II. Epidemiology

  1. Age distribution of DKA Cases
    1. Age over 70 years: 14%
    2. Age 51 to 70 years: 23%
    3. Age 30-50 years: 27%
    4. Age under 30 years: 36%
    5. Henricksen (2007) Diabetes Res Clin Pract 76(1): 51-6 [PubMed]
  2. Prevalence of DKA
    1. Age under 20 years: 6% will have at least one case of DKA
    2. Fritsch (2011) Pediatr Diabetes 12(4 pt 1): 307-12 [PubMed]

III. Pathophysiology

  1. Insulin deficiency
    1. Diabetes Mellitus
      1. Type I Diabetes Mellitus
      2. Type II Diabetes Mellitus with Ketosis-prone diabetes (accounts for 20-50% of DKA cases)
        1. Black or latino
        2. Male
        3. Overweight
        4. Middle-aged
        5. Diabetes MellitusFamily History
    2. Uncontrolled Blood Sugars (see precipitating factors below)
      1. See Medication Causes of Hyperglycemia
      2. New onset Diabetes Mellitus
      3. Insulin non-compliance
      4. Acute Infection (e.g. Pneumonia, Urinary Tract Infection)
      5. Insulin Pump failure
      6. Diabulimia (Eating Disorder variant of skipping Insulin to lose weight)
      7. Physiologic stressors (Myocardial Infarction, Cerebrovascular Accident)
  2. Compensatory response to lack of usable fuel sources (in the absence of Insulin)
    1. Paradoxical exacerbation of Hyperglycemia
      1. Release of Glucagon, Catecholamines, Cortisol, and Growth Hormone
      2. Catabolism to Glucose of Proteins and glycogen by liver
    2. Lipase secretion results in increased Ketones
      1. Free Fatty Acid Metabolism (lipolysis)
      2. Results in increased Ketone production (acetone, acetoacetone, Beta hydroxybutyrate)
      3. Results in Metabolic Acidosis
    3. Increased Renal Clearance of Ketones and Glucose
      1. Results in osmotic diuresis, Dehydration and hyperosmolar state

V. Symptoms

  1. Timing
    1. Rapid onset of symptoms
    2. Follows febrile illness (40%)
  2. Hyperglycemia symptoms
    1. Polyuria and polydipsia (98%)
    2. Polyphagia (23%)
  3. Gastrointestinal symptoms
    1. Nausea and Vomiting (50-80% of cases)
    2. Abdominal Pain (30% of patients)
      1. May present as a vague Abdominal Pain with minimal tenderness on exam
      2. Consider Pancreatitis or Pyelonephritis (both are common in DKA)
  4. Miscellaneous symptoms
    1. Weight loss (81%)
    2. Fatigue (62%)
    3. Dyspnea (57%)
    4. Weakness
    5. Lethargy

VI. Signs

  1. Mental clouding (lethargy to coma)
  2. Metabolic Acidosis findings
    1. Kussmaul Breathing
    2. Acetone on breath (sweet or fruity breath smell)
  3. Dehydration (often >10% dehydrated)
    1. Dry Skin with loss of Skin Turgor
    2. Eyes sunken
    3. Tachycardia and possibly Hypotension
    4. Temperature below normal

