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Blood test detects undiagnosed diabetes in hospital patients

Patients with high blood sugar and no known history of diabetes were five times more likely to leave the hospital with a diagnosis if given a standard test.

By Stephen Feller
Researchers say the high rate of hospital patients with high blood sugar diagnosed with diabetes who had no known history of the condition suggests increased screening is necessary to catch these patients. Photo by Bacho/Shutterstock
Researchers say the high rate of hospital patients with high blood sugar diagnosed with diabetes who had no known history of the condition suggests increased screening is necessary to catch these patients. Photo by Bacho/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, May 23 (UPI) -- More than half of hospital patients with high blood sugar and no known history of diabetes were found to have the condition after being given a standard test for it, researchers found in a recent study.

Researchers at Touro University and Ohio University found a high rate of missed diabetes diagnoses were caught in the hospital, which they say suggests changes to hospital protocol and increased screening for the condition is necessary.

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The HbA1C test is used to measure average blood glucose level over the previous 8 to 12 weeks. Often, it detects hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar -- which can be ascribed to physiologic stress, illness or medications.

Hyperglycemia is often detected in hospital patients during treatment for conditions such as sepsis or heart attack, and the recent study showing a high proportion of these patients having diabetes or prediabetes suggests there is more doctors can do.

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"We are missing opportunities to detect diabetes and initiate treatment for those patients to help manage that disease, which can reduce their long-term cost of care and disease burden," Dr. Jay Shubrook, a researcher at Touro University California, said in a press release.

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For the study, published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, the researchers reviewed medical records for 348 hospital patients with hyperglycemia in the hospital.

Of the 50 that had no known history of diabetes, 31 were given HbA1c tests. Six patients had levels consistent with prediabetes and 18 had levels consistent with diabetes, with 17 -- more than half -- diagnosed with the condition before hospital discharge. Two patients not given an HbA1c test also were diagnosed with diabetes before discharge.

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"From the osteopathic perspective of early detection equals better outcomes, it's easy to make a case for hospital protocols to trigger an HbA1C test when hyperglycemia is detected to distinguish between transient hyperglycemia and chronic disease," Shubrook said.

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