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Prehospital Treatment of Severe Hypoglycaemia: A Comparison of Intramuscular Glucagon and Intravenous Glucose

  • Søren Carstens and Michael Sprehn

By introducing an intensified insulin treatment regime to patients with insulin-dependant diabetes mellitus (IDDM), the frequency of long-term complications that the patient will experience has been shown to decrease. The price is an increase in the frequency of severe and mild hypoglycaemic events. Therefore, constant monitoring of these patients is necessary.


This study compares the time until full recovery of IDDM patients with severe hypoglycaemia after treatment with either intravenous glucose or intramuscular glucagon.


14 patients with IDDM with severe hypoglycaemia requiring treatment by the medical staff was randomised to treatment either with 50 ml of 50% glucose intravenously or intramuscular 1 mg glucagon. The time to recovery was recorded. Plasma glucose was measured at fixed intervals to achieve a glycaemia profile. Demographic data were acquired through patient interviews following recovery.


Recovery time between the two groups was significantly different statistically. Recovery time ranged for 1 to 3 minutes for those receiving glucose intravenously and 8 to 21 minutes for those receiving intramuscular glucagon. Characteristic glycaemia profiles were identified and differences were present between the two groups with a greater fluctuating pattern for the glucose group compared to the steadily increasing pattern seen after glucagon treatment. Alcohol was believed to be involved in 8 out of the 14 cases, and thereby, is the major confounding factor in this study.


Intramuscularly administered glucagon is a safe and reliable alternative to intravenous glucose infusion. The fluctuating glyceamia pattern seen after glucose treatment indicates a low risk for secondary hypoglycaemia. However, further studies are necessary to support this assertion.

Corresponding author
Mobile Intensive Care Unit, Municipal Hospital Copenhagen, Øster Farimagsgade 5. DK-1399 København K. Denmark
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Prehospital and Disaster Medicine
  • ISSN: 1049-023X
  • EISSN: 1945-1938
  • URL: /core/journals/prehospital-and-disaster-medicine
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