VIII. Labs

  1. Bedside Glucose
    1. Glucose >250 mg/dl
  2. Urinalysis
    1. Glucosuria
    2. Urinary Tract Infection
    3. Ketonuria
      1. See Urine Ketones
      2. High Test Sensitivity (98%) for Diabetic Ketoacidosis
        1. High Negative Predictive Value
        2. Negative Urine Ketone excludes DKA diagnosis
        3. Schwab (1999) Ann Emerg Med 34:342-6 [PubMed]
      3. Poor Test Specificity (35%)
        1. Confirm with Serum Beta Hydroxybutyrate
          1. Beta hydroxybutyrate is converted to Acetoacetate which is then detected on the Urine Dipstick as Ketones
        2. Normal serum bicarbonate and Anion Gap suggests resolving DKA or False Positive ketonuria
  3. Chemistry Panel (Chem8)
    1. Serum Glucose increased (Hyperglycemia)
    2. Serum Sodium decreased (Hyponatremia)
      1. Requires correction for Glucose (Pseudohyponatremia secondary to Hyperglycemia)
      2. Serum Sodium correction calculation: sNa + 0.016 * (Glu - 100)
    3. Serum Potassium
      1. Metabolic Acidosis results in initial underestimation of Serum Potassium
        1. Hypokalemia is present in only 5-10% of Diabetic Ketoacidosis presentations
      2. As acidosis corrects, Potassium enters cells in exchange for Hydrogen Ion and Serum Potassium falls
        1. Hypokalemia develops in in up to 80% of Diabetic Ketoacidosis cases with management
      3. Low Serum Potassium on presentation suggests severe Hypokalemia
        1. Must be corrected before Insulin initiation
    4. Serum Chloride depressed (Hypochloremia)
    5. Serum Bicarbonate depressed (<15 to 18 mEq/L)
    6. Anion Gap elevated
      1. Typically >10-12 and often >16 in DKA
      2. Anion Gap calculation: Na - (Cl + HCO3)
    7. Serum Osmolality (calculate and measure if available)
      1. Should be >320 mOsm/kg if DKA present
      2. Serum Osmolality calculation: 2*(Na + K) + (glu/18) + (BUN/2.8)
  4. Other Electrolytes (Phosphorus and Magnesium)
    1. Serum Phosphorus decreased (Hypophosphatemia)
    2. Serum Magnesium decreased (Hypomagnesemia)
  5. Arterial Blood Gas (ABG) or Venous Blood Gas (VBG)
    1. Metabolic Acidosis (serum pH <7.30)
    2. Venous Blood Gas is equivalent to monitoring Arterial Blood Gas for pH and bicarbonate
  6. Beta hydroxybutyrate (or Serum Ketones if not available)
    1. Beta hydroxybutyrate is the most important Ketone in Diabetic Ketoacidosis
    2. Test Sensitivity: High
    3. Test Specificity: 85%
    4. Levels do not correlate with disease severity
      1. Arora (2011) Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice 94(3): e86-8
  7. Precipitating factor evaluation
    1. Complete Blood Count with differential
      1. Leukocytosis is often present regardless of underling infection
      2. Bandemia (Neutrophil band forms or Left Shifts) is highly predictive of infection
    2. Blood Culture
    3. Urine Culture
    4. Chest XRay
    5. Electrocardiogram (EKG)
      1. Detects Hypokalemia related changes
      2. Also indicated for ischemia evaluation over age 40 or over 10 years of Diabetes Mellitus
  8. Evaluation of Diabetes and Endocrine Status
    1. Hemoglobin A1C
    2. Anti-GAD65 Antibody (identifies Type I diabetics)
    3. Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
  9. Complications (obtain as needed)
    1. Serum Lipase
      1. Frequently increased regardless of Pancreatitis
      2. Pancreatitis is present in 10-15% of DKA patients
    2. Hepatic Transaminases (AST and ALT)
      1. Typically increased in non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver disease (NASH)
    3. Troponin I
      1. Troponin I is increased in absence of myocardial injury in more than 25% of DKA patients

IX. Diagnosis: Criteria - Hyperglycemia, Ketosis, Acidosis

  1. Blood Glucose >250 mg/dl
  2. Metabolic Acidosis
    1. Serum pH < 7.30 or
    2. Serum Bicarbonate < 15 to 18 meq/L
  3. Serum Ketones or Beta hydroxybutyrate
    1. Increased Serum Ketones (>3-4 mmol/L or >1:2 dilution)
  4. Anion Gap (using uncorrected Serum Sodium)
    1. Anion Gap without Potassium in calculation: >12 mEq/L
    2. Anion Gap with Potassium in calculation (or lab calculated): >17 mEq/L

X. Evaluation: Severity

  1. Arterial pH (or venous pH) in Adults
    1. Mild DKA: 7.25 to 7.30
    2. Moderate DKA: 7.00 to 7.24
    3. Severe DKA: < 7.00
  2. Arterial pH (or venous pH) in Infants and Children
    1. Mild DKA: 7.25 to 7.30 (some guidelines list pH 7.2 to 7.3)
    2. Moderate DKA: 7.2 to 7.25 (some guidelines list pH 7.1 to 7.2)
    3. Severe DKA: < 7.2 (some guidelines list pH<7.1)
  3. Serum bicarbonate
    1. Mild: 15-18
    2. Moderate: 10 to 14
    3. Severe: < 10
  4. Mental status
    1. Mild: Alert
    2. Moderate: Drowsy
    3. Severe: Stupor

