Open Access Research article

Comparison of a nurse initiated insulin infusion protocol for intensive insulin therapy between adult surgical trauma, medical and coronary care intensive care patients

Melissa M Barth1*, Lance J Oyen2, Karen T Warfield1, Jennifer L Elmer1, Laura K Evenson1, Ann N Tescher1, Philip J Kuper2, Michael P Bannon3, Ognjen Gajic4 and J Christopher Farmer4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Nursing, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA

2 Pharmacy Services, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA

3 Department of Surgery, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA

4 Department of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA

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BMC Emergency Medicine 2007, 7:14  doi:10.1186/1471-227X-7-14

Published: 29 August 2007



Sustained hyperglycemia is a known risk factor for adverse outcomes in critically ill patients. The specific aim was to determine if a nurse initiated insulin infusion protocol (IIP) was effective in maintaining blood glucose values (BG) within a target goal of 100–150 mg/dL across different intensive care units (ICUs) and to describe glycemic control during the 48 hours after protocol discontinuation.


A descriptive, retrospective review of 366 patients having 28,192 blood glucose values in three intensive care units, Surgical Trauma Intensive Care Unit (STICU), Medical (MICU) and Coronary Care Unit (CCU) in a quaternary care hospital was conducted. Patients were > 15 years of age, admitted to STICU (n = 162), MICU (n = 110) or CCU (n = 94) over 8 months; October 2003-June 2004 and who had an initial blood glucose level > 150 mg/dL. We summarized the effectiveness and safety of a nurse initiated IIP, and compared these endpoints among STICU, MICU and CCU patients.


The median blood glucose values (mg/dL) at initiation of insulin infusion protocol were lower in STICU (188; IQR, 162–217) than in MICU, (201; IQR, 170–268) and CCU (227; IQR, 178–313); p < 0.0001. Mean time to achieving a target glucose level (100–150 mg/dL) was similar between the three units: 4.6 hours in STICU, 4.7 hours in MICU and 4.9 hours in CCU (p = 0.27). Hypoglycemia (BG < 60 mg/dL) occurred in 7% of STICU, 5% of MICU, and 5% of CCU patients (p = 0.85). Protocol violations were uncommon in all three ICUs. Mean blood glucose 48 hours following IIP discontinuation was significantly different for each population: 142 mg/dL in STICU, 167 mg/dL in MICU, and 160 mg/dL in CCU (p < 0.0001).


The safety and effectiveness of nurse initiated IIP was similar across different ICUs in our hospital. Marked variability in glucose control after the protocol discontinuation suggests the need for further research regarding glucose control in patients transitioning out of the ICU.