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Patients with poorly controlled diabetes mellitus may have a sentinel emergency department (ED) visit for a precipitating condition prior to presenting for a hyperglycemic emergency, such as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) or hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state (HHS). This study’s objective was to describe the epidemiology and outcomes of patients with a sentinel ED visit prior to their hyperglycemic emergency visit.
This was a 1-year health records review of patients≥18 years old presenting to one of four tertiary care EDs with a discharge diagnosis of hyperglycemia, DKA, or HHS. Trained research personnel collected data on patient characteristics, management, disposition, and determined whether patients came to the ED within the 14 days prior to their hyperglycemia visit. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize the data.
Of 833 visits for hyperglycemia, 142 (17.0%; 95% CI: 14.5% to 19.6%) had a sentinel ED presentation within the preceding 14 days. Mean (SD) age was 50.5 (19.0) years and 54.4% were male; 104 (73.2%) were discharged from this initial visit, and 98/104 (94.2%) were discharged either without their glucose checked or with an elevated blood glucose (>11.0 mmol/L). Of the sentinel visits, 93 (65.5%) were for hyperglycemia and 22 (15.5%) for infection. Upon returning to the ED, 61/142 (43.0%) were admitted for severe hyperglycemia, DKA, or HHS.
In this unique ED-based study, diabetic patients with a sentinel ED visit often returned and required subsequent admission for hyperglycemia. Clinicians should be vigilant in checking blood glucose and provide clear discharge instructions for follow-up and glucose management to prevent further hyperglycemic emergencies from occurring.
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