Diabetic Ketoacidosis Treatment Cheat Sheet

Diabetic Ketoacidosis Treatment


▶ Hyperglycemia > 250 mg/dL (13.9 mmol/L).

▶ Acidosis with blood pH < 7.3.

▶ Serum bicarbonate < 15 mEq/L.

▶ Serum positive for ketones.



Patients with mild diabetic ketoacidosis are alert and have pH levels between 7.25 and 7.30; those with moderate ketoacidosis have pH levels between 7.0 and 7.24 and are either alert or little drowsy; and those with severe ketoacidosis are stuporose and have a pH < 7.0. Those with mild ketoacidosis can be treated in the emergency department, but those with moderate or severe ketoacidosis require admission to the ICU or step-down unit. Therapeutic goals are to restore plasma volume and tissue perfusion, reduce blood glucose and osmolality toward normal, correct acidosis, replenish electrolyte losses, and identify and treat precipitating factors. Gastric intubation is recommended in the comatose patient to prevent vomiting and aspiration that may occur as a result of gastric atony, a common complication of diabetic ketoacidosis. An indwelling catheter may also be necessary.

 In patients with preexisting cardiac or renal failure or those in severe cardiovascular collapse, a central venous pressure catheter or a Swan-Ganz catheter should be inserted to evaluate the degree of hypovolemia and to monitor subsequent fluid administration. A comprehensive flow sheet that includes vital signs, serial laboratory data, and therapeutic interventions (eg, fluids, insulin) should be meticulously maintained by the clinician responsible for the patient’s care. Plasma glucose should be recorded hourly and electrolytes and pH at least every 2–3 hours during the initial treatment period. Bedside glucose meters should be used to titrate the insulin therapy.

The patient should not receive sedatives or opioids in order to avoid masking signs and symptoms of impeding cerebral edema.

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