By Dr. V. Lavis Last revision 12/19/03 1:47 PM

Reference: Diabetes Care 2002; 25(Suppl. 1):S100-S108


Initial diagnostic measures

First priority measures
  • Rapid examination for airway, cardiovascular function, neurologic status, signs of infection
  • Capillary blood glucose and urinary ketones
  • Stat blood work: arterial gases, serum Na, K, Cl, HCO3-, glucose, creatinine, BUN; CBC. Calculate serum osmolality and anion gap
  • Stat ECG
  • Start a flow sheet
Initial general medical data
  • Chest film if indicated
  • Cultures: blood, urine, sputum


Initial therapy

  • NG tube if patient is unconscious or vomiting.
  • Hemodynamic monitoring if there is suspicion of LV failure or cardiogenic shock.
  • DVT prophylaxis, especially if patient is unconscious or severely volume-depleted.
  • 0.9% saline: 1 L in 30 min; then 1 L in next 1 hour; then 1 L in next 2 hours; then 2 L in next 8 hours
  • Switch to 0.45% saline if osmolality increases during administration of saline, or if [serum Na + 0.016 • (serum glucose – 100)] > 145.
  • Check serum K. Hold insulin if K<3.3 mEq/L. Give KCl at 40 mEq/h, until K≥3.3 mEq/L.
  • Load with 0.15 units/kg Regular, IV; then start infusion at 0.1 units/kg/h.
  • Double rate of infusion if glucose does not fall by at least 50 mg/dl in 1 h. Double rate hourly, until glucose falls by at least 50 mg/dl/h.
  • Be sure patient is making urine.
  • If K<3.3 mEq/L, hold insulin. Give 40 mEq K/h, until K≥3.3 mEq/L.
  • If K between 3.3 and 4 mEq/L, give 25 mEq K/h.
  • If K between 4 and 5 mEq/L, give 20 mEq K/h.
  • If K rises above 5 mEq/L, stop giving K; check K level q2h.
  • K infusion should be 2/3 as KCl, 1/3 as K phosphate.
  • Adjust rate of K infusion to keep serum K between 4 and 5 mEq/L.
  • Monitor ECG as guide to extracellular [K+]
  • If arterial pH>7.0, no need for bicarbonate
  • For pH 6.9 – 7.0, may give 44 mEq NaHCO3, with 10 – 15 mEq K+, over 30 min
  • For pH <6.9, give 88 mEq NaHCO3, with 25 mEq K+, over 45 min
  • 30 min after each infusion of NaHCO3, re-check pH, and re-evaluate need for more alkali
  • Patients in DKA are usually phosphate depleted, but not hypophosphatemic on admission; serum phosphate usually falls during therapy
  • Controlled studies have failed to show a beneficial effect of intravenous phosphate replacement on clinical outcome, in diabetic ketoacidosis.
  • Do not give IV phosphate if patient is hyperphosphatemic, hypercalcemic, hypocalcemic, azotemic or oliguric
  • Check P level initially and 8 hr. after starting insulin
  • If [P] <1 mg/dL, may give neutral K phosphate, 10 – 20 millimoles per liter of IV fluids
  • Do not add phosphate to solutions containing calcium
  • Monitor serum Ca, P and creatinine q12 h, while giving IV phosphate
  • Safest way to replete phosphate is orally, after patient can take oral feedings


Continued management

Check capillary glucose hourly
  • When glucose down to 250 mg/dL:
    • Switch to fluids containing 5% or 10% dextrose, until patient can eat
    • Patient will develop a non-anion-gap acidosis, during the treatment. Continue insulin infusion at therapeutic rate of at least 5 units/hr, until the acidosis has cleared (i.e. [HCO3‑] >18 mEq/L). Give dextrose-containing fluids as needed to avoid hypoglycemia
    • After acidosis has cleared, continue insulin infusion at maintenance rate of 0.5 ‑ 2 units/hr, until patient can eat
    • Keep giving IV K+ at about 3 – 5 mEq/hr, until patient begins eating
When acidosis has cleared and patient can eat, start NPH insulin
  • Wait at least 1 hr after giving NPH insulin, before stopping the insulin infusion.
  • Remember that a Type 1 diabetic patient will require NPH insulin twice daily
  • Continue oral K+ and phosphate repletion for 5 to 7 days