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Why Is Bicarbonate Low In Diabetic Ketoacidosis?

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Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Patient professional reference Professional Reference articles are written by UK doctors and are based on research evidence, UK and European Guidelines. They are designed for health professionals to use. You may find the Pre-diabetes (Impaired Glucose Tolerance) article more useful, or one of our other health articles. See also the separate Childhood Ketoacidosis article. Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a medical emergency with a significant morbidity and mortality. It should be diagnosed promptly and managed intensively. DKA is characterised by hyperglycaemia, acidosis and ketonaemia:[1] Ketonaemia (3 mmol/L and over), or significant ketonuria (more than 2+ on standard urine sticks). Blood glucose over 11 mmol/L or known diabetes mellitus (the degree of hyperglycaemia is not a reliable indicator of DKA and the blood glucose may rarely be normal or only slightly elevated in DKA). Bicarbonate below 15 mmol/L and/or venous pH less than 7.3. However, hyperglycaemia may not always be present and low blood ketone levels (<3 mmol/L) do not always exclude DKA.[2] Epidemiology DKA is normally seen in people with type 1 diabetes. Data from the UK National Diabetes Audit show a crude one-year Continue reading >>

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Popular Questions

  1. Knicks

    In DKA, the patient is acidotic, right? So why would the body decrease bicarbonate (a base)? Wouldn't you want to keep the bicarbonate high so as to neutralize the acid?
    Too tired to think straight at the moment.

  2. generic

    The HCO3 derangement is not a compensation--it is the primary problem.
    DKA patients have a metabolic acidosis, I think it's mostly caused by the formation of tons and tons of ketone bodies (acidic). These are formed because despite high circulating levels of glucose, the cells can't use the glucose without insulin-->turn to ketone formation instead.
    The metabolic acidosis may cause respiratory compensation, which would give Kussmaul breathing, for example.

  3. treva

    Knicks said: ↑
    In DKA, the patient is acidotic, right? So why would the body decrease bicarbonate (a base)? Wouldn't you want to keep the bicarbonate high so as to neutralize the acid?
    Too tired to think straight at the moment. Remember the kidney takes days to compensate for acidodic state by producing more bicarb. Acutely, the bicarb is used to buffer the extra acid, so it drops.
    This also explains why DKA pts have increased RR:
    CO2 + H20 <--> H2CO3 <--> HCO3- + H+
    If you blow off extra CO2 (ie by upping RR) you shift the above equation to the left, and promote the formation of H2CO3 via CA, helping to mop up the H+.

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