Intensive insulin therapy and mortality among critically ill patients: a meta-analysis including NICE-SUGAR study data. Academic Article uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: Hyperglycemia is associated with increased mortality in critically ill patients. Randomized trials of intensive insulin therapy have reported inconsistent effects on mortality and increased rates of severe hypoglycemia. We conducted a meta-analysis to update the totality of evidence regarding the influence of intensive insulin therapy compared with conventional insulin therapy on mortality and severe hypoglycemia in the intensive care unit (ICU). METHODS: We conducted searches of electronic databases, abstracts from scientific conferences and bibliographies of relevant articles. We included published randomized controlled trials conducted in the ICU that directly compared intensive insulin therapy with conventional glucose management and that documented mortality. We included in our meta-analysis the data from the recent NICE-SUGAR (Normoglycemia in Intensive Care Evaluation - Survival Using Glucose Algorithm Regulation) study. RESULTS: We included 26 trials involving a total of 13 567 patients in our meta-analysis. Among the 26 trials that reported mortality, the pooled relative risk (RR) of death with intensive insulin therapy compared with conventional therapy was 0.93 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.83-1.04). Among the 14 trials that reported hypoglycemia, the pooled RR with intensive insulin therapy was 6.0 (95% CI 4.5-8.0). The ICU setting was a contributing factor, with patients in surgical ICUs appearing to benefit from intensive insulin therapy (RR 0.63, 95% CI 0.44-0.91); patients in the other ICU settings did not (medical ICU: RR 1.0, 95% CI 0.78-1.28; mixed ICU: RR 0.99, 95% CI 0.86-1.12). The different targets of intensive insulin therapy (glucose level < or = 6.1 mmol/L v. < or = 8.3 mmol/L) did not influence either mortality or risk of hypoglycemia. INTERPRETATION: Intensive insulin therapy significantly increased the risk of hypoglycemia and conferred no overall mortality benefit among critically ill patients. However, this therapy may be beneficial to patients admitted to a surgical ICU.


  • Griesdale, Donald EG
  • De Souza, Russell Jude
  • van Dam, Rob M
  • Heyland, Daren K
  • Cook, Deborah
  • Malhotra, Atul
  • Dhaliwal, Rupinder
  • Henderson, William R
  • Chittock, Dean R
  • Finfer, Simon
  • Talmor, Daniel

publication date

  • April 14, 2009

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