Verhandelingen van de Koninklijke Academie voor Geneeskunde van België vol:72 issue:3-4 pages:149-163
Critically ill patients face a high risk of death, which is mostly due to non-resolving multiple organ failure. The plethora of endocrine and metabolic disturbances that hallmark critical illness may play a key role. The major part of our research performed during the period 2004-2009 focused on the disturbed glucose metabolism that commonly develops during critical illness. The onset of this research interest was the landmark randomized clinical study on strict blood glucose control (80-110 mg/ dl) with intensive insulin therapy performed by Prof. Van den Berghe and our clinical team members. This study, published in 2001 in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed reduced morbidity and improved survival with intensive insulin therapy versus toleration of hyperglycemia up to 215 mg/dl. This review summarizes our findings in both patients and animal models on mechanisms contributing to the clinical benefits of strict blood glucose control. Intensive insulin therapy appeared to lower blood glucose levels by ameliorating insulin sensitivity and stimulation of glucose uptake in skeletal muscle, whereas hepatic insulin resistance was not affected. The therapy also improved the lipid profile and the immune response and attenuated inflammation. Maintenance of strict normoglycemia appeared essentially most important, rather than elevating insulin levels. Avoiding hyperglycemia protected the endothelium and the mitochondria. In our animal model, nutritional interventions counteracted the hypercatabolic state of critical illness and insulin improved myocardial contractility, but only when normoglycemia was maintained. Interestingly, we identified the adipose tissue as a functional storage depot for toxic metabolites during critical illness.