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Ketoacidosis is on the rise in children with type 1 diabetes



– As many as 40%-60% of children have diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) at the time of being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, according to data from two U.S. analyses – and the figures have been rising for the past 10 years.

Between 2010 and 2017, the prevalence of DKA at diagnosis in children who were followed up at the Barbara Davies Cancer Center in Denver (n = 2,429) went from 41% to 59%, with a 7% annual rise, Arleta Rewers, MD, PhD, of Children’s Hospital Colorado, Denver, reported at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

Meanwhile, in another analysis that included multiple U.S. centers and about 7,600 cases of youth-onset type 1 diabetes, the overall prevalence of DKA at diagnosis was 38.5% between 2010 and 2016. However, the prevalence had increased from 35% in 2010 to 40.6% in 2016, according to Elizabeth T. Jensen, MPH, PhD, of Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C. The annual increase in prevalence of DKA at diagnosis of type 1 disease was 2%, adjusted for sociodemographic factors.

Rising prevalence

“DKA occurs most commonly at the time of type 1 diabetes diagnosis,” observed Dr. Jensen, who noted that “in the United States, among children, it’s younger children, uninsured or underinsured children, and children from minority racial or ethnic groups, who are at greatest risk.”

Dr. Elizabeth T. Jensen, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C. Sara Freeman/MDedge News

Dr. Elizabeth T. Jensen

Dr. Jensen and colleagues had previously shown that the prevalence of DKA at diagnosis was around 30% between 2002 and 2010, with no significant change in its prevalence. However, more recent reports from referral-based, single-center studies had suggested there was an increase, and that led her and her colleagues to take a closer look at the data.

To characterize the risk factors for DKA and the prevalence of DKA over time, Dr. Jensen and her team used the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth database, which, she said, was “uniquely suited” for this purpose. SEARCH is a population-based, multicenter study conducted in centers in five U.S. states: South Carolina, Ohio, Colorado, California, and Washington.

A diagnosis of DKA was based on blood bicarbonate levels of less than 15 mmol/L, a venous pH of less than 7.25 or arterial or capillary pH of less than 7.3, or if there was any documentation of a DKA diagnosis.

As expected, the prevalence of DKA was highest in the youngest age group (0-4 years), Dr. Jensen said, but the increase in prevalence in that group was no different from the increases seen over time in the other age groups (5-9 years, 10-14 years, and 15 years or older).

There were no differences in the prevalence of DKA between the sexes, although there was a general increase over time. Similar trends were seen in DKA prevalence by race or ethnicity and by season, or time of year.

Of note, higher rates of DKA were seen in children who were covered by public health insurance, than in those covered by private insurance, although there was no difference in the rate of increase in DKA prevalence between the two groups. Dr. Jensen noted that only 64% of this study population had private insurance.

She said that future research in this area would need to look at the economic drivers and the “changing landscape of health insurance coverage in the United States.”

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