XI. Management

  1. See Diabetic Ketoacidosis Management in Adults
  2. See Diabetic Ketoacidosis Management in Children
  3. Evaluate and manage underlying causes
    1. Underlying infection (e.g. urosepsis, Pneumonia, Cellulitis)
  4. Consider noncompliance due to financial concerns
    1. Facilitate lower cost options for medications
    2. See Diabetes Cost Reduction

XIII. Prevention

  1. See Diabetes Sick Day Management
  2. Diabetic action plan based on Blood Glucose Monitoring
    1. Home monitoring of beta hydroxybutyrate or Ketones when Serum Glucose >240 mg/dl
    2. Plan for adjusting short acting Insulin
      1. Sick day Insulin coverage (reduced dose but not eliminated)
      2. Liquid diets when sick
    3. Back-up plan for Insulin Pump failure
    4. Early contact with medical provider when Glucose control acutely changes
  3. Case management
    1. Diabetic educator
    2. Frequent phone contact
  4. Consider Insulin Pump

XIV. Prognosis

  1. Case fatality rate: 1-5%
    1. Mortality typically due to cerebral edema
    2. Leading cause of death in diabetes under age 24 years
    3. Wang (2006) Diabetes Care 29(9): 2018-22 [PubMed]

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Ontology: Diabetic Ketoacidosis (C0011880)

