Article Text

Download PDFPDF

139 Glucose monitoring and prevention of adrenal crisis in patients prescribed high-dose steroids in a specialist palliative care unit and specialist oncology unit
  1. Erin Mercer,
  2. Timothy George and
  3. Eleanor M Smith
  1. Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust


Background Corticosteroids are frequently prescribed in Palliative Care to improve symptoms from various conditions. However, they can affect glucose homeostasis and may cause steroid-induced adrenal insufficiency if patients become acutely unwell. Anecdotally, practice within hospital settings is varied.

Aims To audit prescriptions and management against Trust guidelines and then identify areas for improvement.

Methods Patients prescribed corticosteroids 10 mg prednisolone (or equivalent) for 5 days in Weston Park Hospital (WPH) and Macmillan Palliative Care Unit (MPCU) were included. Data was collected from notes and Trust IT systems (Lorenzo and ICE) between 1st – 31st March, 2019. Findings were recorded using Survey Monkey.

Results Thirty patients were identified at WPH; eight at MPCU. Doses were documented (100%) at both sites. Indications were less clear; 70% had documented indications at WPH (n=21) vs 25% at MPCU (n=2). Fewer had documented duration of therapy; 20% at WPH (n=6) vs 0% at MPCU.

100% of patients at MPCU had blood glucose measured daily (n=8) vs 20% at WPH (n=6). 80% identified as entering their last phase of life had steroids reviewed at MPCU (n=4) vs 25% at WPH (n=1). 100% who became acutely unwell had their steroid dose increased at MPCU (n=2) vs 0% at WPH. No patients discharged with steroids (21 patients at WPH and one at MPCU) were given ‘sick-day’ education or rescue steroids. Only one patient at WPH was discharged with glucose monitoring (4.8%).

Conclusions Glucose monitoring in patients taking high-dose steroids is better at MPCU than WPH, possibly due to existing interventions triggering review on consultant-led rounds; we hope to replicate this at WPH. Outpatient glucose monitoring and ‘sick-day’ education were universally poor, placing patients at risk of unmonitored diabetes and adrenal crisis. Further education is planned from Trust Diabetic and Endocrinology teams with a re-audit in 2020.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.