Major grant to help reduce risk of diabetes for intensive care survivors

Survivors of critical illness face the risk of developing the ‘silent killer’ of type 2 diabetes, but it’s hoped new research will help detect at-risk patients early and prevent it. 

Associate Professor Mark Plummer, Head of Research and Innovation in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, will use a prestigious National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Investigator Grant of $447,129 to improve the management of high blood glucose during and after critical illness. 

Before it’s too late

Around 200,000 Australians are admitted to ICUs each year with close to 90% surviving and being discharged from hospital.  

As a stress response to critical illness, half of ICU patients develop high blood sugar levels that require treatment with insulin, akin to having diabetes, which resolves as the patient improves. Preliminary work by Associate Professor Plummer has shown these episodes of stress induced metabolic disturbance result in a substantially increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the years following hospital discharge.  

“The problem with type 2 diabetes is that it is the “silent killer” – most people don’t know that they have it until it’s too late. So, by the time of diagnoses for heart disease, kidney disease, nerve disease are established, we’ve missed our opportunity to prevent them,” said Associate Professor Mark Plummer. 

Prevention is the best medicine

“What I want to do is to replicate the successful screening models in gestational diabetes, so we can detect patients at risk of developing diabetes early and stop it progressing,” said Associate Professor Mark Plummer. 

Associate Professor Plummer and his research colleagues will monitor survivors at regular intervals, testing how their bodies handle sugar and monitoring for early signs of diabetes. They can then start necessary medications or lifestyle interventions to stop diabetes developing. 

“This grant will be put towards working out who is at risk, how they are at risk, and how they should be followed up” said Associate Professor Plummer.