Monday, March 10, 2008


Did you know that even if you are not a diabetic, and you are a patient in my ICU, we're going to keep a close eye on your blood sugars? Why, you ask? Because clinical research has shown that people heal faster when their blood sugar is tightly controlled.

I have a lot of experience with recovering open heart surgeries. Before I left the hospital I worked at in Omaha for the sunny Southwest, our standard of practice was (and is still) to place all of our post open heart surgery patients on an insulin drip. (This is a continual infusion of insulin given via an IV--intravenous access) We wanted that blood sugar kept down. Makes sense right? Well, only if you've been following my blog, are a diabetic yourself, or a health care worker, maybe.

But here is the rationale. If your sugar is floating around in your blood stream, it is not able to be used as fuel for your cells to heal. Whether you are having an elective procedure, or become extremely ill does not matter. Your body's natural response to any changes will be to increase the blood sugar so it can be used for additional energy in your time of need. This happens to everyone-diabetics and non diabetics. The only difference is, a healthy pancreas can produce the insulin your body needs to drag that sugar into the cells where it can be used properly. Diabetics have a pancreas that has either lost its ability to produce insulin or the insulin it does make isn't recognized by the body.

So why the insulin drip? Remember that research I mentioned? Well, a normal blood sugar of say, 134 or 149 would be okay if you hadn't just had surgery. We want that sugar in those cells, right? We poke your finger for that precious drop of blood every hour (YES! I said every hour and you are understandably cranky after your fingers are sore after doing this for 72 hours) while you are on an insulin infusion. Depending on the result, we adjust the insulin infusion in an attempt to attain that magic number between 80 and 120.

The trend over the last couple of years has been to place ICU patients on insulin protocol. Severe illness and certain medications given while you are extremely sick will increase a patients blood sugar, as well. Although it is a drag for you patients having your fingers constantly pricked, the outcome is worth it. Morbidity and length of stays for patients in intensive care units across the nation have decreased.

This is a good thing! People are getting better faster.

So, next time I come in to check your blood sugar, smile and hand your finger over! *grin*


Don't forget to stop by BRENDANOVAK.COM to see what you can do to help raise money for diabetes research. Her online auction will be May 1-May 31. She has some wonderful prizes!


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