Comparison of Adult Diabetic Ketoacidosis Treatment Protocols From Canadian Emergency Departments Journal Articles uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a common acute life-threatening complication of poorly controlled diabetes mellitus contributing to considerable mortality and morbidity. Use of standardized treatment protocols improves patient outcomes in the emergency department (ED) for many conditions, but variability in adult DKA treatment protocols has not been assessed across EDs. In this study, we compared DKA treatment protocols from adult EDs across Canada to highlight inconsistencies in recommended DKA management. METHODS: ED staff in Canada were solicited for their treatment protocols used to guide acute ED DKA management. Information regarding initial fluid resuscitation and maintenance fluid, potassium replacement, insulin therapy and bicarbonate administration was abstracted from each protocol, collated in a table and compared. RESULTS: Thirty-six unique protocols were obtained representing 85 institutions (40 urban and 45 rural, with a 65.1% response rate) across Canada, with no protocol use for 4 urban centres. Similarities in protocols included the intravenous insulin infusion rate and instructions for switching to subcutaneous insulin. Variability was noted in the rate, amount and type of fluid bolus given (0.5 to 2 L of normal saline or Ringer's lactate over 15 minutes to 2 hours), the criteria determining the amount, potassium supplementation at normo/hypokalemic ranges, when to add dextrose to maintenance fluid, insulin bolus inclusion and bicarbonate administration. CONCLUSIONS: This is the first comparison of adult DKA treatment protocols in Canada. Although several common approaches were identified, variability was found in initial fluid boluses, initial insulin bolus and role of bicarbonate, necessitating further study to ensure local DKA protocols reflect current evidence-based best practices for optimal patient clinical outcomes.


  • Zheng, David Jiao
  • Iskander, Samir
  • Vujcic, Branka
  • Amin, Khizer
  • Valani, Rahim
  • Yan, Justin W

publication date

  • April 2022