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The role of hyperglycaemia in critical illness, and its corresponding treatment, has been an area of controversy, fuelled by conflicting research findings. The aims of this study were to critically evaluate the literature and present an historical review of the sequence of published papers relating to blood glucose control in critical care. Their subsequent impact together with the implications for patient care is discussed. This article is based on a systematic review of papers relating to glycaemic control in critical care patients. The review was conducted using the MedLine, CINAHL and EMBASE databases using key search terms (details of the search terms can be found after the conclusion of the paper) for the period 1950-2006. The searches resulted in 4863 papers being screened for relevance to the historic progression of glycaemic management in critical care patients, by title and then abstract. Of these, 209 were accessed, and their reference lists were snowballed for further papers. Papers that were repeatedly quoted throughout the literature and were therefore considered important in the historical development of accepted critical care practice were finally subjected to rigorous appraisal. These totalled 91 papers and included 18 randomized controlled trials, an additional 28 research papers, 25 editorials and 20 reviews. This critical evaluation of published work indicates that the evidence for the benefit of this therapy may not be as compelling as previously indicated, and its widespread use may have been premature. From a nursing perspective, this demonstrates the importance of maintaining a questioning attitude to new therapies and reviewing best practice in the light of evolving evidence.

Original publication




Journal article


Nurs Crit Care

Publication Date





202 - 210


Blood Glucose, Critical Care, Critical Illness, Female, Humans, Hyperglycemia, Hypoglycemic Agents, Intensive Care Units, Male, Monitoring, Physiologic, Prognosis, Risk Assessment, Severity of Illness Index, Survival Analysis