Course Case Studies

Diabetes Pharmacology

Course #95323 - $40 • 10 Hours/Credits

  • Back to Course Home
  • Participation Instructions
Learning Tools - Case Studies

CASE STUDY 1


Patient M is a white woman, 32 years of age, presenting to her primary care physician with complaints of polyuria for the past four weeks. Further assessment reveals an upcoming appointment with her optometrist for new onset blurred vision. The patient is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 142 pounds; her calculated BMI is 23.6 kg/m2. She confirms a family history of diabetes on her father's side and admits to a generally sedentary occupation and lifestyle. A random finger stick reveals a blood glucose level of 257 mg/dL.

Rationale and comments : Patient M's evaluation has resulted in adequate findings to diagnose diabetes. Any random blood glucose greater than 200 mg/dL with additional symptoms (in this case, polyuria and blurred vision) is considered diagnostic for diabetes.

Patient M is referred for fasting blood work, which reveals the following results:

  • HbA1c: 8.5% (estimated average glucose: 197 mg/dL)

  • Fasting blood glucose: 147 mg/dL

  • Two-hour glucose level (after 75 g oral glucose tolerance test): 240 mg/dL

  • Triglycerides: 152 mg/dL

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): 97 mg/dL

  • HDL: 35 mg/dL

  • Liver function tests: Within normal limits

  • Renal function: Within normal limits

Patient M is referred to an ADA-recognized diabetes education program for further education in diabetes self-management, self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG), and exercise and meal planning education [62].

Patient M returns to her primary care physician after three months. Her follow-up HbA1c demonstrates minimal change, with a result of 8.2% (estimated average glucose: 189 mg/dL) and a fasting blood glucose level of 156 mg/dL. SMBG records reveal blood glucose levels consistently between 135 mg/dL and 160 mg/dL fasting and between 230 mg/dL and 300 mg/dL postprandial. Patient M states that she is following her meal and exercise planning goals with little success.

The patient's physician evaluates all of her blood work and patient history information and determines that the best course of treatment would be to initiate sulfonylurea therapy. Patient M is started on glipizide 5 mg each morning, and continuation with her meal and exercise plans is emphasized.

Rationale and comments : This is an appropriate treatment plan for Patient M because, although she has a sedentary occupation, she is not considered obese. She has been adherent to her meal and exercise plan without success. Her fasting blood glucose levels are elevated, but it is the postprandial levels that have instigated the elevated HbA1c levels. The sulfonylurea secretagogue glipizide should improve the high postprandial levels resulting from loss of first-phase insulin release.

Learning Tools - Case Studies

CASE STUDY 2


Patient L is an African American man, 52 years of age, presenting to his primary care physician with complaints of frequent urination and excessive thirst, particularly in the late afternoon and early evening. He is a truck driver and works 12 hours each day. Patient L is 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighs 215 pounds, with a calculated BMI of 28.4 kg/m2. He confirms a family history of diabetes on both his father's and mother's sides. A random finger stick results in a blood glucose level of 243 mg/dL.

Rationale and comments : The information gained from Patient L's initial examination indicates diabetes. Again, any random blood glucose greater than 200 mg/dL, accompanied by symptoms (polyuria and excessive thirst for this patient), is considered diagnostic for diabetes.

Patient L is referred for fasting blood work, which reveals the following:

  • HbA1c: 9.1% (estimated average glucose: 214 mg/dL)

  • Fasting blood glucose: 132 mg/dL

  • Two-hour glucose level (after 75 g oral glucose tolerance test): 310 mg/dL

  • Triglycerides: 147 mg/dL

  • LDL: 102 mg/dL

  • HDL: 46 mg/dL

  • Liver function tests: Within normal limits

  • Renal function: Within normal limits

Patient L is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and is referred to an ADA-recognized diabetes education program. A follow-up appointment in three months is scheduled.

Upon the follow-up primary care appointment, Patient L's HbA1c shows minimal change, with a result of 8.8% (estimated average glucose: 206 mg/dL) and a fasting blood glucose level of 148 mg/dL. The patient's SMBG records reveal fasting blood glucose levels consistently between 150 mg/dL and 165 mg/dL and postprandial levels steadily between 230 mg/dL and 290 mg/dL. Patient L states that he has difficulty eating meals at consistent times due to his profession and exercises when he is able. There has been little change in his weight since his last visit.

