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Open access

Sebastian Hörber, Sarah Hudak, Martin Kächele, Dietrich Overkamp, Andreas Fritsche, Hans-Ulrich Häring, Andreas Peter and Martin Heni

Summary

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a life-threatening complication of diabetes mellitus. It usually occurs in patients with type 1 diabetes where it is typically associated with only moderately increased blood glucose. Here, we report the case of a 52-year-old female patient who was admitted to the emergency unit with severely altered mental status but stable vital signs. Laboratory results on admission revealed very high blood glucose (1687 mg/dL/93.6 mmol/L) and severe acidosis (pH <7) with proof of ketone bodies in serum and urine. Past history revealed a paranoid schizophrenia diagnosed 10 years ago and for which the patient was treated with risperidone for many years. Acute treatment with intravenous fluids, intravenous insulin infusion and sodium bicarbonate improved the symptoms. Further laboratory investigations confirmed diagnosis of autoimmune type 1 diabetes. After normalization of blood glucose levels, the patient could soon be discharged with a subcutaneous insulin therapy.

Learning points:

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis as first manifestation of type 1 diabetes can occur with markedly elevated blood glucose concentrations in elder patients.

  • Atypical antipsychotics are associated with hyperglycemia and an increased risk of new-onset diabetes.

  • First report of risperidone-associated diabetic ketoacidosis in new-onset type 1 diabetes.

  • Patients treated with atypical antipsychotics require special care and regular laboratory examinations to detect hyperglycemia and diabetic ketoacidosis.

  • In cases when the diagnosis is in doubt, blood gas analysis as well as determination of C-peptide and islet autoantibodies can help to establish the definite diabetes type.

Open access

Tess Jacob, Renee Garrick and Michael D Goldberg

Summary

Metformin is recommended as the first-line agent for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Although this drug has a generally good safety profile, rare but potentially serious adverse effects may occur. Metformin-associated lactic acidosis, although very uncommon, carries a significant risk of mortality. The relationship between metformin accumulation and lactic acidosis is complex and is affected by the presence of comorbid conditions such as renal and hepatic disease. Plasma metformin levels do not reliably correlate with the severity of lactic acidosis. We present a case of inadvertent metformin overdose in a patient with both renal failure and hepatic cirrhosis, leading to two episodes of lactic acidosis and hypoglycemia. The patient was successfully treated with hemodialysis both times and did not develop any further lactic acidosis or hypoglycemia, after the identification of metformin tablets accidentally mixed in with his supply of sevelamer tablets. Early initiation of renal replacement therapy is key in decreasing lactic acidosis-associated mortality.

Learning points:

  • When a toxic ingestion is suspected, direct visualization of the patient’s pills is advised in order to rule out the possibility of patient- or pharmacist-related medication errors.

  • Though sending a specimen for determination of the plasma metformin concentration is important when a metformin-treated patient with diabetes presents with lactic acidosis, complex relationships exist between metformin accumulation, hyperlactatemia and acidosis, and the drug may not always be the precipitating factor.

  • Intermittent hemodialysis is recommended as the first-line treatment for metformin-associated lactic acidosis (MALA).

  • An investigational delayed-release form of metformin with reduced systemic absorption may carry a lower risk for MALA in patients with renal insufficiency, in whom metformin therapy may presently be contraindicated.

Open access

Joseph Cerasuolo and Anthony Izzo

Summary

Acute hyperglycemia has been shown to cause cognitive impairments in animal models. There is growing appreciation of the numerous effects of hyperglycemia on neuronal function as well as blood–brain barrier function. In humans, hypoglycemia is well known to cause cognitive deficits acutely, but hyperglycemia has been less well studied. We present a case of selective neurocognitive deficits in the setting of acute hyperglycemia. A 60-year-old man was admitted to the hospital for an episode of acute hyperglycemia in the setting of newly diagnosed diabetes mellitus precipitated by steroid use. He was managed with insulin therapy and discharged home, and later, presented with complaints of memory impairment. Deficits included impairment in his declarative and working memory, to the point of significant impairment in his overall functioning. The patient had no structural lesions on MRI imaging of the brain or other systemic illnesses to explain his specific deficits. We suggest that his acute hyperglycemia may have caused neurological injury, and may be responsible for our patient’s memory complaints.

Learning points:

  • Acute hyperglycemia has been associated with poor outcomes in several different central nervous system injuries including cerebrovascular accident and hypoxic injury.

  • Hyperglycemia is responsible for accumulation of reactive oxygen species in the brain, resulting in advanced glycosylated end products and a proinflammatory response that may lead to cellular injury.

