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VOLUME 18 , ISSUE 12 ( December, 2014 ) > List of Articles


The benefits of tight glycemic control in critical illness: Sweeter than assumed?

Andrew John Gardner

Keywords : Critical care, glucose, monitoring, tight glycaemic control

Citation Information : Gardner AJ. The benefits of tight glycemic control in critical illness: Sweeter than assumed?. Indian J Crit Care Med 2014; 18 (12):807-813.

DOI: 10.4103/0972-5229.146315

License: CC BY-ND 3.0

Published Online: 01-03-2009

Copyright Statement:  Copyright © 2014; The Author(s).


Hyperglycemia has long been observed amongst critically ill patients and associated with increased mortality and morbidity. Tight glycemic control (TGC) is the clinical practice of controlling blood glucose (BG) down to the "normal" 4.4-6.1 mmol/L range of a healthy adult, aiming to avoid any potential deleterious effects of hyperglycemia. The ground-breaking Leuven trials reported a mortality benefit of approximately 10% when using this technique, which led many to endorse its benefits. In stark contrast, the multi-center normoglycemia in intensive care evaluation-survival using glucose algorithm regulation (NICE-SUGAR) trial, not only failed to replicate this outcome, but showed TGC appeared to be harmful. This review attempts to re-analyze the current literature and suggests that hope for a benefit from TGC should not be so hastily abandoned. Inconsistencies in study design make a like-for-like comparison of the Leuven and NICE-SUGAR trials challenging. Inadequate measures preventing hypoglycemic events are likely to have contributed to the increased mortality observed in the NICE-SUGAR treatment group. New technologies, including predictive models, are being developed to improve the safety of TGC, primarily by minimizing hypoglycemia. Intensive Care Units which are unequipped in trained staff and monitoring capacity would be unwise to attempt TGC, especially considering its yet undefined benefit and the deleterious nature of hypoglycemia. International recommendations now advise clinicians to ensure critically ill patients maintain a BG of <10 mmol/L. Despite encouraging evidence, currently we can only speculate and remain optimistic that the benefit of TGC in clinical practice is sweeter than assumed.

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