Patient L's physician determines that the best course of therapy would be to initiate nonsulfonylurea secretagogue therapy. The patient is started on repaglinide 2 mg 15 minutes prior to his first three main meals. He is advised not to take the medication if he does not eat the meal. He is strongly encouraged to continue with his meal and exercise plans.

Rationale and comments : This is an appropriate choice of medication for Patient L due to his inconsistent eating habits and continued postprandial hyperglycemia, his sedentary occupation, and his weight (not considered obese). His postprandial levels are the problematic factor, and repaglinide will allow Patient L the freedom to adjust his medication therapy to his eating schedule.

Learning Tools - Case Studies

CASE STUDY 3


Patient V is a Hispanic man, 61 years of age, presenting to the primary care physician with complaints of polydipsia, polyphagia, and fatigue for the past month. Upon further assessment, he states that he has recently had his eyeglass prescription adjusted due to blurred vision. He is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 245 pounds; his calculated BMI is 35.2 kg/m2. The patient reveals a family history of diabetes on both sides. He works a physical job in a warehouse lifting 50-pound boxes. A random finger stick reveals a blood glucose level of 220 mg/dL. As previously discussed, this is sufficient information to diagnose diabetes.

Patient V's fasting blood work reveals the following:

  • HbA1c: 8.7% (estimated average glucose: 203 mg/dL)

  • Fasting blood glucose: 151 mg/dL

  • Two-hour glucose level (after 75 g oral glucose tolerance test): 233 mg/dL

  • Triglycerides: 210 mg/dL

  • LDL: 112 mg/dL

  • HDL: 35 mg/dL

  • Liver function tests: Within normal limits

  • Renal function: Within normal limits

Patient V is referred to an ADA-recognized diabetes education program and is instructed to return for follow-up in three months.

When the patient returns to his primary care physician, his follow-up HbA1c demonstrates minimal change with the result of 8.2% (estimated average glucose: 189 mg/dL) and a fasting blood glucose level of 156 mg/dL. SMBG records reveal fasting blood glucose levels consistently between 135 mg/dL and 160 mg/dL and postprandial levels steadily between 220 mg/dL and 248 mg/dL. His lipid levels remain greater than goal as well. Patient V indicates that he has been following his meal and exercise planning goals but has experienced minimal success.

After evaluation of the patient's blood work, history, and progress to date, the physician decides to utilize the alpha-glucosidase inhibitor, acarbose. Patient V is started on acarbose 25 mg with each meal, and adherence to his culturally specific meal and exercise plans is stressed.

Rationale and comments : Although not commonly utilized, acarbose is appropriate for Patient V due to his elevated lipid levels and postprandial hyperglycemia. His fasting blood glucose levels are above normal, and the physician has determined that his postprandial levels are the cause of the elevated HbA1c levels. Acarbose should improve the patient's postprandial glucose levels and his lipid levels.

Learning Tools - Case Studies

CASE STUDY 4


Patient K is a white woman, 71 years of age, presenting to her primary care physician with complaints of fatigue, polyuria, polyphagia, and polydipsia for the past few months. She is 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 205 pounds, with a calculated BMI of 35.3 kg/m2. She confirms a family history of diabetes on her mother's side, a personal history of having given birth to a child weighing more than 9 pounds, and arthritis of her bilateral knees. A finger stick reveals a blood glucose level of 198 mg/dL.

Rationale and comments : Based on the information gathered during the initial examination, Patient K cannot be definitively diagnosed with diabetes. Although symptoms of diabetes are present, a blood glucose level of 198 mg/dL is not diagnostic unless further laboratory testing is completed.

In order to gain additional information, Patient K is referred for a complete blood work-up. The results of this work-up reveal:

  • HbA1c: 8.0% (estimated average glucose: 183 mg/dL)

  • Fasting blood glucose: 195 mg/dL

  • Two-hour glucose level (after 75 g oral glucose tolerance test): 160 mg/dL

  • Triglycerides: 167 mg/dL

  • LDL: 123 mg/dL

  • HDL: 29 mg/dL

  • Liver function tests: Within normal limits

  • Renal function: Within normal limits

Based on this additional information, Patient K is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and is referred to an ADA-recognized diabetes education program. At her three-month follow-up appointment, the patient's HbA1c level has increased to 8.6% (estimated average glucose: 200 mg/dL) and her fasting blood glucose level is 205 mg/dL. Sporadic SMBG records reveal fasting levels consistently between 180 mg/dL and 210 mg/dL and postprandial levels between 150 mg/dL and 170 mg/dL. Patient K states she did not attend the education class as recommended but has attempted to limit her sugar intake. She denies starting an exercise program because of the pain she experiences in her knees when she tries to walk.

