Conference Coverage

Plan now for outpatient diabetes tech in the hospital



It’s inevitable that hospitalists will soon be caring for patients who come in on insulin pumps, continuous glucose monitors, and even closed loop systems, if they haven’t done so already.

Dr. Guillermo E. Umpierrez

A third or more of patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus and growing numbers of patients with insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes mellitus patients are using pumps and sensor technology. The American Diabetes Association advocates allowing patients who are physically and mentally able to continue to use their pumps when hospitalized, and there’s general consensus that continuous glucose monitors (CGM) can be used in the hospital.

All in all, it’s a good thing, according to Guillermo E. Umpierrez, MD, professor of endocrinology at Emory University and chief of endocrinology at Grady Memorial Hospital, both in Atlanta.

In a talk at the annual scientific sessions of the American Diabetes Association, Dr. Umpierrez reviewed a number of studies showing that glycemic control with the new technology is no worse in the hospital – and sometimes even better – than with traditional point-of-care glucose testing and insulin administration. There is a lack of randomized, controlled trials to prove the point definitively, but what evidence does exist is promising.

“This technology is rapidly advancing, and I am very optimistic that we are going to see more and more of these devices in the hospital. If patients can manage themselves, allow them to use CGM, allow them to use their pumps,” he said.

As for closed loop systems – automated glucose sensing and insulin administration – emerging evidence suggests they “allow you to have very good glucose control and less glycemic variability,” both inside and outside of the ICU, he said. “I am very hopeful before I retire that there will be management of a significant number of patients with closed loop systems.”

To keep up, training for hospital providers on the new technology is now “mandatory at all levels,” Dr. Umpierrez said, and if they haven’t done so already, hospitals need to put policies and procedures in place for when, and when not, to allow patients to use their diabetes equipment, and how to integrate it into care.

Among many things to consider, patients must be well enough to use their pumps and monitors, be able to demonstrate their functions, and also want to participate in their own care.

Contraindications to inpatient pump use include impaired consciousness, critical illness, and hyperglycemic crises because insulin requirements change too rapidly and dramatically for pumps. Lack of trained providers and supplies is another hurdle. Pumps also need to come off for MRIs.

CGM, meanwhile, has been shown to improve glycemic control, detecting both hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia more readily than point-of-care testing. It’s good at picking up trends in glucose levels, and Dr. Umpierrez anticipates a time when readings will be transmitted to nurses’ stations automatically to track blood glucose trends. “I think that’s the future,” he said.

But, as with insulin pumps, there are caveats. Among them, it’s unclear how well CGM works during hypoxia, hypothermia, and hypotension. Thrombus formation and infections have been reported with intravascular monitors, and a number of agents can throw off some CGM devices, including acetaminophen, heparin, and dopamine.

Dr. Umpierrez disclosed relationships with AstraZeneca, Merck, Novo Nordisk, Sanofi, and other companies.

[email protected]

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