Managing DKA in the face of COVID-19: Flexibility is key
In the JCEM article, Palermo and colleagues emphasize that the usual hospital protocols for DKA management may need to be adjusted during COVID-19 in the interest of reducing transmission risk and preserving scare resources.
They provide evidence for alternative treatment strategies, such as the use of subcutaneous rather than intravenous insulin when appropriate.
“We wanted to outline when exactly you should consider nonintensive management strategies for DKA,” McDonnell further explained to Medscape Medical News.
“That would include those with mild or some with moderate DKA. ... The idea is to remind our colleagues about that because hospitals tend to operate on a protocol-driven algorithmic methodology, they can forget to step off the usual care pathway even if evidence supports that,” she said.
But on the other hand, she also said that, in some very complex or severely ill patients with COVID-19, classical intravenous insulin therapy makes the most sense even if their DKA is mild.
The outpatient setting: Prevention and preparation
The new article also addresses several concerns regarding DKA prevention in the outpatient setting.
As with other guidelines, it includes a reminder that patients with diabetes should be advised to discontinue sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors if they become ill with COVID-19, especially if they’re not eating or drinking normally, because they raise the risk for DKA.
Also, for patients with type 1 diabetes, particularly those with a history of repeated DKA, “this is the time to make sure we reach out to patients to refill their insulin prescriptions and address issues related to cost and other access difficulties,” McDonnell said.
The authors also emphasize that insulin starts and education should not be postponed during the pandemic. “Patients identified as meeting criteria to start insulin should be referred for urgent education, either in person or, whenever possible and practical, via video teleconferencing,” they urge.
McDonnell has reported receiving research funding from Novo Nordisk. The other two authors have reported no relevant financial relationships.
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