at least 3 days, independent of parenteral glucose load,
and without causing harm to patients treated for 3 days.
Only the subgroup of patients with a prior history of
diabetes did not appear to benefit. Blood glucose main-
tained at 110 mg/day was more effective than at 110 –150
mg/dl but also carried the highest risk of hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia did not cause early deaths, only minor
immediate and transient morbidity in a minority of pa-
tients, and no late neurological sequellae among hospital
survivors. However, as risk of hypoglycemia in both conven-
tional and intensive insulin groups coincided with a higher
risk of death, it cannot be completely excluded that hypogly-
cemia counteracted some of the survival benefit of IIT.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This study was supported by research grants from the
Belgian Fund for Scientific Research (G.0278.03 to
G.V.d.B.), the Research Council of the University of Leu-
ven (OT/03/56 to G.V.d.B.), the Belgian Foundation for
Research in Congenital Heart Diseases (to G.V.d.B.), and
an unrestricted research grant from Novo Nordisk, Den-
mark (to G.V.d.B.). R.B. is holder of the J.J. Servier
Diabetes Research Chair. The study sponsors were not
involved in design, data collection, analysis, or interpreta-
tion or in the preparation of this manuscript.
We acknowledge the medical and nursing teams of the
K.U. Leuven Medical ICU and Surgical ICU for their
contributions.
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    • "For Case 2, the patients take up glucose every 12 h and insulin is injected three times in this period (seeFig. 2 (c) and (d)). The stable periodic solution is shown inFig. 2 (c) and (d), and the results show that the blood glucose level will be always maintained at a low range, but excessive insulin infusions increase the risk of severe hypoglycemia [27] . Therefore, to be clinically acceptable, it is not only essential for a model based controller to prevent hyperglycemia by reducing the frequencies of glucose infusions, but also to reduce the frequencies of insulin injections to prevent hypoglycemic and hyperinsulinemia episodes by making accurate predictions. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Novel mathematical models with open and closed-loop control for type 1 or type 2 diabetes mellitus were developed to improve understanding of the glucose-insulin regulatory system. A hybrid impulsive glucose-insulin model with different frequencies of glucose infusions and insulin injections was analyzed, and the existence and uniqueness of the positive periodic solution for type 1 diabetes, which is globally asymptotically stable, was studied analytically. Moreover, permanence of the system for type 2 diabetes was demonstrated which showed that the glucose concentration level is uniformly bounded above and below. To investigate how to prevent hyperinsulinemia and hyperglycaemia being caused by this system, we developed a model involving periodic intakes of glucose with insulin injections applied only when the blood glucose level reached a given critical glucose threshold. In addition, our numerical analysis revealed that the period, the frequency and the dose of glucose infusions and insulin injections are crucial for insulin therapies, and the results provide clinical strategies for insulin-administration practices.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2016 · Communications in Nonlinear Science and Numerical Simulation
    • "The renal benefit afforded by intensive glycemic control was also shown in a subsequent randomized controlled trial (RCT) performed by the Leuven group involving only medical (nonoperative ) critical care patients [59]. Additionally, in a pooled dataset combining the surgical and medical patients from both trials, the perceived renoprotective effect persisted, though it was more pronounced in the surgical population [60, 61]. Based on this evidence, strict glycemic control for cardiac surgical patients gained substantial support and was endorsed at that time by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and American College of Endocrinology (ACE) Task Force on Inpatient Diabetes Metabolic Control [62]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Hyperglycemia and acute kidney injury (AKI) are frequently observed during the perioperative period. Substantial evidence indicates that hyperglycemia increases the prevalence of AKI as a surgical complication. Patients who develop hyperglycemia and AKI during the perioperative period are at significantly elevated risk for poor outcomes such as major adverse cardiac events and all-cause mortality. Early observational and interventional trials demonstrated that the use of intensive insulin therapy to achieve strict glycemic control resulted in remarkable reductions of AKI in surgical populations. However, more recent interventional trials and meta-analyses have produced contradictory evidence questioning the renal benefits of strict glycemic control. Although the exact mechanisms through which hyperglycemia increases the risk of AKI have not been elucidated, multiple pathophysiologic pathways have been proposed. Hypoglycemia and glycemic variability may also play a significant role in the development of AKI. In this literature review, the complex relationship between hyperglycemia and AKI as well as its impact on clinical outcomes during the perioperative period is explored.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2016 · Current Diabetes Reports
    • "The limited long-term success of lifestyle programmes in maintaining glycemic goals in T2DM patients (and their inefficiency in T1DM patients) suggests that the large majority of patients will require the addition of medications (insulins or oral anti-diabetic drugs) over the course of their diabetes in order to reach glycemic control [7] and prevent the occurrence of diabetes-related complications [8]. However, exact targets for glycemic control in hospital settings remain a matter of debate [7] and near-normal glycemic control by use of insulin cannot be achieved without a considerable risk of drug-induced hypoglycemia910. Hypoglycemia has a dramatic impact on patient's quality of life [11]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background and objectives: Little is known about the economic burden of hypoglycemia in Belgium, or its related co-morbidities. This study aimed at estimating the cost and length of stay associated with hypoglycemia-related hospitalizations in diabetic patients in Belgium and the association between hypoglycemia and in-hospital all-cause mortality, incidence of traumatic fractures, depression, and cardiovascular diseases (myocardial infarction or unstable angina), using retrospective data from 2011. Methods: Patient data were retrieved from the IMS Hospital Disease Database, including longitudinal (per calendar year) information on diagnoses, procedures, and drugs prescribed in ∼20% of all Belgian hospital beds. The eligible population included all adult (<19 year) diabetic (both types) patients, further split between those with/without a history of hypoglycemia-related hospitalizations. Diabetes, hypoglycemia, and co-morbidities of interest were identified based on International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems Version 9 (ICD-9) diagnosis codes. All costs were extrapolated to 2014 using progression in hospitalization costs since 2001. Results: A total of 43 410 diabetes-related hospitalizations were retrieved, corresponding to 30,710 distinct patients. The average hospitalization cost was €10,258 when hypoglycemia was documented (n = 2625), vs €7173 in other diabetic hospitalized patients (n = 40,785). When controlling for age and sex, a higher mortality risk (OR = 1.59; p-value <0.001), a higher incidence of traumatic fractures (OR = 1.25; p-value = 0.009), and a higher probability of depression-related hospitalizations (OR = 1.90; p-value <0.001) were observed in hypoglycemic patients. A similar risk of cardiovascular event was observed in both groups, but hypoglycemic patients were more at risk of experiencing multiple events. Conclusion: Hospitalizations for hypoglycemia are expensive and associated with an increased risk of depression and traumatic fractures as well as increased in-hospital mortality. Interventions that can help reduce the risk of hypoglycemia, and consequently the burden on hospitals and society, without compromising glycemic control, will help to further improve diabetes management.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2015 · Journal of Medical Economics
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