Category: Endocrine


Hypernatraemia is a not a common presentation in ED, as intense thirst often prevents significant hypernatraemia in neurologically intact individuals. So… Mortality rates are high (20-70%) and the severity of hypernatraemia has been shown be an independent predictor of mortality.

However, there is little good data on hypernatremia to base guidance on, and definitions vary within the literature

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Experience is showing that those with diabetic patients with COVID-19 are more likely to develop DKA/HSS. However, treating them with the traditional large amount of fluid is detrimental to their chest, if they have Covid-19

Hence the following has been developed from the Guy & Thomas’ guidance – CLICK HERE

High Clinical Suspicion of Covid-19

  • Clinical: Fever ≥37.8°C plus any of; cough, short of breath, myalgia, headache, sore throat
  • CXR: consistent with Covid-19

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Hyponatraema is a common finding, especially within our elderly population. However, its significance is is not a simple numbers game, and needs senior input. Prior to treatment the following need to be considered and balanced.

  1. Symptoms Severity – these are not exclusive to hyponatraemia and may be due to other disease processes (esp. if the low sodium is long-term)
  2. Sodium Level – the sodium concentration doesn’t always correlate to the clinical picture, and is dependant on speed of change, and co-morbidities
  3. Rate of Drop – the faster sodium levels drop the more symptomatic the patient often is (i.e. with long term hyponatraema the patient may be profoundly hyponatraemic but asymptomatic)
  4. Co-morbidities – Increasing sodium too quickly risks osmotic demyelination. How well will the patient cope with treatment?

Emergency treatment (hypertonic saline) is generally indicated in those with Severe Symptoms ONLY

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Diabetic Hyperglycaemia (Kids)

Diabetic children sometimes attend ED with hyperglycaemia, but not in DKA (what should we do?)

Paeds have produced some advice to follow:

  1. Ketones over 0.6?
    • <0.6: Encourage fluids & food, may need an insulin correction
    • >0.6: ask Question 2
  2. Are there clinical features of DKA?
    • NO: Encourage fluids & food, decide Insulin correction, will need to be monitored
    • YES: Will need Paeds admission

Hypoglycaemia – Adult

Hypoglycaemia (Blood glucose under 4.0 mmol/l) is potentially fatal and should be treated. it may be defined as “mild” self-treated, or “severe” treated by a third party i.e. you.

Hypoglycaemia is a common side-effect of insulin and sulfonylureas (they start with gli-) as they both work by lowering glucose concentration in the blood. Other diabetic medications work by preventing glucose rise, thus posing a lesser risk.


Signs & Symps

  • Autonomic: Sweating, Palpitations, Shaking, Hunger
  • Neuroglycopenic: Confusion, Drowsy, Odd behaviour, Incoordination, Speech difficulty
  • General: Nausea, Headache

Risk Factors

  • Medical: 
    • Diabetic: Strict control, Long term Insulin, Lipohypertrophy at injection sites,Impaired awareness of hypoglycaemia
    • Organ dysfunction: Severe hepatic dysfunction, Renal impairment, Cognitive dysfunction/dementia, Endocrine (Addisons, hypothyroid, hypopituitary)
    • GIT: Gastroenteritis, impaired absorption, Bariatric surgery
    • Medication: Concurrent use of medicines with hypoglycaemic agents e.g. warfarin, quinine, salicylates, fibrates, sulphonamides (including cotrimoxazole), monoamine oxidase inhibitors, NSAIDs, probenecid, somatostatin analogues, SSRIs.
    • Sepsis
    • Terminal illness
  • Lifestyle:
    • Reduced/Irregular intake: Poor diet, Irregular lifestyle, Alcohol
    • Increased use: Exercise (relative to usual), Early pregnancy, Breast feeding
    • Poor control: Increasing age, No or inadequate blood glucose monitoring, Alcohol


Conscious & Orientated

  1. 15-20g fast acting glucose
    • 4-5 jelly babies
    • 3-4 heaped teaspoons of sugar dissolved in water (milk delays absorption)
    • 150-200ml fresh fruit juice
  2. Rpt Blood Glucose 10-15min
    • if blood glucose remains <4.0mmol/l step one may be repeated up to 3 times in total
  3. Blood Glucose remains <4.0mmol/l
    • 150-200ml 10% Glucose IV
    • 1mg Glucogon IM (if starved or sulfonylureas may not work well)
  4. Blood Glucose >4.0mmol/l – Give long acting Carbs
    • 2 Biscuits
    • 1 Slice bread/toast
    • 200-300ml milk (not soya)
    • Meal
  5. Don’t omit insulin injections
  6. Diabetic review: most patients can be followed up by diabetic nurses but some may need admission.
  7. Patient Advice Sheet

Conscious but agitated, confused, unable to cooperate

  • If patient CAN cooperate – follow guide above
  • If patient CAN’T cooperate
    • 1.5 -2 tubes 40% glucose gel (Glucogel) squeezed into the mouth between the teeth and gums (can be substituted for step 1 above)
    • 1mg Glucogon IM (if starved or sulfonylureas may not work well)
    • Follow subsequent steps as above

Unconscious, seizures, very aggressive

Start at step 3 above (while managing ABC), the choice of whether to use IV glucose or IM glycogen will be determined by practicality of achieving IV/IO access.

Although you will need to follow the remaining steps the patient will almost certainly require admission.



Patient Advice Sheet – Hypo’s

Joint British Diabetic Society – The Hospital Management of Hypoglycaemia in Adults with Diabetes Mellitus 3rd edition