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The risk and outcome of cerebral oedema developing during diabetic ketoacidosis


BACKGROUND Cerebral oedema is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in children with insulin dependent diabetes.

AIMS To determine the risk and outcome of cerebral oedema complicating diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

METHODS All cases of cerebral oedema in England, Scotland, and Wales were reported through the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit between October 1995 and September 1998. All episodes of DKA were reported by 225 paediatricians identified as involved in the care of children with diabetes through a separate reporting system between March 1996 and February 1998. Further information about presentation, management, and outcome was requested about the cases of cerebral oedema. The risk of cerebral oedema was investigated in relation to age, sex, seasonality, and whether diabetes was newly or previously diagnosed.

RESULTS A total of 34 cases of cerebral oedema and 2940 episodes of DKA were identified. The calculated risk of developing cerebral oedema was 6.8 per 1000 episodes of DKA. This was higher in new (11.9 per 1000 episodes) as opposed to established (3.8 per 1000) diabetes. There was no sex or age difference. Cerebral oedema was associated with a significant mortality (24%) and morbidity (35% of survivors).

CONCLUSIONS This first large population based study of cerebral oedema complicating DKA has produced risk estimates which are more reliable and less susceptible to bias than those from previous studies. Our study indicates that cerebral oedema remains an important complication of DKA during childhood and is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Little is known of the aetiology of cerebral oedema in this condition and we are currently undertaking a case control study to address this issue.

  • diabetic ketoacidosis
  • cerebral oedema

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