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Does bicarbonate therapy improve the management of severe diabetic ketoacidosis?

Viallon, Alain MD; Zeni, Fabrice MD; Lafond, Pierre MD; Venet, Christophe MD; Tardy, Bernard MD; Page, Yves MD; Bertrand, Jean-Claude MD

Clinical Investigations
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Objective: The use of bicarbonates in the treatment of severe diabetic ketoacidosis remains controversial, especially regarding the benefit/risk ratio. The aim of this study was to assess the efficacy of bicarbonate therapy during severe diabetic ketoacidosis (pH <7.10).

Design: Retrospective study.

Setting: The emergency unit of a teaching hospital.

Patients: The records of 39 patients consecutively admitted for severe diabetic ketoacidosis were analyzed (pH <7.10). The patients were divided into two groups: group 1 (n = 24; patients with bicarbonate treatment) and group 2 (n = 15; patients without bicarbonate treatment).

Interventions: None.

Measurements and Main Results: We compared two groups of patients presenting with severe diabetic ketoacidosis (pH values between 6.83 and 7.08) treated with or without bicarbonate. A group of 24 patients received 120 ± 40 mmol sodium bicarbonate. The two groups were similar at admission with regard to clinical and biological parameters. No difference could be demonstrated between the two groups concerning the clinical parameters or the normalization time of biochemical parameters. If the number of patients with hypokalemia was comparable between the two groups, the potassium supply was significantly more important in group 1 compared with group 2 (366 ± 74 mmol/L vs. 188 ± 109 mmol/L, respectively; p < .001).

Conclusions: Data from the literature and this study are not in favor of the use of bicarbonate in the treatment of diabetic ketoacidosis with pH values between 6.90 and 7.10.

From the Emergency and Intensive Care Units, Hôpital Believue, Centre Hospitalo-universitaire, Saint-Etienne, France.

Address requests for reprints to: Fabrice Zeni, MD, Service d'Urgence et Réanimation Médicales, Hôpital Bellevue, CHU Saint-Etienne, 42055 CEDEX 2, France.

© 1999 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.