Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is one of the serious complications of type 1 diabetes mellitus and may be aggravated by infection. Diagnosing an infection in a patient with DKA is often complicated because of the overlap of symptoms and the presence of leukocytosis in both conditions. Reliable indicators for the diagnosis of bacterial infection in DKA may reduce unnecessary use of antibiotics and enable closer monitoring of patients at risk.
This is a retrospective study. The study cohort included 180 children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes mellitus who were admitted to the Pediatric Emergency Department at Shaare Zedek Medical Center and had blood test results. We compared white blood cell count, C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, blood glucose levels, pH, the degree of acidosis, and the incidence of infection in patients with and without DKA.
The incidence of probable bacterial infection in the entire cohort was 13.9%: 15.7% in the DKA group and 7.5% in the non-DKA group (P = 0.65). The incidence of leukocytosis was significantly higher in patients with DKA (P = 0.0003), although this was not related to bacterial infection. The CRP levels were higher in the DKA group with infection than without infection, and this was statistically significant (P = 0.008).
Our findings suggest that leukocytosis in DKA is not a reliable indicator of concomitant bacterial infection. In contrast, CRP levels were not related to the DKA or degree of acidosis and were significantly higher in patients with infection within the DKA group, and are therefore a more reliable indicator of concomitant infection in these patients.