Background Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is the leading cause of mortality in childhood diabetes, and at diagnosis might represent delayed presentation. The extent and reasons for delays are unclear, but identifying and targeting factors associated with DKA could reduce this incidence.
Objective To compare the patient pathway before diagnosis of type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) in children presenting with DKA and non-acidotic hyperglycaemia.
Design, setting and patients Over a 3-month period, children newly diagnosed with T1DM were identified on admission to UK hospitals. Parents and medical teams completed a questionnaire about events before diagnosis.
Results Data were available for 261 children (54% male), median age 10.3y (range 0.8–16.6 y). 25% presented with DKA, but more commonly in children <2y (80% vs 23%, p<0.001). Fewer children with DKA reported polyuria (76% vs 86%) or polydipsia (86% vs 94%) (both p<0.05), but more reported fatigue (74% vs 52%) and weight loss (75% vs 54%) (both p<0.01). 24% of children had multiple healthcare professional (HCP) contacts, and these children had lower pH on admission. 46% of children with a delayed presentation to secondary care had non-urgent investigations. 64% of parents had considered a diagnosis of diabetes, and these children were less likely to present with DKA (13% vs 47%, p<0.001).
Conclusions Multiple HCP contacts increased risk of presentation in DKA, whereas, parental awareness of diabetes was protective. Improved public and health professional education targeting non-classical symptoms, awareness of diabetes in under 2 y, and point-of-care testing could reduce DKA at diagnosis of diabetes.
- diabetic ketoacidosis