It is determined, taking into account Patient K's blood glucose level and failure to make lifestyle changes, that the best course of treatment is medication therapy utilizing metformin. The patient is prescribed metformin 500 mg each evening and water aerobics for exercise. Her physician again stresses the importance of SMBG and participation in diabetes self-management education.

Rationale and comments : The therapy prescribed is appropriate for Patient K for many reasons. Her fasting blood glucose levels are higher than normal, her postprandial levels are slightly elevated, and she is suspected to have insulin resistance. She is obese and has been non-adherent to her meal and exercise plans. Her SMBG has been erratic. Metformin will positively impact the patient's fasting blood glucose levels by decreasing the liver's production of endogenous glucose, decreasing insulin resistance, and decreasing the reabsorption of carbohydrates in the gut.

Let us revisit Patient K, who has been taking metformin to control her type 2 diabetes. One year ago, Patient K was started on metformin 500 mg each evening with recommendations to attend diabetes self-management education. Since then, her dosage has been titrated up, and she currently takes metformin 1,000 mg twice per day. At her scheduled appointment, Patient K has an HbA1c level of 8.8% (estimated average glucose: 206 mg/dL) and claims to be adherent with her meal and exercise plan the majority of the time. Occasional SMBG indicates fasting levels between 145 mg/dL and 170 mg/dL and postprandial levels between 180 mg/dL and 230 mg/dL. Although the metformin achieved a small decrease in Patient K's blood glucose levels, she has not obtained satisfactory results. More intensive therapy, with a second antihyperglycemic agent, is necessary, and the physician prescribes glyburide 2.5 mg daily. Upon hearing this, the patient becomes teary-eyed and expresses concerns about the cost of the new medication. She states she is on a fixed income and can barely make ends meet. The physician offers to prescribe a combination medication that is less expensive than the two agents separately. Patient K agrees and is prescribed Glucovance 2.5 mg/500 mg in the morning and continues with metformin 1,000 mg in the evening.

Patient K returns for a three-month follow-up. Her HbA1c demonstrates a decrease, with the result of 8.1% (estimated average glucose: 186 mg/dL) and a fasting blood glucose level of 110 mg/dL. SMBG records show fasting blood glucose levels consistently between 98 mg/dL and 120 mg/dL and postprandial levels between 160 mg/dL and 200 mg/dL. The patient has also made great improvements in adhering to meal plans, exercise goals, and SMBG. However, the physician stresses the need for Patient K's HbA1c level to be less than 7.0%, and they agree to change therapy to Glucovance 2.5 mg/500 mg twice per day. The patient agrees to wake at 3 a.m. at least twice in the first week to test her morning blood glucose level to assess for nocturnal hypoglycemia.

Rationale and comments : Patient K's morning blood glucose levels are close to optimal, but her postprandial levels remain elevated and her HbA1c level remains suboptimal. She has demonstrated greater adherence to her meal, exercise, and SMBG plans. Metformin will continue to impact her fasting and mid-day blood glucose levels by decreasing the liver's production of endogenous glucose, decreasing insulin resistance, and decreasing the reabsorption of carbohydrates in the gut. In addition, glyburide will assist the pancreas in the production of insulin. Patient K will require education regarding the importance of determining the presence of nocturnal hypoglycemia, signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia, and conditions that require communication with her primary care physician.

Learning Tools - Case Studies

CASE STUDY 5


Patient H is an African American woman, 38 years of age, presenting to her primary care physician for a routine physical with complaints of fatigue and constant hunger. She is 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs 235 pounds, with a calculated BMI of 36.9 kg/m2. She has a strong history of diabetes and coronary artery disease on both sides of her family, a personal history of gestational diabetes with her last two children, and is employed as a legal secretary. A finger stick reveals a blood glucose level of 213 mg/dL. A diagnosis of diabetes is made, and the patient is referred for fasting blood work, which reveals:

  • HbA1c: 7.8% (estimated average glucose: 177 mg/dL)

