Background Critically ill postsurgical patients fare better with intensive control of blood glucose level. The link between glucose control and outcome is less well studied for medical intensive care patients. Whether intensive glucose control requires additional staffing is unclear.

Objectives To compare intensive glucose control with modified conventional control in the medical intensive care unit and to assess compliance with glucose targets, incidence of hypoglycemia, and staffing adequacy.

Methods Medical intensive care patients who had been receiving mechanical ventilation for less than 24 hours were randomized to intensive or modified conventional protocols for glucose control. Nurses were trained before participating in the study and were interviewed after its completion.

Results Five subjects were randomized to each protocol. Mean blood glucose levels were 5.8 (SD 1.5) mmol/L (105.3 [SD 26.3] mg/dL) for the intensive group and 9.8 (SD 2.5) mmol/L (177.4 [SD 45.5] mg/dL) for the modified conventional group (P < .001). Fifty percent of glucose levels met target values in the intensive group, and 72% of glucose levels met target values in the modified conventional group (P < .001). Severe hypoglycemia (glucose <2.2 mmol/L [<40 mg/dL]) occurred rarely and without complication. Nurses suggested protocols might be improved by using smaller steps in adjusting insulin dosage and reported that simultaneously caring for more than 1 study subject was taxing.

Conclusions Target levels for blood glucose were achieved with both protocols. Severe hypoglycemia was rare and uncomplicated regardless of type of glucose control. Additional staffing may be needed for intensive glucose control.

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