Hyperglycemic emergencies are the most common endocrinopathies that require intensive care. It is estimated that between 10% and 15% of patients admitted to intensive care units experience complications of acute hyperglycemia. The common denominator of hyperglycemic emergencies is diabetes mellitus, a group of diseases in which, either because of beta-cell destruction of the pancreas or insulin receptor-site defects, there is a relative or absolute deficiency of insulin that results in hyperglycemia. In response to various precipitating factors, staggering hyperglycemia may develop in the form of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) or hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome (HHNK). The existence of DKA has been known since ancient times, and critical care nurses are familiar with the diagnosis. The more lethal disorder of HHNK was “rediscovered” in the 1950s and is occurring with greater frequency as clinical awareness of the condition grows and the elderly (who are at greatest risk for the disorder) populate critical care units in increasing numbers. Prevention is instrumental in abating deadly hyperglycemic emergencies. A positive outcome can be realized but only with timely diagnosis and prompt hormonal and fluid replacement

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