  • Fasting blood glucose: 137 mg/dL

  • Two-hour glucose level (after 75 g oral glucose tolerance test): 187 mg/dL

  • Triglycerides: 178 mg/dL

  • LDL: 131 mg/dL

  • HDL: 21 mg/dL

The physician refers Patient H to an ADA-recognized diabetes education program so she may receive information regarding blood glucose monitoring and exercise and meal planning. At her follow-up appointment, the patient's HbA1c has not significantly changed, with a result of 7.7% (estimated average glucose: 174 mg/dL) and a fasting blood glucose level of 172 mg/dL. SMBG records reveal fasting blood glucose levels consistently between 155 mg/dL and 190 mg/dL and postprandial levels steadily between 190 mg/dL and 213 mg/dL. Patient H claims to be adherent to her meal and exercise planning goals but is struggling with weight loss and hunger. As a result, her physician initiates her on TZD therapy. The patient is prescribed pioglitazone 15 mg each morning, and she is advised to continue with her meal and exercise plans. Patient H is also given instructions to report any signs of sudden weight gain, shortness of breath, or chest pains, as these could be signs of excessive fluid retention related to TZD therapy.

Rationale and comments : Patient H has been adherent to her meal and exercise plan with little success and growing frustration. Her morning and postprandial blood glucose levels are above normal, and both contribute to the elevated HbA1c levels. TZD therapy is indicated for Patient H because of her family history of coronary heart disease, obesity, and suspected insulin resistance.

Learning Tools - Case Studies

CASE STUDY 6


Patient B is a Pacific Islander woman, 64 years of age, presenting to the primary care physician with complaints of a urinary tract infection (UTI) and fatigue. She attributes the fatigue to waking frequently at night due to the UTI. The patient denies any recent history of febrile states or pain with urination. She is 5 feet 1 inch tall and weighs 170 pounds, with a calculated BMI of 32.2 kg/m2. She confirms a family history of diabetes on her mother's side and admits to a sedentary lifestyle.

Patient B's urine sample is negative for infection. A random finger stick reveals a blood glucose level of 207 mg/dL. She is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes based on her blood glucose level and the characteristic symptoms (polyuria and fatigue).

In order to gain additional information, Patient B is referred for fasting blood work. The results of this blood work indicate:

  • HbA1c: 7.8% (estimated average glucose: 177 mg/dL)

  • Fasting blood glucose: 147 mg/dL

  • Triglycerides: 167 mg/dL

  • LDL: 199 mg/dL

  • HDL: 32 mg/dL

Patient B is referred to an ADA-recognized diabetes education program and is initiated on treatment for dyslipidemia based on her very high LDL level and borderline high triglycerides.

When Patient B returns for her three-month follow-up appointment, she acknowledges compliance to her meal and exercise planning goals with very little success. Her repeat HbA1c demonstrates minimal change with a result of 7.6% (estimated average glucose: 171 mg/dL) and a fasting blood glucose level of 165 mg/dL. Her fasting levels during SMBG are generally between 145 mg/dL and 170 mg/dL; her postprandial levels are between 170 mg/dL and 190 mg/dL.

DPP-4 therapy is determined to be the best treatment choice to control Patient B's diabetes. She is started on sitagliptin 100 mg each morning and continues her meal plan and exercise program.

Rationale and comments : Patient B's higher than normal fasting and postprandial blood glucose levels are contributing to the elevated HbA1c levels, and she has been adherent to her meal plan and exercise program with minimal success. This treatment is appropriate for Patient B because DPP-4 therapy assists in weight loss while impacting blood glucose levels.

Learning Tools - Case Studies

CASE STUDY 7


Patient A is a white man, 19 years of age, with a history of type 1 diabetes. He is currently in the end of his first year of college and studying for his final examinations. He has been unable to exercise due to the amount of time devoted to studying. His eating has been erratic, and he has forgotten to cover his meals with insulin aspart. He presents to the emergency department with a six-hour history of abdominal pain, nausea, and confusion as reported by his roommate. The roommate also recalls a fruity odor to Patient A's breath and knows he has not been consuming alcohol. When asked questions regarding his blood glucose levels, Patient A is confused and unable to recall any past history of testing. The roommate states he did not witness the patient assessing any glucose levels. The patient's laboratory evaluation reveals:

