Estimated Risk for Undiagnosed Diabetes in the Emergency Department: A Multicenter Survey




BackgroundOne third of the 21 million Americans with diabetes remain undiagnosed. The emergency department (ED) is a novel setting for diabetes screening.

ObjectivesTo estimate risk factors for undiagnosed diabetes in the ED.

MethodsThis was a cross sectional survey in five Boston EDs. The authors enrolled consecutive adults without known diabetes over two 24-hour periods at each site. The focus was on diabetes risk factors and estimated risk for diabetes on the basis of American Diabetes Association (ADA) criteria. The authors also examined prior diabetes testing and willingness to participate in ED-based diabetes screening.

ResultsSix hundred four patients (70% of eligible) were enrolled. On the basis of ADA risk score, 33% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 29% to 37%) were high risk for undiagnosed diabetes, and an additional 42% (95% CI = 38% to 46%) had elevated risk. For example, 58% (95% CI = 54% to 62%) of participants were overweight or obese (body mass index of ≥25). Among these at-risk participants without prior diabetes testing, 73% (95% CI = 66% to 80%) reported amenability to having additional blood drawn for ED diabetes screening, and 98% (95% CI = 96% to 100%) indicated that they would follow up for confirmation of abnormal screening.

ConclusionsMany ED patients in the study had risk factors for undiagnosed diabetes. Patient attitudes toward ED-based diabetes screening support further exploration of this important and currently underutilized opportunity for public health intervention.