Impact of glucocorticoids on insulin resistance in the critically ill

Christopher Pretty, J. Geoffrey Chase, Jessica Lin, Geoffrey M. Shaw, Aaron Le Compte, Normy Razak, Jacquelyn D. Parente

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)


Glucocorticoids (GCs) have been shown to reduce insulin sensitivity in healthy individuals. Widely used in critical care to treat a variety of inflammatory and allergic disorders, they may inadvertently exacerbate stress-hyperglycaemia. This research uses model-based methods to quantify the reduction in insulin sensitivity from GCs in critically ill patients, and thus their impact on glycaemic control. A model-based measure of insulin sensitivity (SI) was used to quantify changes between two matched cohorts of 40 intensive care unit (ICU) patients. Patients in one cohort received GC treatment, while patients in the control cohort did not. All patients were admitted to the Christchurch hospital ICU between 2005 and 2007 and spent at least 24h on the SPRINT glycaemic control protocol. A 31% reduction in whole-cohort median insulin sensitivity was seen between the control cohort and patients receiving glucocorticoids with a median dose equivalent to 200. mg/d of hydrocortisone per patient. Comparing percentile patients as a surrogate for matched patients, reductions in median insulin sensitivity of 20%, 25%, and 21% were observed for the 25th-, 50th- and 75th-percentile patients, respectively. These cohort and percentile patient reductions are less than or equivalent to the 30-62% reductions reported in healthy subjects especially when considering the fact that the GC doses in this study are 1.3-4.0 times larger than those in studies of healthy subjects. This reduced suppression of insulin sensitivity in critically ill patients could be a result of saturation due to already increased levels of catecholamines and cortisol common in critically illness. Virtual trial simulation showed that reductions in insulin sensitivity of 20-30% associated with glucocorticoid treatment in the ICU have limited impact on glycaemic control levels within the context of the SPRINT protocol.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-180
Number of pages9
JournalComputer Methods and Programs in Biomedicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 May 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Informatics

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