  • Further research is needed to define the impact of both acute and chronic hyperglycemia on cognitive impairment and memory.

Open access

R T Casey, B G Challis, D Pitfield, R M Mahroof, N Jamieson, C J Bhagra, A Vuylsteke, S J Pettit and K C Chatterjee

Summary

A phaeochromocytoma (PC) is a rare, catecholamine-secreting neuroendocrine tumour arising from the adrenal medulla. Presenting symptoms of this rare tumour are highly variable but life-threatening multiorgan dysfunction can occur secondary to catecholamine-induced hypertension or hypotension and subsequent cardiovascular collapse. High levels of circulating catecholamines can induce an acute stress cardiomyopathy, also known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Recent studies have focused on early diagnosis and estimation of the prevalence of acute stress cardiomyopathy in patients with PC, but very little is reported about management of these complex cases. Here, we report the case of a 38-year-old lady who presented with an acute Takotsubo or stress cardiomyopathy and catecholamine crisis, caused by an occult left-sided 5 cm PC. The initial presenting crisis manifested with symptoms of severe headache and abdominal pain, triggered by a respiratory tract infection. On admission to hospital, the patient rapidly deteriorated, developing respiratory failure, cardiogenic shock and subsequent cardiovascular collapse due to further exacerbation of the catecholamine crisis caused by a combination of opiates and intravenous corticosteroid. An echocardiogram revealed left ventricular apical hypokinesia and ballooning, with an estimated left ventricular ejection fraction of 10–15%. Herein, we outline the early stabilisation period, preoperative optimisation and intraoperative management, providing anecdotal guidance for the management of this rare life-threatening complication of PC.

Learning points:

  • A diagnosis of phaeochromocytoma should be considered in patients presenting with acute cardiomyopathy or cardiogenic shock without a clear ischaemic or valvular aetiology.

  • Catecholamine crisis is a life-threatening medical emergency that requires cross-disciplinary expertise and management to ensure the best clinical outcome.

  • After initial resuscitation, treatment of acute catecholamine-induced stress cardiomyopathy requires careful introduction of alpha-blockade followed by beta-blockade if necessary to manage β-receptor-mediated tachycardia.

  • Prolonged α-adrenergic receptor stimulation by high levels of circulating catecholamines precipitates arterial vasoconstriction and intravascular volume contraction, which can further exacerbate hypotension. Invasive pressure monitoring can aid management of intravascular volume in these complex patients.

Open access

S Hussain, S Keat and S V Gelding

Summary

We describe the case of an African woman who was diagnosed with ketosis-prone diabetes with diabetes-associated autoantibodies, after being admitted for diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) precipitated by her first presentation of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). She had a seven-year history of recurrent gestational diabetes (GDM) not requiring insulin therapy, with return to normoglycaemia after each pregnancy. This might have suggested that she had now developed type 2 diabetes (T2D). However, the diagnosis of SLE prompted testing for an autoimmune aetiology for the diabetes, and she was found to have a very high titre of GAD antibodies. Typical type 1 diabetes (T1D) was thought unlikely due to the long preceding history of GDM. Latent autoimmune diabetes of adults (LADA) was considered, but ruled out as she required insulin therapy from diagnosis. The challenge of identifying the type of diabetes when clinical features overlap the various diabetes categories is discussed. This is the first report of autoimmune ketosis-prone diabetes (KPD) presenting with new onset of SLE.

Learning points:

  • DKA may be the first presentation of a multi-system condition and a precipitating cause should always be sought, particularly in women with a history of GDM or suspected T2D.

  • All women with GDM should undergo repeat glucose tolerance testing postpartum to exclude frank diabetes, even when post-delivery capillary blood glucose (CBG) tests are normal. They should also be advised to continue CBG monitoring during acute illness in case of new onset diabetes.

  • KPD comprises a spectrum of diabetes syndromes that present with DKA, but subsequently have a variable course depending on the presence or absence of beta cell failure and/or diabetes autoantibodies.

  • KPD should be considered in a patient with presumed T2D presenting with DKA, especially if there is a personal or family history of autoimmune diabetes.

  • LADA should be suspected in adults presumed to have T2D, who do not require insulin therapy for at least six months after diagnosis and have anti-GAD antibodies.

  • Patients with autoimmune diabetes have an increased risk of other autoimmune diseases and screening for thyroid, parietal cell, coeliac and antinuclear antibodies should be considered.

