UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Pediatrics

Title: Cerebral Edema in Pediatric DKA, Part 1

Keywords: DKA, diabetic ketoacidosis, Pediatric, Children, Mental Status Change (PubMed Search)

Posted: 4/13/2010 by Adam Friedlander, MD (Emailed: 4/16/2010) (Updated: 4/16/2010)
Click here to contact Adam Friedlander, MD

  • Cerebral edema develops in 20-90% of children with DKA, and mortality ranges from 20-90%
  • Children younger than 5, and with newly diagnosed diabetes are at higher risk, and the risk in children in general is MUCH higher than the risk in adults
  • Cerebral edema usually results from osmolarity changes during treatment, but may precede treatment
  • Limit fluid repletion to isotonic fluids (Normal Saline), at a rate of no faster than 10-20 mL/kg/hr (In shock, resuscitate as usual)
  • Head CT Is of limited value as the majority of children in DKA may show signs of subclinical cerebral edema, TREAT BASED ON CLINICAL SIGNS, and do not delay treatment for head CT which is likely to be abnormal in ALL kids
  • Bicarb is implicated in increasing the risk of cerebral edema - focus on correction of acidosis with insulin and appropriate fluids, NOT bicarb

...more to come.


  • Wolfsdorf, J, Glaser, N, Sperling, MA. Diabetic ketoacidosis in infants, children, and adolescents: A consensus statement from the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care 2006; 29:1150.
  • Glaser N; Barnett P; McCaslin I; Nelson D; Trainor J; Louie J; Kaufman F; Quayle K; Roback M; Malley R; Kuppermann N. Risk factors for cerebral edema in children with diabetic ketoacidosis. The Pediatric Emergency Medicine Collaborative Research Committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics. N Engl J Med. 2001 Jan 25;344(4):264-9.
  • Edge JA; Hawkins MM; Winter DL; Dunger DB. The risk and outcome of cerebral oedema developing during diabetic ketoacidosis. Arch Dis Child 2001 Jul;85(1):16-22.