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Clinical features and diagnosis of diabetic ketoacidosis in children

George S Jeha, MD
Morey W Haymond, MD
Section Editor
Joseph I Wolfsdorf, MB, BCh
Deputy Editor
Alison G Hoppin, MD


Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in children with type 1 diabetes mellitus. Less commonly, it can occur in children with type 2 diabetes mellitus. DKA is caused by absolute or relative insulin deficiency. (See "Classification of diabetes mellitus and genetic diabetic syndromes".)

The incidence and prevalence of type 2 diabetes mellitus have increased across all ethnic groups. This has been coupled with an increasing awareness that children with type 2 diabetes mellitus can present with ketosis or DKA, particularly in obese African American adolescents [1-7]. (See "Classification of diabetes mellitus and genetic diabetic syndromes", section on 'DKA in type 2 diabetes'.)

The clinical features and diagnosis of DKA in children will be reviewed here. This discussion is primarily based upon the large collective experience of children with type 1 diabetes mellitus. There is limited experience in the assessment and diagnosis of DKA in children with type 2 diabetes mellitus, although the same principles should apply. The management of diabetes in children, treatment of DKA in children and the epidemiology and pathogenesis of DKA are discussed separately. (See "Management of type 1 diabetes mellitus in children and adolescents" and "Treatment and complications of diabetic ketoacidosis in children" and "Diabetic ketoacidosis and hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state in adults: Epidemiology and pathogenesis".)


Diabetic ketoacidosis – A consensus statement from the International Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Diabetes (ISPAD) in 2014 defined the following biochemical criteria for the diagnosis of DKA [8]:

Hyperglycemia – blood glucose of >200 mg/dL (11 mmol/L) AND


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Apr 22, 2016.
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