Elderly Patients More Frequently Hospitalized for Insulin-Related Hypoglycemia

Published Online: Tuesday, June 17, 2014
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Patients 80 years and older are more likely to visit the emergency department (ED) and to be hospitalized for insulin-related hypoglycemia and errors than younger patients, show the results of a study published in the May 2014 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine. Poor meal planning and insulin mix-ups were the most common causes for errors.

The study researchers analyzed data on adverse drug events among patients treated with insulin who visited the ED and the responses from a national household survey of insulin users to determine populations at high risk for insulin-related hypoglycemia and errors.

Overall, 97,648 ED visits for insulin-related hypoglycemia and errors occurred annually, and 29.3% of them resulted in hospitalizations. Severe neurologic sequelae occurred in approximately 60.6% of visits, and blood glucose levels of 50 mg/dL or less were recorded in 53.4% of cases. Patients 80 years and older were more than twice as likely to visit the ED and nearly 5 times more likely to be hospitalized for the errors than those aged 45 to 64 years. The adverse events were most often caused when patients did not eat enough and when they took the wrong insulin medication.

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