  • Blood glucose: 531 mg/dL

  • Strong serum ketones

  • Bicarbonate: 3 mEq/L

  • Arterial pH: 7.1

  • Potassium: 5.3

  • CO2: 10 mmol/L

  • Liver function tests: Within normal limits

  • Renal function: Within normal limits

Rationale and Comments : Diabetic ketoacidosis should be the expected diagnosis. Signs and symptoms that support this diagnosis include:

  • History of type 1 diabetes

  • High level of stress related to upcoming examinations

  • Erratic eating patterns

  • Not covering carbohydrates with insulin

  • Acetone breath, confusion, nausea

  • Laboratory glucose, bicarbonate, pH, CO2, and serum ketone levels

Based on the laboratory values and patient history, the attending physician diagnoses diabetic ketoacidosis and orders insulin therapy: a bolus of regular insulin at 0.1 units/kg followed by an insulin infusion of 0.1 units/kg/hour. An infusion of 0.9% sodium chloride at 20 mL/kg/hour is administered for the first hour. Blood glucose levels are monitored hourly, and adjustments to the infusion are made based on hospital policy.

Eighteen hours after admission, Patient A awakes. His blood glucose is well controlled on the insulin infusion, and his acidosis is resolved. One hour prior to discontinuation of the insulin infusion, he is started on his home dose of insulin glargine, as his HbA1c level was assessed to be 7.1%. The next morning, the patient remains stable and his glucose status is controlled.

Before Patient A is discharged, important patient education points are reviewed and reinforced. The nurse assesses the patient's insulin administration technique by allowing him to demonstrate drawing up and administering his insulin injections. An overview of the onset, peak action times, and duration of all prescribed insulin preparations is provided. The need for injection site rotation and appropriate storage of insulin vials are stressed. The nurse also provides Patient A with information on stress management techniques. Finally, the nurse gives the patient written information regarding sick day management and encourages him to share the handout with his roommate or anyone else who will be involved with his care or well-being.

Learning Tools - Case Studies

CASE STUDY 8


Patient T is a defense attorney in a busy prestigious law firm. She has dealt with type 1 diabetes since the age of 13 years. She was started on an insulin pump in order to improve her blood glucose control and her overall health. Patient T has been happy with the results achieved with the pump, with the exception of a recent weight gain of 10 pounds and increases in her postprandial blood glucose levels. She confers with her endocrinologist regarding options to decrease the postprandial levels and alleviate any further weight gain.

The endocrinologist suggests treatment with exenatide. However, Patient T is concerned with returning to a twice-daily injection, which is one reason she appreciates insulin pump therapy. The patient and her endocrinologist discuss this option, and although she is hesitant to return to daily injections, the patient chooses to attempt the therapy. The endocrinologist prescribes exenatide 5 mcg twice daily.

After four weeks of therapy with exenatide, Patient T returns for follow-up. She states that although she initially experienced nausea, her weight is starting to trend down and her postprandial levels are improving. Patient T indicates she would like to continue with the exenatide therapy based on seen benefits.

Learning Tools - Case Studies

CASE STUDY 9


Patient W is a Native American woman, 48 years of age, who is admitted to the hospital with complaints of chest pain. She is 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 256 pounds; her BMI is 41.4 kg/m2. Her vital signs are assessed; her heart rate is 122 beats per minute, regular rate and rhythm, blood pressure is 198/101 mm Hg, and oral temperature is 37.4 degrees Celsius. Her past medical history is positive for gestational diabetes with her fourth child (five years previous), bilateral arthritis of the knees, and tobacco use. Patient W denies use of recreational drugs and homeopathic pharmaceuticals, but she does admit to occasional alcohol usage, generally two beers per day on the weekend. Her family history includes diabetes, heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and alcohol abuse. Although her electrocardiogram is negative for myocardial infarction, her stress test reveals left coronary artery ischemia. Her cardiac enzymes are negative, but other significant laboratory results include:

  • Triglycerides: 250 mg/dL

  • LDL: 141 mg/dL

  • HDL: 22 mg/dL

  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN): 35 mg/dL

  • Creatinine: 1.5 mg/dL

  • Random blood glucose: 310 mg/dL

  • HbA1c: 9.5% (estimated average glucose: 226 mg/dL)

  • Liver function tests: Within normal limits

Patient W is admitted for a cardiac catheterization and further cardiac work-up. She is started on blood glucose monitoring before meals and at bedtime with weight-based insulin correction with analog (rapid-acting) insulin, a calorie-controlled cardiac diet, antihypertensive medication, a statin for lipid management, an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor, and pain medications as needed for chest pain or discomfort.