Definition (MSH) A life-threatening complication of diabetes mellitus, primarily of TYPE 1 DIABETES MELLITUS with severe INSULIN deficiency and extreme HYPERGLYCEMIA. It is characterized by KETOSIS; DEHYDRATION; and depressed consciousness leading to COMA.
Definition (CHV) a serious complication of diabetes mellitus
Definition (CHV) a serious complication of diabetes mellitus
Definition (CHV) a serious complication of diabetes mellitus
Definition (NCI) The metabolic condition resulted from uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, in which the shift of acid-base status of the body toward the acid side because of loss of base or retention of acids other than carbonic acid is accompanied by the accumulation of ketone bodies in body tissues and fluids.
Definition (NCI_FDA) A type of metabolic acidosis produced by accumulation of ketone bodies resulting from uncontrolled diabetes mellitus.
Definition (CSP) complication of diabetes resulting from severe insulin deficiency coupled with an absolute or relative increase in glucagon concentration; metabolic acidosis is caused by the breakdown of adipose stores and resulting increased levels of free fatty acids; glucagon accelerates the oxidation of the free fatty acids producing excess ketone bodies (ketosis).
Concepts Disease or Syndrome (T047)
MSH D016883
ICD9 250.1
SnomedCT 420422005, 190328004, 267467004, 24927004, 154671004
English Acidoses, Diabetic, Acidosis, Diabetic, Diabetic Acidoses, Diabetic Acidosis, Diabetic Ketoacidoses, Ketoacidoses, Diabetic, Ketoacidosis, Diabetic, Diabetes with ketoacidosis, diabetic acidosis, DKA - Diabetic ketoacidosis, Diab.mell.+ketoacid -onset NOS, Diabetes mellitus NOS with ketoacidosis, Diabetic ketoacidosis, Diabetes mellitus with ketoacidosis, Diabetic acidosis, Ketoacidosis in diabetes mellitus (disorder), Ketoacidosis in diabetes mellitus, Diab.mell.with ketoacidosis, diabetes with ketoacidosis, diabetes mellitus with ketoacidosis, diabetes mellitus with ketoacidosis (diagnosis), Acidosis diabetic, Ketoacidosis (diabetic), Diabetic ketosis, Diabetic Ketoacidosis [Disease/Finding], diabetic ketoacidoses, diabetic ketoacidosis, diabetic ketosis, diabetic ketoses, Diabetes mellitus NOS with ketoacidosis (disorder), Ketoacidosis - diabetic, Diabetes mellitus (& [ketoacidosis]) (disorder), Diabetes mellitus (& [ketoacidosis]), Diabetes with ketoacidosis (disorder), DKA, KETOACIDOSIS, DIABETIC, DIABETIC KETOACIDOSIS, Diabetic acidosis without coma, Diabetic ketosis without coma, Diabetic acidosis, NOS, Diabetic Ketoses, Diabetic Ketosis, Ketoses, Diabetic, Ketosis, Diabetic, Diabetic Ketoacidosis
French ACIDOCETOSE DIABETIQUE, Diabète sucré avec kétoacidose, Kétoacidose (diabétique), Diabète avec kétoacidose, Acidocétose diabétique, Acidose diabétique, Cétose diabétique, Acido-cétose diabétique
Portuguese CETOACIDOSE DIABETICA, Acidose diabética, Diabetes com cetacidose, Cetacidose diabética, Diabetes mellitus com cetacidose, Cetose diabética, Cetoacidose diabética, Acidose Diabética, Cetoacidose Diabética, Cetose Diabética
Spanish CETOACIDOSIS DIABETICA, diabetes mellitus con cetoacidosis, cetoacidosis diabética, cetoacidosis en diabetes mellitus, cetoacidosis en diabetes mellitus (trastorno), Diabetes mellitus con cetoacidosis, Acidosis diabética, Cetosis diabética, Cetoacidosis (diabética), Diabetes con cetoacidosis, diabetes mellitus, SAI con cetoacidosis, diabetes mellitus, SAI con cetoacidosis (trastorno), diabetes con cetoacidosis, cetoacidosis diabética (trastorno), acidosis diabética, Cetoacidosis diabética, Acidosis Diabética, Cetoacidosis Diabética, Cetosis Diabética
German DIABETISCHE KETOAZIDOSE, Diabetes mellitus mit Ketoazidose, Azidose, diabetisch, Ketoazidose (diabetisch), diabetische Azidose, diabetische Ketose, Diabetes mit Ketoazidose, diabetische Ketoazidose, Azidose, diabetische, Diabetische Azidose, Diabetische Ketoazidose, Ketoazidose, diabetische
Dutch diabetes mellitus met ketoacidose, diabetische ketose, diabetes met ketoacidose, diabetische acidose, ketoacidose (diabetisch), acidose diabetisch, diabetische ketoacidose, Acidose, diabetische, Diabetische acidose, Diabetische ketoacidose, Diabetische ketose, Ketoacidose, diabetische, Ketose, diabetische
Italian Diabete mellito con chetoacidosi, Chetoacidosi (diabetica), Diabete con chetoacidosi, Chetosi diabetica, Acidosi diabetica, Chetoacidosi diabetica
Japanese ケトアシドーシスを伴う糖尿病, ケトアシドーシス(糖尿病性), ケトアシドーシストウニョウビョウセイ, トウニョウビョウセイアシドーシス, ケトアシドーシスヲトモナウトウニョウビョウ, トウニョウビョウセイケトアシドーシス, トウニョウビョウセイケトーシス, 糖尿病性アシドーシス, 糖尿病性ケトーシス, ケトーシス-糖尿病性, 糖尿病ケトアシドーシス, ケトアシドーシス-糖尿病性, アシドーシス-糖尿病性, 糖尿病性ケトアシドーシス
Swedish Diabetesketoacidos
Czech diabetická ketoacidóza, diabetická ketóza, Diabetes mellitus s ketoacidózou, Diabetická ketóza, Diabetická ketoacidóza, Diabetická acidóza, Diabetes s ketoacidózou, Ketoacidóza (diabetická), diabetické ketoacidotické kóma, ketoacidotické koma, diabetická acidóza
Finnish Diabeettinen ketoasidoosi
Polish Kwasica cukrzycowa, Ketoza cukrzycowa, Kwasica ketonowa cukrzycowa, Śpiączka ketonowa
Hungarian Diabéteszes acidózis, Diabetes mellitus ketoacidosissal, Diabetes ketoacidosissal, Diabeteses acidosis, Diabeteses ketosis, Diabeteses ketoacidosis, Ketoacidosis (diabeteses)
Norwegian Diabetisk ketoacidose, Ketoacidose, diabetisk