Diabetic Ketoacidosis: A Silent Death

Abstract: Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) results from severe insulin deficiency and can be diagnosed at autopsy despite no known history of the disease. Diabetic ketoacidosis may be the initial manifestation of type 1 diabetes or may result from increased insulin requirement in type 1 diabetic patients. The purpose of this study was to determine the percentage of DKA death investigated by the Office of Chief Medical Examiner that was not associated with a known history of diabetes.

Cases investigated by the Office of Chief Medical Examiner during a 6-year period whose cause of death was DKA were identified using a centralized database. To determine the percentage with known history of diabetes, investigation reports were reviewed for any documentation of this history. The toxicology reports of all DKA deaths were reviewed together with histologic slides, if available, for possible microscopic changes. Concentrations of vitreous glucose, vitreous acetone, and blood acetone were used to diagnose DKA in these autopsied cases. Read More