What’s the connection between severe hypoglycemia and hypothermia?

The association of severe hypoglycemia and low body temperatures has been well documented at least since 1960s.  Hypothermia is thought to be caused by low blood glucose in the brain (neuroglucopenia) which may serve as a protective mechanism for decreasing energy demand during glucose deprivation.1-2

A 2012 retrospective study involving mostly patients with diabetes mellitus with severe hypoglycemia (majority with serum glucose 18-54 mg/dl) found that 23% of patients had hypothermia (defined as body temperature < 95◦F or 35◦C). The incidence of hypothermia was not affected by age, diabetes, season or time of day.  Two patients had extremely low temperatures (<90◦F).  There was an association between hypothermia and severity of hypoglycemia.1

An older experimental study (1974) involving 36 recumbent nude men in thermoneutral environment found that that insulin-induced hypoglycemia was associated with rectal temperatures below 96.2◦F (36◦C) in 33%.  Cooling was attributed to reduction in heat production and to secretion of sweat, peripheral vasodilatation and hyperventilation.2

But before you attribute hypothermia to hypoglycemia, make sure other causes of hypothermia such as sepsis, hypoadrenalism, hypothyroidism, alcohol and stroke are ruled out.3  

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that heat production is accomplished by shivering, which can increase the normal basal metabolic rate by 2-5 times as well as via non-shivering thermogenesis through increased levels of thyroxine and epinephrine?3

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References

  1. Tran C, Gariani K, Hermann FR, et al. Hypothermia is a frequent sign of severe hypoglycaemia in patients with diabetes. Diab Metab 2012;38:370-72. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1262363612000535?via%3Dihub
  2. Strauch BS, Felig P, Baxter JD, et al. Hypothermia in hypoglycemia. JAMA 1969;210:345-46. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/349081
  3. McCullough L, Arora S. Diagnosis and treatment of hypothermia. Am Fam Physician 2004;70:2325-2332. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2004/1215/p2325.html

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis or its affiliate healthcare centers, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School or its affiliated institutions. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

What’s the connection between severe hypoglycemia and hypothermia?

What changes should I consider in my diagnostic approach to hospitalized patients with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) in light of the 2019 guidelines of the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA)?

Compared to 2007,1 the 2019 ATS/IDSA guidelines2 have 2 major “Do’s” and 2 major “Dont’s” in the diagnostic approach to CAP in hospitalized patients:

  • DO order sputum and blood cultures in patients empirically treated for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or Pseudomonas aeruginosa—in addition to those with severe CAP as in 2007.  
  • DO order rapid influenza molecular assay—in preference to antigen test— when influenza viruses are circulating in community, irrespective of pneumonia severity
  • DON’T routinely order urine antigens for pneumococcal or Legionella antigens, except in severe CAP or in the presence of suggestive epidemiological factors (eg. Legionella outbreak, recent travel)
  • DON’t routinely order serum procalcitonin to determine need for initial antibacterial therapy

Patients at risk of MRSA or P. aeruginosa include those with prior infection with the same pathogens as well as those with hospitalization and treated with parenteral antibiotics—in or out of the hospital— in the last 90 days; HCAP is no longer recognized as an entity.

The definition of severe CAP is unchanged: 1 of 2 major criteria (septic shock or respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation) or 3 or more of the following minor criteria or findings listed below:

  • Clinical
    • Respiratory rate ≥30 breath/min
    • Hypotension requiring aggressive fluid resuscitation
    • Hypothermia (core temperature <36 ᵒC, 96.8 ᵒF)
    • Confusion/disorientation
  • Radiographic 
    • Multilobar infiltrates
  • Laboratory 
    • Leukopenia (WBC <4,000/ul)
    • Thrombocytopenia (platelets <100,000/ul)
    • BUN ≥20 mg/dl
    • Pa02/FI02 ratio ≤250

Keep in mind that these guidelines focus on adults who are not immunocompromised or had recent foreign travel and are often based on expert opinion but low or very low quality evidence due to the dearth of properly designed studies.

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that the urine Legionella antigen only tests for L. pneumophila type I, with an overall sensitivity ranging from 45% to 100%!3,4

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References

  1. Mandell LA, Wunderink RG, Anzueto A. Infectious Disease Society of America/American Thoracic Society Consensus Guidelines on the Management guidelines on the management of community-acquired pneumonia in adults. Clin Infect Dis 2007;44:S27-72. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17278083
  2. Metlay JP, Waterer GW, Long AC, et al. Diagnosis and treatment of adults with community-acquired pneumonia. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2019;200:e45-e67. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31573350
  3. Blazquez RM, Espinosa FJ, Martinez-Toldos CM, et al. Sensitivity of urinary antigen test in relation to clinical severity in a large outbreak of Legionella pneumonia in Spain. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis 2005;24:488-91. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15997369
  4. Marlow E, Whelan C. Legionella pneumonia and use of the Legionella urinary antigen test. J Hosp Med 2009;4:E1-E2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19301376

 

 

What changes should I consider in my diagnostic approach to hospitalized patients with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) in light of the 2019 guidelines of the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA)?