The implementation and evaluation of an evidence-based protocol to treat diabetic ketoacidosis: A quality improvement study

Kathryn J. Evans, Julie Thompson, Susan E. Spratt, Lillian F. Lien, Allison Vorderstrasse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This retrospective observational quality improvement study was conducted to determine whether an evidence-based protocol for the treatment of diabetic ketoacidosis improved patient outcomes in our academic medical center. This study evaluated fidelity of providers to the protocol, as well as time to resolution of diabetic ketoacidosis as measured by closure of the anion gap (AG). Other secondary outcomes included time to intravenous fluids, time to potassium replacement, and rates of hypoglycemia and hypokalemia. Two cohorts including historical (N = 41) and current (N = 37) were compared to evaluate the effectiveness of the protocol. There were no differences between group demographics at baseline. After implementation of the protocol, 43.2% of patients were treated using full protocol fidelity, 21.6% were treated with partial fidelity, and 35.1% were not treated using the protocol. Although none of the outcomes reached statistical significance, patients in the current group who were treated with full protocol fidelity had an average time to AG closure that was 3 hr less than those who were not treated according to the protocol, and an average time to potassium replacement that was 2 hr less. When comparing the historical cohort with the patients treated with full protocol fidelity, there was improvement in protocol-treated patients in time to AG closure (2 hr), time to dextrose replacement (1.7 hr), and time to potassium replacement (2 hr). The rates of hypokalemia were improved with protocol treatment; 37.5% of protocol-treated patients had hypokalemia as opposed to 63.4% of those not treated according to protocol. Overall, despite the low fidelity in our institution, the protocol promoted evidence-based practice and patients treated according to the protocol had decreased time to treatment outcomes including quicker AG closure, improved intravenous fluids resuscitation, and more accurate and timely electrolyte correction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-198
Number of pages10
JournalAdvanced Emergency Nursing Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014


  • DKA protocol
  • DKA treatment
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency


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