Critical illness afflicts millions of people worldwide and is associated with a high risk of organ failure and death or an adverse outcome with persistent physical or cognitive deficits. Spontaneous hyperglycemia is common in critically ill patients and is associated with an adverse outcome compared to normoglycemia. Insulin is used for treating hyperglycemia in the critically ill patients but may be complicated by hypoglycemia, which is difficult to detect in these patients and which may lead to serious neurological sequelae and death. The incretin hormone, glucagon-like peptide (GLP) 1, stimulates insulin secretion and inhibits glucagon release both in healthy individuals and in patients with type 2 diabetes (T2DM). Compared to insulin, GLP-1 appears to be associated with a lower risk of severe hypoglycemia, probably because the magnitude of its insulinotropic action is dependent on blood glucose (BG). This is taken advantage of in the treatment of patients with T2DM, for whom GLP-1 analogs have been introduced during the recent years. Infusion of GLP-1 also lowers the BG level in critically ill patients without causing severe hypoglycemia. The T2DM and critical illness share similar characteristics and are, among other things, both characterized by different grades of systemic inflammation and insulin resistance. The GLP-1 might be a potential new treatment target in critically ill patients with stress-induced hyperglycemia.
Journal review article
Intensive Care Medicine, 2015, Vol 30, Issue 4, p. 201-8