Variation in hypoglycemia ascertainment and report in type 2 diabetes observational studies: A meta-epidemiological study

René Rodríguez-Gutiérrez, Alejandro Salcido-Montenegro, José Gerardo González-González, Rozalina G. McCoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction Observational studies constitute an important evidence base for hypoglycemia in diabetes management. This requires consistent and reliable ascertainment and reporting methodology, particularly in studies of type 2 diabetes where hypoglycemia risk is heterogeneous. Therefore, we aimed to examine the definitions of hypoglycemia used by observational studies of patients with type 2 diabetes. Research design and methods We conducted a meta-epidemiological review of observational studies reporting on hypoglycemia or evaluating glucose-lowering medications in adults with type 2 diabetes. MEDLINE and Google Scholar were searched from January 1970 to May 2018. The definitions of non-severe, severe and nocturnal hypoglycemia were examined. Results We reviewed 243 studies: 47.7% reported on non-severe hypoglycemia, 77.8% on severe hypoglycemia and 16.9% on nocturnal hypoglycemia; 5.8% did not specify. Among 116 studies reporting non-severe hypoglycemia, 18.1% provided no definition, 23.3% used glucose values, 38.8% relied on patient-reported symptoms, 17.2% accepted either glucose values or patient-reported symptoms and 2.6% relied on International Classification of Disease (ICD) codes. Among 189 studies reporting severe hypoglycemia, 11.1% provided no definition, 53.4% required symptoms needing assistance, 3.7% relied on glucose values, 14.8% relied on ICD codes, 2.6% relied on ICD codes or glucose values and 15.9% required both symptoms needing assistance and glucose values. Overall, 38.2% of non-severe and 67.7% of severe hypoglycemia definitions were consistent with the International Hypoglycemia Study Group. Conclusions The marked heterogeneity in how hypoglycemia is defined in observational studies may contribute to the inadequate understanding and correction of hypoglycemia risk factors among patients with type 2 diabetes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1906
JournalBMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 22 2021


  • diabetes mellitus
  • epidemiology
  • hypoglycemia
  • observational study
  • type 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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