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Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2006 Feb 15;173(4):407-13. Epub 2005 Oct 20.

Intensive insulin therapy in postoperative intensive care unit patients: a decision analysis.

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  • 1Department of Intensive Care, Austin and Repatriation Medical Centre, Heidelberg 3084, Victoria, Australia.



Intensive insulin therapy (IIT) may reduce mortality in mechanically ventilated postoperative patients.


To assess the risks and benefits of IIT in different institutions. Design: Retrospective, blinded-to-outcome selection of patient cohorts from four hospitals.


Selection of a cohort of patients with clinical features similar to those reported in a recent study of IIT and of all mechanically ventilated postoperative patients from each hospital. Retrieval of information on glucose control. Assessment of risks and benefits and final outcomes.


We selected 783 consecutive patients with similar clinical and demographic features to the IIT trial control group and four general cohorts for a total of 4,150 consecutive mechanically ventilated postoperative patients. In these patients, glucose levels were measured 212,663 times for a mean value of 8.22 +/- 2.7 mmol/L (148 +/- 49 mg/dl). Intensive care unit (ICU) mortality varied from 2.2 to 13.6%. The incidence of hypoglycemia (defined as < 2.2 mmol/L) varied from 1.4 to 2.7%. Assuming a beneficial effect of IIT as reported, the number needed to treat to save one life varied from 38 in one ICU to 125 in another, whereas the rate of hypoglycemia (number needed to harm) varied from 7 to 13.


The number needed to treat to prevent an ICU death and the associated risk of hypoglycemia (number needed to harm) with IIT vary widely according to baseline mortality, case mix, and case selection. Rational decision analysis in individual ICUs should take these factors into account.

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[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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