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Open access

Harmony Thompson, Helen Lunt, Cate Fleckney and Steven Soule

Summary

An adolescent with type 1 diabetes and a history of self-harm, which included intentional overdoses and insulin omission, presented with an insulin degludec overdose. She had been commenced on the ultra-long-acting insulin, degludec, with the aim of reducing ketoacidosis episodes in response to intermittent refusal to take insulin. Insulin degludec was administered under supervision as an outpatient. Because it was anticipated that she would attempt a degludec overdose at some stage, the attending clinicians implemented a proactive management plan for this (and related) scenarios. This included long-term monitoring of interstitial glucose using the Abbott Freestyle Libre flash glucose monitor. The patient took a witnessed overdose of 242 units of degludec (usual daily dose, 32 units). She was hospitalised an hour later. Inpatient treatment was guided primarily by interstitial glucose results, with capillary and venous glucose tests used as secondary measures to assess the accuracy of interstitial glucose values. Four days of inpatient treatment was required. The patient was managed with high glycaemic loads of food and also intermittent intravenous dextrose. No hypoglycaemia was documented during the admission. In summary, while a degludec overdose may require several days of inpatient management, in situations where proactive management is an option and the dose administered is relatively modest, it may be possible to avoid significant hypoglycaemia. In addition, this case demonstrates that inpatient interstitial glucose monitoring may have a role in managing insulin overdose, especially in situations where the effect of the insulin overdose on glucose levels is likely to be prolonged.

Learning points:

  • Degludec overdoses have a prolonged effect on blood glucose levels, but if the clinical situation allows for early detection and management, treatment may prove easier than that which is typically needed following overdoses of a similar dose of shorter acting insulins.

  • Inpatient real-time interstitial monitoring helped guide management, which in this context included the prescription of high dietary carbohydrate intake (patient led) and intravenous 10% dextrose (nurse led).

  • Use of inpatient interstitial glucose monitoring to guide therapy might be considered ‘off label’ use, thus, both staff and also patients should be aware of the limitations, as well as the benefits, of interstitial monitoring systems.

  • The Libre flash glucose monitor provided nurses with low cost, easy-to-use interstitial glucose results, but it is nevertheless advisable to check these results against conventional glucose tests, for example, capillary ‘finger-stick’ or venous glucose tests.

Open access

Mauro Boronat, Rosa M Sánchez-Hernández, Julia Rodríguez-Cordero, Angelines Jiménez-Ortega and Francisco J Nóvoa

Summary

Treatment with continuous s.c. insulin infusion (CSII) provides better glycemic control and lower risk of hypoglycemia than conventional therapy with multiple daily insulin injections. These benefits have been related to a more reliable absorption and an improved pharmacokinetic profile of insulin delivered through CSII therapy. However, even for patients treated with CSII, exaggerated postmeal hyperglycemic excursions and late postabsorptive hypoglycemia can still constitute a therapeutic challenge. Two female patients with type 1 diabetes who began treatment with CSII required to increase their previous breakfast insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio in order to achieve postprandial glycemic goals. However, they simultaneously presented recurrent episodes of late hypoglycemia several hours after breakfast bolus. Advancing the timing of the bolus was ineffective and bothersome for patients. In both cases, the best therapeutic option was to set a basal insulin rate of zero units per hour during 6 h after breakfast. Even so, they need to routinely take a midmorning snack with 10–20 g of carbohydrates to avoid late postabsorptive hypoglycemia. They have been using this insulin schedule for about 3 years without complications. The action of prandial insulin delivered through insulin pumps can be inappropriately delayed for the requirements of some patients. Although suspension of basal rate can be an acceptable therapeutic alternative for them, these cases demonstrate that new strategies to improve the bioavailability of prandial insulin infused through CSII are still needed.

Learning points

  • CSII remains the most physiologically suitable system of insulin delivery available today.

  • Additionally, the duration of action of prandial insulin delivered through insulin pumps can be excessively prolonged in some patients with type 1 diabetes.

  • These patients can present recurrent late episodes of hypoglycemia several hours after the administration of insulin boluses.

  • The routine suspension of basal insulin for several hours, leaving meal bolus to cover both prandial and basal insulin requirements, can be a therapeutic option for these subjects.