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Critical illness-induced dysglycemia and the brain

Romain Sonneville| Ilse Vanhorebeek| Heleen M. den Hertog| Fabrice Chrétien| Djillali Annane| Tarek Sharshar| Greet Van den Berghe
Review
Volume 41, Issue 2 / February , 2015

Pages 192 - 202

Abstract

Purpose

Dysglycemia is a characteristic feature of critical illness associated with adverse outcome. Whether dysglycemia contributes to brain dysfunction during critical illness and long-term neurological complications is unclear. We give an overview of glucose metabolism in the brain and review the literature on critical illness-induced dysglycemia and the brain.

Methods

Medline database search using relevant search terms on dysglycemia, critical illness, acute brain injury/dysfunction, and randomized controlled trial.

Results

Hyperglycemia has been associated with deleterious effects on the nervous system. Underlying mechanisms in critical illness remain largely speculative and are often extrapolated from knowledge in diabetes mellitus. Increased hyperglycemia-induced blood–brain barrier permeability, oxidative stress, and microglia activation may play a role and compromise neuronal and glial cell integrity. Hypoglycemia is feared as critically ill patients cannot recognize or communicate hypoglycemic symptoms, which furthermore are masked by sedation and analgesia. However, observational data on the impact of brief hypoglycemia on the brain in critical illness are controversial. Secondary analysis of two large randomized studies suggested neuroprotection by strict glycemic control with insulin during intensive care, with lowered intracranial pressure, reduction of seizures, and better long-term rehabilitation in patients with isolated brain injury, and reduced incidence of critical illness polyneuromyopathy in the general critically ill patient population. Several subsequent studies failed to reproduce neurological benefit, likely explained by methodological issues, which include divergent achieved glucose levels and inaccurate glucose monitoring tools.

Conclusions

Preventing hyperglycemia during critical illness holds promise as a neuroprotective strategy to preserve brain cell viability and prevent acute brain dysfunction and long-term cognitive impairment in survivors.

Keywords

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