Background: Intensive insulin therapy to maintain serum glucose levels between 80 and 110 mg/dL has previously been shown to reduce mortality in the critically ill; recent data, however, have called this benefit into question. In addition, maintaining uniform, tight glucose control is challenging and resource demanding. We hypothesized that, by use of a protocol, tight glucose control could be achieved in the surgical trauma intensive care unit (STICU), and that improved glucose control would be beneficial. Study Design: During the study period, a progressively more rigorous approach to glucose control was used, culminating in an implemented protocol in 2005. We reviewed STICU patients' blood glucose levels, measured by point-of-care testing, from 2003 to 2006. Mortality was tracked over the course of the study, and patient charts were retrospectively reviewed to measure illness and injury severity. Results: Mean blood glucose levels steadily improved (p < 0.01). In addition to absolute improvements in glucose control, total variability of glucose ranges in the STICU steadily diminished. A reduction in STICU mortality was temporally associated with implementation of the protocol (p < 0.01). There were fewer intraabdominal abscesses and fewer postinjury ventilator days after implementation of the protocol. There was a small increase in the incidence of clinically relevant hypoglycemia. Conclusions: Improvements in glucose control in the ICU can be achieved by using a protocol for intensive insulin therapy. In our ICU, this was temporally associated with a significant reduction in mortality.
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