On hospital day 2, Patient W has a fasting blood glucose of 210 mg/dL. She receives rapid-acting insulin coverage per weight-based protocol even though she is being prepared for cardiac catheterization in the late morning and has not eaten. At approximately 10 a.m., the patient is taken for a cardiac catheterization, which reveals a 90% blockage of the left coronary artery, and subsequently undergoes percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). A drug-eluting stent is placed. Postprocedure, Patient W returns to her room mildly sedated with an arterial line in place and a blood glucose level of 201 mg/dL, for which she receives weight-based coverage. At 5 p.m., the patient is alert and hungry. Her arterial line is discontinued, and her blood glucose is 220 mg/dL, for which she again receives weight-based coverage. At 9 p.m., Patient W has been pain free throughout the day and is ready to sleep. Her blood glucose level is 201 mg/dL. She is given insulin and is instructed to notify the nurse of any pain, palpitations, sweating, shakiness, and/or dizziness.

On hospital day 3, Patient W awakens with a blood glucose level of 248 mg/dL. Her physician initiates basal insulin to obtain better glucose control. She is cleared for discharge by her cardiologist, but her primary care physician would prefer to monitor her glucose levels for one more day, including her two-hour postprandial level after her evening meal. Throughout the day, the following blood glucose levels are documented:

  • 7 a.m.: 248 mg/dL

  • 11 a.m.: 121 mg/dL

  • 5 p.m.: 118 mg/dL

  • 7 p.m. (two-hour postprandial): 210 mg/dL

  • 9 p.m.: 178 mg/dL

The following morning, Patient W is discharged to home with a prescription for glyburide 2.5 mg twice a day for her newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes. She is also referred to an ADA-recognized education program. She receives survival skills education prior to leaving the hospital and is encouraged to contact the outpatient education center within the first week after discharge. Patient W agrees with her discharge plan and states understanding of all instructions given.

Rationale and comments : The treatment approach appears appropriate to manage Patient W's diabetes. Patient education will be extensive for this patient given the many new medications and changes associated with the PCI and her various conditions. Education specific to the glyburide should include instructions to eat meals at a consistent time (not skipping meals) and information regarding the signs, symptoms, and treatment of hypoglycemia.

At her follow-up appointment, Patient W has completed her self-management education and set personal behavior change goals for meal planning and exercise. She is demonstrating competent SMBG assessment; her fasting levels are between 140 mg/dL and 170 mg/dL, and her postprandial levels range from 160 mg/dL to 200 mg/dL. The patient's occasional two-hour postprandial readings range from 190 mg/dL to 230 mg/dL. Her fasting laboratory results are as follows:

  • Fasting blood glucose: 167 mg/dL

  • HbA1c: 8.6% (estimated average glucose: 200 mg/dL)

  • Triglycerides: 220 mg/dL

  • LDL: 110 mg/dL

  • HDL: 33 mg/dL

  • BUN: 35 mg/dL

  • Creatinine: 1.5 mg/dL

  • Liver function tests: Within normal limits

In order to improve Patient W's blood glucose control, her physician chooses to increase her glyburide to 5 mg twice a day with instruction to return for follow-up in one month to assess the efficacy of treatment. In one month, Patient W continues to have difficulties achieving optimal control on monotherapy. The decision is made to start combination therapy with pioglitazone, a TZD.

Rationale and comments : Combination therapy with a TZD is the correct choice for Patient W because her BUN and creatinine levels are too high to safely utilize metformin. Furthermore, her casual use of alcohol on the weekends can be an area of concern with the potential for liver dysfunction. Pioglitazone will address the issue of insulin resistance in the presence of the metabolic syndrome and has beneficial effects on coronary artery disease in the presence of type 2 diabetes.

Prior to leaving the physician's office, the nurse reviews the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia with Patient W. The patient is instructed to alert her primary care physician of frequent episodes of hypoglycemia. She is also counseled regarding the need to eat meals at spaced intervals throughout the day to decrease the chances of developing hypoglycemia.

The heart failure risks associated with TZD use are discussed as well as the need to report any weight increase of 3 to 5 pounds over a two-day period to her primary care physician. Patient W is also advised to contact her primary care physician if she experiences any symptoms related to liver dysfunction/failure, such as unexplained nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fatigue, anorexia, or dark urine. Finally, the patient is reminded of the need to monitor her liver function by venipuncture periodically while on pioglitazone.