Open access

Prashanth Rawla, Anantha R Vellipuram, Sathyajit S Bandaru and Jeffrey Pradeep Raj

Summary

Euglycemic diabetic ketoacidosis (EDKA) is a clinical triad comprising increased anion gap metabolic acidosis, ketonemia or ketonuria and normal blood glucose levels <200 mg/dL. This condition is a diagnostic challenge as euglycemia masquerades the underlying diabetic ketoacidosis. Thus, a high clinical suspicion is warranted, and other diagnosis ruled out. Here, we present two patients on regular insulin treatment who were admitted with a diagnosis of EDKA. The first patient had insulin pump failure and the second patient had urinary tract infection and nausea, thereby resulting in starvation. Both of them were aggressively treated with intravenous fluids and insulin drip as per the protocol for the blood glucose levels till the anion gap normalized, and the metabolic acidosis reversed. This case series summarizes, in brief, the etiology, pathophysiology and treatment of EDKA.

Learning points:

  • Euglycemic diabetic ketoacidosis is rare.

  • Consider ketosis in patients with DKA even if their serum glucose levels are normal.

  • High clinical suspicion is required to diagnose EDKA as normal blood sugar levels masquerade the underlying DKA and cause a diagnostic and therapeutic dilemma.

  • Blood pH and blood or urine ketones should be checked in ill patients with diabetes regardless of blood glucose levels.

Open access

A Majid and B J Wheeler

Summary

In clinical practice, seizures independent of hypoglycemia are observed in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) more frequently than expected by chance, suggesting a link. However, seizures during management of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) have generally been considered a bad prognostic factor, and usually associated with well-known biochemical or neurological complications. We present the case of a 17-year-old girl with known T1DM managed for severe DKA complicated by hypocapnic seizure. We review the literature on this rare occurrence as well as outline other possible differentials to consider when faced with the alarming combination of DKA and seizure.

Learning points:

  • Seizures during DKA treatment require immediate management as well as evaluation to determine their underlying cause.

  • Their etiology is varied, but a lowered seizure threshold, electrolyte disturbances and serious neurological complications of DKA such as cerebral edema must all be considered.

  • Sudden severe hypocapnia may represent a rare contributor to seizure during the treatment of DKA.

Open access

Cliona Small, Aoife M Egan, El Muntasir Elhadi, Michael W O’Reilly, Aine Cunningham and Francis M Finucane

Summary

We describe three patients presenting with diabetic ketoacidosis secondary to ketosis prone type 2, rather than type 1 diabetes. All patients were treated according to a standard DKA protocol, but were subsequently able to come off insulin therapy while maintaining good glycaemic control. Ketosis-prone type 2 diabetes (KPD) presenting with DKA has not been described previously in Irish patients. The absence of islet autoimmunity and evidence of endogenous beta cell function after resolution of DKA are well-established markers of KPD, but are not readily available in the acute setting. Although not emphasised in any current guidelines, we have found that a strong family history of type 2 diabetes and the presence of cutaneous markers of insulin resistance are strongly suggestive of KPD. These could be emphasised in future clinical practice guidelines.

Learning points:

  • Even in white patients, DKA is not synonymous with type 1 diabetes and autoimmune beta cell failure. KPD needs to be considered in all patients presenting with DKA, even though it will not influence their initial treatment.

  • Aside from markers of endogenous beta cell function and islet autoimmunity, which in any case are unlikely to be immediately available to clinicians, consideration of family history of type 2 diabetes and cutaneous markers of insulin resistance might help to identify those with KPD and are more readily apparent in the acute setting, though not emphasised in guidelines.

  • Consideration of KPD should never alter the management of the acute severe metabolic derangement of DKA, and phasing out of insulin therapy requires frequent attendance and meticulous and cautious surveillance by a team of experienced diabetes care providers.

Open access

Sudeep K Rajpoot, Carlos Maggi and Amrit Bhangoo

Summary

Neonatal hyperkalemia and hyponatremia are medical conditions that require an emergent diagnosis and treatment to avoid morbidity and mortality. Here, we describe the case of a 10-day-old female baby presenting with life-threatening hyperkalemia, hyponatremia, and metabolic acidosis diagnosed as autosomal dominant pseudohypoaldosteronism type 1 (PHA1). This report aims to recognize that PHA1 may present with a life-threatening arrhythmia due to severe hyperkalemia and describes the management of such cases in neonates.

Learning points

  • PHA1 may present with a life-threatening arrhythmia.

  • Presentation of PHA can be confused with congenital adrenal hyperplasia.

  • Timing and appropriate medical management in the critical care unit prevented fatality from severe neonatal PHA.