Published online Nov 28, 2016. doi: 10.5412/wjsp.v6.i3.30
Peer-review started: May 30, 2016
First decision: June 30, 2016
Revised: August 6, 2016
Accepted: August 27, 2016
Article in press: August 29, 2015
Published online: November 28, 2016
Hyperglycemia associated with critical illness, also called “stress hyperglycemia” or “stress diabetes”, is a consequence of many pathophysiologic hormonal responses including increased catecholamines, cortisol, glucagon, and growth hormone. Alterations in multiple biochemical pathways result in increased hepatic and peripheral insulin resistance with an uncontrolled activation of gluconeogenesis and glycogenolysis. Hyperglycemia has a negative impact on the function of the immune system, on the host response to illness or injury, and on infectious and overall outcomes. The degree of glucose elevation is associated with increased disease severity. Large randomized controlled trials including the Van den Berghe study, the NICE-SUGAR trial, VISEP and GLUCONTROL have shown that the control of glucose levels in critically ill patients has implications on outcome and that both hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia are detrimental and should be avoided. Glucose variability has also been shown to be detrimental. Aggressive glucose control strategies have changed due to the concerns of hypoglycemia and therefore intermediate target glucose control strategies are most often adopted. Different patient populations may vary with regards to optimal glucose targets, timing and approach for glucose control, and with regards to the prognostic significance of glucose excursions and variability. Medical, surgical, and trauma patients may benefit at different rates from glucose control and the approach may need to be adapted to various medical settings and to correspond to the workflow of health providers. Effect modifiers for the success of insulin therapy for hyperglycemia include the methods of nutritional supplementation and exogenous glucose administration. Further research is required to improve insulin protocols for glucose control, to further define glucose targets, and to enhance the accuracy of glucose measuring technologies.
Core tip: Hyperglycemia is not innocuous, especially in the critically ill; and glucose control has been shown to significantly impact morbidity and mortality. In this review, we describe the pathophysiology of the “diabetes of stress”; we summarize the major investigations that constitute the body of evidence and the reasons behind current practices. Further, we emphasize glucose considerations in special populations, especially trauma and postoperative populations. Finally, we provide insight on the relative importance of avoiding hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia, and glucose variability.