Learning Tools - Case Studies

CASE STUDY 10


Patient O is a Hispanic male, 48 years of age, with a seven-year history of type 2 diabetes. He presents to his primary care physician's office for a routine follow-up appointment to assess his diabetes control. His only complaint at the time of his appointment is an occasional burning sensation in his bilateral lower extremities.

Patient O's past medical history is positive for type 2 diabetes diagnosed at 41 years of age, hypertension for the past two years, and new onset of hyperlipidemia within the past six months. He is negative for renal disease, retinopathy, and peripheral vascular disease. The patient's family history is positive for type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, cerebral vascular accident, hyperlipidemia, and obesity.

During the physical assessment, Patient O is alert and oriented. His height (5 feet 10 inches), weight (239 pounds), and BMI (34.4 kg/m2) are measured and documented. Blood pressure is 128/68 mm Hg on medications, pulse is 74 beats per minute, and oral temperature is 37 degrees Celsius. Lungs are clear to auscultation, and heart sounds are clear without rubs or murmurs. The patient's abdomen is soft and nontender at all quadrants. Peripheral pulses are present at +2 at all extremities, and feet are free from lesions with a positive Babinski reflex. All extremities are warm to touch and responsive to monofilament test.

Patient O's laboratory results include:

  • HbA1c: 8.1% (estimated average glucose: 186 mg/dL)

  • Fasting blood glucose: 155 mg/dL

  • BUN: 24 mg/dL

  • Creatinine: 1.3 mg/dL

  • ALT: 16 U/L

  • HDL: 31 mg/dL

  • LDL: 122 mg/dL

  • Triglycerides: 201 mg/dL

  • Microalbuminuria: 312 mcg/mg

The patient is currently prescribed captopril 25 mg twice a day, simvastatin 40 mg daily at bedtime, metformin 1,000 mg twice per day, and glipizide extended-release 20 mg daily. He has previously met with a registered nurse certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian certified diabetes educator regarding self-care management, blood glucose monitoring, behavior change, meal planning, and goal setting. He tests his blood glucose levels twice a day at various times.

At this visit, Patient O receives the results of his blood work and has expressed concerns regarding his recent SMBG numbers and new onset of burning in his lower extremities. He presents verbalizing frustration and feeling like a failure. It is vital to actively listen to the patient regarding his frustrations and fears related to his diabetes. It is also important to educate him regarding the progressive nature of diabetes, regardless of the attentiveness a person gives to the care of the disease [2].

The nurse reviews Patient O's eating and exercise habits to see if any changes could be made to optimize control. Furthermore, sources of stress are discussed. Patient O is told that worrying about the progression of his diabetes and having anxiety regarding adherence to his meal or exercise plan is normal, but it is possible for this additional stress and anxiety to result in increased blood glucose levels [7]. Patient O states that he was unaware of the impact stress was having on his body.

Due to the continued elevated blood glucose levels, the primary care physician wants to maximize oral medication therapy, most likely by adding a DPP-4 inhibitor, an alpha-glucosidase inhibitor, or a TZD [2]. In order to make a decision regarding the most appropriate agent, each of the classes' benefits and risks should be considered with Patient O in mind. The addition of a DPP-4 inhibitor has been shown to be weight neutral, occasionally demonstrating a reduction in weight. The dose can be decreased for safe use in those individuals who have some renal impairment, such as Patient O [51]. The greatest drawback of DPP-4 inhibitor therapy is the cost.

The addition of an alpha-glucosidase inhibitor is a less expensive option and would benefit Patient O by decreasing the absorption of complex carbohydrates in the intestinal tract. The alpha-glucosidase inhibitors do have objectionable side effects, such as recurrent flatulence, that some patients are unable to tolerate [50]. Patient education needs for those taking alpha-glucosidase inhibitors include timing of medication with meals, gastrointestinal side effects, and the treatment of hypoglycemia [49,50,65].

The addition of a TZD would reduce insulin resistance and reduce cardiovascular risk factors, including markers of vascular inflammation [2]. However, precautions should be taken when this therapy is prescribed. Weight gain and liver damage are possible, and laboratory levels should be regularly monitored. Patient education regarding weight gain and shortness of breath is necessary as these are signs of impending heart failure.

