UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Toxicology

Title: Sugar for sulfonylurea-induced hypoglycemia? Try octreotide.

Keywords: sulfonylurea, hypoglycemia, octreotide (PubMed Search)

Posted: 7/28/2015 by Hong Kim, MD (Emailed: 7/31/2015) (Updated: 7/22/2024)
Click here to contact Hong Kim, MD

Oral hypoglycemic agents (e.g. sulfonylureas) can cause symptomatic hypoglycemia. Unlike metformin, sulfonylureas stimulate the release of insulin from beta-cells (in pancreas) in response to serum glucose level.


ED management of hypoglycemia involves:

  1. Dextrose (D50 50mL via IV) administration if symptomatic: e.g. altered mental status
  2. Feeding: food items that are more substantial than juice: e.g. food tray or sandwich
  3. Serial finger stick glucose check


However, for recurrent hypoglycemia (> 3 episodes of hypoglycemia), think about octreotide, rather than starting a dextrose (D5) infusion.


For example, D5 infusion at 150 mL/hour has only 7.5 gm of dextrose (calculation: D5% = 5gm/100 mL). One gram of dextrose contains about 4 calories (equivalent to one piece of Skittles) So, with a D5 infusion at 150 mL/hour, you are giving your patients 8 pieces of Skittles per hour. A bottle of Snapple lemon ice tea (non-diet) has more calories (150 calories in 16 oz. or 473 mL)! 


Octreotide 50 mcg SQ (q6 hour) injection will decrease the insulin release from the beta-cell by blocking the voltage-gated Ca channel on the beta-cell.


All patient who received octreotide in the ED requires admission to the hospital for observation. Patients can be safely discharge from the hospital when finger stick glucose level remains normal for 24 hours after the last dose of octreotide.


Bottom line: In sulfonylrea-induced recurrent hypoglycemia, administer octreotide, rather than continuous infusion of dextrose (D5) solution.