What are the approach considerations in the treatment of alcoholic ketoacidosis (AKA)?

Updated: Aug 27, 2020
  • Author: George Ansstas, MD; Chief Editor: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP  more...
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Carbohydrate and fluid replacement reverse the pathophysiologic derangements that lead to AKA by increasing serum insulin levels and suppressing the release of glucagon and other counterregulatory hormones. Dextrose stimulates the oxidation of NADH and aids in normalizing the NADH/NAD+ ratio. Fluids alone do not correct AKA as quickly as do fluids and carbohydrates together. Indeed, evidence-based guidelines by Flannery et al, on the management of intensive care unit patients with a chronic alcohol disorder, including symptoms that mimic or mask Wernicke encephalopathy, recommend that in cases of suspected AKA, dextrose-containing fluids be used in place of normal saline during the first day of admission. [27]

In alcoholics, thiamine (100 mg IV or IM) should be administered prior to any glucose-containing solutions. This will decrease the risk of precipitating Wernicke encephalopathy or Korsakoff syndrome. [13]

Phosphate depletion is also common in alcoholics. The plasma phosphate concentration may be normal on admission; however, it typically falls to low levels with therapy as insulin drives phosphate into the cells. When present, severe hypophosphatemia may be associated with marked and possibly life-threatening complications, such as myocardial dysfunction, in these patients.

Institute appropriate treatment for serious, coexisting, acute illnesses. These may include pancreatitis, hepatitis, heart failure, or infection.

Prevention of AKA involves the treatment of chronic alcohol abuse.

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