, Volume 62, Issue 10, pp 1868–1879 | Cite as

Outcomes of people with severe hypoglycaemia requiring prehospital emergency medical services management: a prospective study

  • Melanie Villani
  • Arul Earnest
  • Karen Smith
  • Dimitra Giannopoulos
  • Georgia Soldatos
  • Barbora de Courten
  • Sophia ZoungasEmail author



The aim of this work was to investigate clinical outcomes following severe hypoglycaemia requiring prehospital emergency medical services (EMS) management.


We carried out a prospective, observational study of adults with diabetes attended by prehospital EMS for management of severe hypoglycaemia between April 2016 and July 2017. Information on precipitants, hospitalisation, length of hospital stay and recurrence was collected at 1 and 3 months following the episode of severe hypoglycaemia. Median and logistic regression models examined predictive factors.


Five hundred and five adults (61% male, median age 67 years) participated in the study. Fifty-two per cent had type 1 diabetes, 43% type 2 diabetes and 5% were unsure of their diabetes type. Following EMS management of the index episode of severe hypoglycaemia, 50.3% were transported to hospital. Of those transported, 41.3% were admitted to hospital for ongoing management (20.8% of all participants). The following factors predicted hospital admission: older age (OR 1.28 [95% CI 1.02, 1.60] per 10 years), greater number of comorbidities (OR 1.27 [95% CI 1.08, 1.48] per morbidity), moderate–severe injury accompanying the hypoglycaemia (OR 5.24 [95% CI 1.07, 25.8] compared with nil–mild injury) and unknown cause of hypoglycaemia (OR 2.21 [95% CI 1.24, 3.94] compared with known cause). The median (interquartile range) length of hospital stay was 4 (2–7) days. During follow-up, recurrent severe hypoglycaemia attended by prehospital EMS was experienced by 10.7% of participants. Predictive factors of recurrent severe hypoglycaemia in 3 months were decreased HbA1c (OR 1.97 [95% CI 1.27, 3.06] per 10 mmol/mol decrease) and a greater number of antecedent severe hypoglycaemia episodes (OR 1.12 [95% CI 1.03, 1.23] per episode).


Following an episode of severe hypoglycaemia managed by EMS, one-fifth of participants required hospital admission, more likely in those with advancing age, increasing comorbidities and injury and one-tenth required EMS again for severe hypoglycaemia in a 3 month period, more likely in those with a greater number of antecedent episodes and lower HbA1c. Knowledge of these factors associated with admission and recurrence provides an opportunity for development of targeted strategies aimed at prevention of severe hypoglycaemia in those most vulnerable.


Diabetes Diabetic emergency Emergency medical services Outcome Prehospital Severe hypoglycaemia 



Emergency medical services


Interquartile range



The authors would like to acknowledge the participants for their time and Ambulance Victoria for access to their data warehouse. We also acknowledge the Australian Diabetes Society for the funding support.

Contribution statement

All authors made substantial contribution to the study conception and design, data acquisition or analysis and interpretation and drafting or critical revision of the manuscript. All authors give final approval of the version to be published. MV, AE and SZ are responsible for this work as a whole.


MV is supported by an Australian Postgraduate Scholarship. BdC is supported by a National Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellowship. SZ is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council Senior Research Fellowship. This project received funding from the Australian Diabetes Society.

Duality of interest

The authors declare that there is no duality of interest associated with this manuscript.

Supplementary material

125_2019_4933_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (355 kb)
ESM (PDF 354 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melanie Villani
    • 1
    • 2
  • Arul Earnest
    • 1
  • Karen Smith
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Dimitra Giannopoulos
    • 1
  • Georgia Soldatos
    • 1
    • 4
  • Barbora de Courten
    • 1
    • 4
  • Sophia Zoungas
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Public Health and Preventive MedicineMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Center for Research and EvaluationAmbulance VictoriaBlackburnAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Community Emergency Health and Paramedic PracticeMonash UniversityFrankstonAustralia
  4. 4.Diabetes and Vascular Medicine UnitMonash HealthClaytonAustralia

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