The final option for Patient O would be to continue current therapy and add basal insulin. This would provide long-acting coverage to allow the metformin and extended-release glipizide to have a greater effect. This also has obstacles to acceptance, including fear of injection, fear of acute hypoglycemia, and misconceptions about insulin therapy. All therapy choices would be viable options for Patient O, and as a healthcare provider, understanding of all available agents is needed to support the final decision.

Learning Tools - Case Studies

CASE STUDY 11


Patient F is a black female resident of a local long-term care facility. She is 87 years of age and has had type 2 diabetes for the past 25 years. In addition to diabetes, Patient F has a past medical history of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, peripheral neuropathy, and mild Alzheimer disease. Her son and daughter-in-law came to visit and found the patient confused, wet with foul urine, and begging for water. She had a temperature of 38.5 degrees Celsius. The family requested her transfer to the emergency department for evaluation and treatment.

Upon admission to the emergency department, Patient F is increasingly confused and combative, with a body temperature of 38.8 degrees Celsius. She is started on oxygen at 2 liters for an oxygen saturation of 88%. Laboratory samples are obtained, and an infusion of 0.9% sodium chloride is initiated at 75 mL/hour for observed signs of dehydration. The laboratory results indicate:

  • Blood glucose: 1179 mg/dL

  • Potassium: 5.2 mEq/L

  • Phosphorus: 3.4 mmol/L

  • Ketones: Minimal

  • Serum osmolality: 420 mOsm/kg

  • HbA1c: 11.9%

  • White blood cell count: 46,000

  • Urinalysis: Positive for bacteria

Based on this information, a diagnosis of HHS is made. Because HHS is characterized by profound dehydration, management is initially focused on rehydration. The physician orders an increase in the current 0.9% sodium chloride infusion to 100 mL/hour. Because there are no dysrhythmias noted on the telemetry monitor, the physician continues to monitor the potassium level with subsequent laboratory assessments. Patient F is also started on empirical antibiotic therapy for a suspected UTI until the results of urine and blood culture are known. An additional intravenous access is initiated in order to administer insulin. A regular insulin bolus of 0.1 units/kg followed by an infusion of regular insulin is ordered to run at a rate of 0.1 units/kg/hour.

Patient F's blood glucose levels slowly drop to 275 mg/dL, but her osmolality is 365 mOsm/kg and she remains confused. Because the patient's osmolality remains greater than 350 mOsm/kg and her confusion is unresolved, her blood glucose levels should be maintained between 250 mg/dL and 300 mg/dL. Her potassium level stabilizes without intravenous therapy and is currently 4.2 mEq/L. Her telemetry readings remain in sinus rhythm.

After 36 hours of therapy, Patient F has an osmolality of less than 315 mOsm/kg, and she is back to her baseline mentation. Her blood glucose level is 225 mg/dL, and she is getting prepared to transfer off of the insulin infusion.

Rationale and comments : Several considerations should be made in order to continue to achieve optimal glycemic control. The patient's HbA1c is 11.9%, which is considered uncontrolled. If a long-acting insulin is not started, the glucose levels will rebound. Also, it is vital that hydration status is maintained. Basal insulin should be given at least one hour prior to the discontinuation of the insulin infusion in order to prevent rebound hyperglycemia, which is a risk due to Patient F's continuing UTI and high HbA1c.

Patient F is maintained on 0.9% sodium chloride 75 mL/hour until adequate oral intake is established. She also starts insulin detemir 0.2 units/kg (total dose: 15 units) to be given once per day at night, which should provide weight-based coverage for correction of glucose elevations.

After three days, Patient F's HHS has been resolved, and the team is preparing the patient for discharge. However, she continues to have blood glucose levels between 280 mg/dL and 400 mg/dL.

Rationale and comments : There are several available options for Patient F. Insulin detemir may be continuously increased to desired effect and/or split to a twice daily schedule. If glycemic control is not achieved on the long-acting insulin preparation, addition of bolus insulin therapy may be necessary. Because the patient is a resident of a long-term care facility and has a history of cognitive impairment, the better option for her may be combination therapy.

To combat the consistently high blood glucose levels, Patient F's insulin detemir dose is increased to 15 units twice a day. The next day, the patient has the following glucose results: 146 mg/dL, 175 mg/dL, 188 mg/dL, and 136 mg/dL. Her primary care provider is satisfied with these readings and plans to discharge her the following day.

  • Back to Course Home
  • Participation Instructions