Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is known to affect memory function, but little is known about its impact on executive function. This study aimed to determine whether a history of DKA was associated with changes in executive function in children with T1DM.
The sample consisted of 99 patients with T1DM with histories of DKA, 82 patients with T1DM without DKA, and 100 healthy controls aged 7 to 18 years. Neuropsychological function and emotion assessments were performed in all participants. The Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) was used to assess executive function.
Compared with healthy controls, the DKA group (but not the non-DKA group) had a significantly lower mean intelligence quotient (IQ; p = .006, Cohen d = 0.528) and a significantly higher rate of WCST perseverative errors (p = .006, Cohen d = 0.475). In the DKA group, the age at DKA onset was significantly associated with the IQ (p = .001) and the number of completed WCST categories (p = .046). Higher hemoglobin A1c levels were associated significantly with lower IQ (p < .001), increased rate of WCST perseverative errors (p = .015), and completion of fewer WCST categories (p = .027).
DKA has implications for executive function in children with T1DM. These findings emphasize the importance of DKA prevention in patients with known T1DM, especially younger children with newly diagnosed T1DM.