Mild-to-moderate hypoglycemia (blood glucose < 4.0 mmol/L) is recommended to be treated with 15 g of carbohydrates and to repeat the treatment if hypoglycemia persists after 15 min. This recommendation was established before intensive insulin therapy and based on studies using insulin with different pharmacokinetic profiles from actual insulin analogs showing that 15 g of glucose increases blood glucose by ~ 1.5 mmol/L in 15 min. We aimed to explore the effect of current recommended treatment of mild-to-moderate hypoglycemia in type 1 diabetes (T1D) participants and factors associated with treatment effectiveness.
This is a secondary analysis from three observational inpatient studies with a standardized and supervised treatment (16 g carbohydrates) of hypoglycemia (< 3.3 mmol/L with symptoms or < 3.0 mmol/L without symptom) in participants (47 adults–10 adolescents) with T1D using continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion (“insulin pumps”; CSII)).
Twenty-seven participants presented a total of 48 hypoglycemia episodes treated by a single intake of 16 g of carbohydrates. Time required for normoglycemia recovery was 19.5 ± 12.0 min. The rise in plasma glucose following treatment was 0.85 ± 0.66 mmol/L in 15 min. Eighteen episodes (38%) were resolved (> 4.0 mmol/L) 15-min post-treatment. Glycemia at the time of treatment (< 3.2 mmol/L; p < 0.001) and a higher proportion of total daily insulin from basal doses (p = 0.03) were associated with a slower post-treatment plasma glucose rise.
These results raise the possibility that sixteen grams of carbohydrates could be insufficient to treat a large proportion of hypoglycemia episodes in T1D patients treated with CSII. Factors affecting treatment effectiveness need to be investigated.