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Low Blood Sugar in Hospital Tied to Higher Death Risk for Diabetics
Date:6/29/2009

Hypoglycemia likely a sign of additional illness, suggest experts,,

MONDAY, June 29 (HealthDay News) -- Being a diabetic and having just one episode of low blood sugar during a hospital stay was associated with a significantly increased risk of dying, both in the hospital and up to a year later, new research shows.

In a study that included almost 2,600 people with diabetes who were hospitalized for a variety of ailments, researchers found that low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) occurred in nearly 8 percent of the patients, and that each additional day with a hypoglycemic episode was associated with an 85 percent increase in the risk of death while hospitalized. The study also found a 66 percent increased mortality risk for one year following discharge in patients who'd had hypoglycemia.

"We think hypoglycemia likely was a marker for severity of illness," explained study author Dr. Alexander Turchin, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an associate physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "A patient gets admitted to the hospital, becomes more ill and stops eating. If they're using the same anti-diabetes regimen they do at home, they'll develop hypoglycemia."

Results of the study were published in the July issue of Diabetes Care.

Because high blood sugar levels are associated with numerous adverse health outcomes, researchers began investigating if lowering high blood sugar levels in critically ill patients would improve outcomes. An initial study found positive results for aggressively lowering blood sugar. However, since that time several studies have questioned this practice because they found an increased risk of mortality, possibly due to lowering blood sugar too much.

Most of the research was done in patients in intensive care, but the current study focuses on people hospitalized in the general wards for numerous different reasons -- from elective
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