Objective: To evaluate the literature and identify important aspects of insulin therapy that facilitate safe and effective infusion therapy for a defined glycemic end point.
Methods: Where available, the literature was evaluated using Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) methodology to assess the impact of insulin infusions on outcome for general intensive care unit patients and those in specific subsets of neurologic injury, traumatic injury, and cardiovascular surgery. Elements that contribute to safe and effective insulin infusion therapy were determined through literature review and expert opinion. The majority of the literature supporting the use of insulin infusion therapy for critically ill patients lacks adequate strength to support more than weak recommendations, termed suggestions, such that the difference between desirable and undesirable effect of a given intervention is not always clear.
Recommendations: The article is focused on a suggested glycemic control end point such that a blood glucose ≥150 mg/dL triggers interventions to maintain blood glucose below that level and absolutely <180 mg/dL. There is a slight reduction in mortality with this treatment end point for general intensive care unit patients and reductions in morbidity for perioperative patients, postoperative cardiac surgery patients, post-traumatic injury patients, and neurologic injury patients. We suggest that the insulin regimen and monitoring system be designed to avoid and detect hypoglycemia (blood glucose ≤70 mg/dL) and to minimize glycemic variability.
Important processes of care for insulin therapy include use of a reliable insulin infusion protocol, frequent blood glucose monitoring, and avoidance of finger-stick glucose testing through the use of arterial or venous glucose samples. The essential components of an insulin infusion system include use of a validated insulin titration program, availability of appropriate staffing resources, accurate monitoring technology, and standardized approaches to infusion preparation, provision of consistent carbohydrate calories and nutritional support, and dextrose replacement for hypoglycemia prevention and treatment. Quality improvement of glycemic management programs should include analysis of hypoglycemia rates, run charts of glucose values <150 and 180 mg/dL. The literature is inadequate to support recommendations regarding glycemic control in pediatric patients.
Conclusions: While the benefits of tight glycemic control have not been definitive, there are patients who will receive insulin infusion therapy, and the suggestions in this article provide the structure for safe and effective use of this therapy.