Aims, Objectives and Background More than 4.9 million people in the UK have diabetes, and sufferers are at increased risk of depression.1 We reviewed enquiries to the NPIS about insulin overdose.
Method and Design Retrospective analysis of enquiries between 1 November 2011 and 31 October 2021.
Results and Conclusion We received 1195 enquiries involving insulin. Further analysis was limited to the 169 enquiries involving insulin only (90.5% via injection).
Most enquiries (88%) concerned adults ≥ 18 years. There were 34 non-diabetic and 98 diabetic patients: 32 Type 1, 10 Type 2, and 56 type undocumented. Exposures were intentional (n=114, 68%), from therapeutic error (n=28), accidental (n=16) or circumstances unknown (n=11).
Long-acting insulins were involved in 71 cases, and the highest dose was 20000 units (table 1). The lowest recorded blood glucose concentration (mmol/L) at the time of the enquiry was in the range 0–0.9 (n=7), 1.0–1.9 (n=29), 2.0–2.9 (n=25), 3.0–3.9 (n=12), >4.0 (n=14). Hypokalaemia (defined as K+<3.5 mmol/L) was noted in 26 (n=15%) enquiries. The maximum Poisoning Severity2 (n=162) was graded: none (n=55), minor (n=29), moderate (n=44), and severe (n=34).
Treatments given prior to contacting the NPIS were IV glucose (n=91, 54%), IV/IM glucagon (n=26, 15%), IV octreotide (n=6, 4%) and IV corticosteroids (n=2, 1%). No patient underwent surgical excision of the injection site. Long-acting insulins accounted for 5/6 cases where octreotide was given.
Conclusions Hypoglycaemia following insulin overdose was mostly managed satisfactorily by intravenous glucose infusion, with glucagon used occasionally. The role of octreotide and corticosteroids was unclear. Approximately 20% of cases were severe, especially following overdose of medium- and long-acting insulins; we recorded no fatalities.
https://www.diabetes.org.uk/professionals/position-statements-reports/statistics. Accessed February 2022.
Persson HE, Sjöberg GK, Haines JA, De Garbino JP. Poisoning severity score. Grading of acute poisoning. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 1998; 36: 205–213.
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