Can serum β-hydroxybutyrate be used to diagnose diabetic ketoacidosis?

Mae Sheikh-Ali, Brad S. Karon, Ananda Basu, Yogish C. Kudva, Lisa A. Muller, Jia Xu, W. Frederick Schwenk, John M. Miles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE-Current criteria for the diagnosis of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) are limited by their nonspecificity (serum bicarbonate [HCO 3] and pH) and qualitative nature (the presence of ketonemia/ketonuria). The present study was undertaken to determine whether quantitative measurement of a ketone body anion could be used to diagnose DKA. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS-A etrospective review of records from hospitalized diabetic patients was undertaken to determine the concentration of serum β-hydroxy-butyrate βOHB) that corresponds to a HCO 3 level of 18 mEq/l, the threshold value for diagnosis in recently published consensus criteria. Simultaneous admission βOHB and HCO 3 values were recorded from 466 encounters, 129 in children and 337 in adults. RESULTS-A HCO 3 level of 18 mEq/l corresponded with βOHB levels of 3.0 and 3.8 mmol/l in children and adults, respectively. With the use of these threshold βOHB values to define DKA, there was substantial discordance (̃≥20%) between βOHB and conventional diagnostic criteria using HCO 3, pH, and glucose. In patients with DKA, there was no correlation between HCO 3 and glucose levels on admission and a significant but weak correlation between βOHB and glucose levels (P < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS -Where available, serum βOHB levels ≥3.0 and ≥ mmol/l in children and adults, respectively, in the presence of uncontrolled diabetes can be used to diagnose DKA and may be superior to the serum HCO 3 level for that purpose. The marked variability in the relationship between ( OHB and HCO 3 is probably due to the presence of other acid-base disturbances, especially hyperchloremic, nonanion gap acidosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)643-647
Number of pages5
JournalDiabetes care
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


Dive into the research topics of 'Can serum β-hydroxybutyrate be used to diagnose diabetic ketoacidosis?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this