Insulin Rules in the Hospital


Although new medications to manage and treat hyperglycemia and diabetes continuously appear on the market, national guidelines and position statements consistently refer to insulin as the treatment of choice in the inpatient hospital setting.

“When patients are admitted to the hospital, our standard is to switch from the outpatient regimen [wide variety of medications] to the inpatient regimen—insulin,” says Paul M. Szumita, PharmD, BCPS, clinical pharmacy practice manager director at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

For critically ill patients in ICUs or during the peri-operative period, intravenous infusion of insulin is preferred. Most general medicine and surgery patients are managed with subcutaneous insulin.

“Using a basal bolus regimen starting at a total daily dose of 0.3-0.5 unit/kg is sufficient for most patients,” says Guillermo Umpierrez, MD, CDE, FCAE, FACP, professor of medicine at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., and a member of the board of directors for the American Diabetes Association; however, for most general medicine and surgical patients who have low oral intake or are NPO, a recent trial reported that the administration of basal insulin alone plus correction doses with rapid-acting insulin analogs before meals is as good as a basal bolus regimen. A regimen should be tweaked throughout the inpatient’s stay with an aim to reach the goal of minimal or no hypoglycemia.1

Planning for a discharge regimen should start early in the hospital stay, Dr. Szumita says, and should be based on several factors:

  1. The patient’s Hb1c;
  2. The prior regimen and how it was performing;
  3. The patient’s wishes; and
  4. Collaboration with outpatient providers.

At discharge, it is critical that patients be clear about what medications they should be on post-discharge and that they follow-up with outpatient providers in a timely manner. TH

Karen Appold is a freelance writer in Pennsylvania.


  1. Umpierrez GE, Smiley D, Hermayer K, et al. Randomized study comparing a basal-bolus with a basal plus correction insulin regimen for the hospital management of medical and surgical patients with type 2 diabetes: basal plus trial. Diabetes Care. 2013;36(8):2169-2174.

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