Sixty-nine instances of intracerebral complications of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), including 29 unpublished occurrences, were analyzed to determine predictive factors, the frequency of other disorders resembling cerebral edema, the effectiveness of intervention to reduce intracranial pressure, and whether any etiologic considerations appeared valid. The review failed to implicate rate of hydration, tonicity of administered fluids, rate of correction of glycemia, or use of bicarbonate. Infants and young children (<5 yr of age) were disproportionately represented (33%), as were new-onset patients (62%). Approximately 20% of patients were found to have localized basilar edema, hemorrhage, thromboses, or infection by computed tomography scan or on postmortem examination. The histories of 50% of the patients suggested a period of dramatic neurological change preceding respiratory arrest (RA) during which intervention might be effective. Twenty-three patients were treated for increased intracranial pressure before RA; 13 patients survived in an independent functional state, and 3 survived in a severely disabled or vegetative state. Only 3 of the remaining 46 patients survived normally: 2 were untreated and never developed RA, and 1 was given mannitol at the onset of apnea. This review supports close neurological monitoring and intervention to reduce intracranial pressure when there are definite signs of neurological compromise. However, treatment appears to be successful in only 50% of patients who give sufficient warning for such intervention, and they comprised half of the study population. Therefore, prevention of DKA remains the most important goal to avoid intracerebral complications.

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