Hyperglycemia is common in surgical patients and is associated with adverse outcomes. Conflicting data exist regarding the best method and the value of glycemic control in various patient populations. The contributions to hyperglycemia and the components of its control are complex and overlapping and likely contribute to the documented variation in outcomes. We provide an overview of the physiologic contributors to hyperglycemia and its control, review the differences in the major randomized trial results, and summarize the data regarding glycemic control in surgical patients.
Major reviews of the pathophysiology of hyperglycemia in surgical patients, large randomized trials in critically ill and peri-operative populations, and meta-analyses were reviewed. Summations are provided for the critically ill population and for the peri-operative group.
A substantial physiologic rationale exists for the control of hyperglycemia in surgical patients during critical illness and in the peri-operative period. Randomized, controlled studies are limited predominately to critically ill populations. The data support controlling hyperglycemia to a serum glucose concentration <200 mg/dL, but the absolute target range remains controversial and studied inadequately. The data indicate the benefit of tight glycemic control using insulin to achieve a target of 80-110 mg/dL (intensive insulin therapy [IIT]) vs. a liberal target of 180-200 mg/dL in critically ill surgical patients, although hypoglycemia is more common with IIT. Inadequate studies are available in the peri-operative period to draw conclusions about non-critically ill surgical patients, but the weight of the data suggests control to < 200 mg/dL likely is beneficial.
Surgical patients benefit from maintaining serum glucose concentrations <200 mg/dL. Intensive insulin therapy (80-110 mg/dL), which appears beneficial in critically ill surgical patients but requires frequent measurement of glucose to avoid hypoglycemia. Further studies are needed to determine the appropriate target range and the influence of nutritional provision and other factors on outcome.