Study sheds light on how COVID-19 and blood glucose levels increase in-hospital cardiovascular and renal problems

People admitted to hospital with COVID-19 are more at risk of developing cardiovascular and renal complications if they have low or high blood glucose levels, new research has revealed.

Between February 2020 and March 2021, researchers from the University of Leicester used routinely-collected hospital data from more than 36,000 adults who were hospitalised with the coronavirus to assess the relationship between admission glucose levels and the risks of in-hospital cardiovascular or renal problems. 

They found that more than one-quarter of the participants experienced health complications whilst they were in hospital, including cardiac arrest, heart failure, stroke, renal injury, arrhythmia, cardiac ischemia and coagulation issues. 

In addition, they discovered that the participants who had either hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia when they were admitted to hospital were more at risk of developing a cardiovascular or renal problem. 

According to the researchers, the individuals who recovered from a cardiovascular or renal complication after being hospitalised with COVID-19 may be more likely to experience long-term morbidity.  

The research was supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) East Midlands.

One of the lead researchers, Dr Tom Norris, a Research Fellow in Epidemiology, said: “These findings highlight the importance of routine glucose screening on admission in order to implement individual treatment plans aimed at modifying any deleterious glucose levels.

“We also found that a number of these associations may be modified by age and diabetes status, with stronger effects observed in those of younger age and without a pre-existing diagnosis of diabetes.”

Professor Kamlesh Khunti CBE, Director of NIHR ARC East Midlands and the Real World Evidence Unit and Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester, added: “This study has highlighted how vital it is to test blood glucose levels when being admitted to hospital. Detecting hypoglycaemia or hyperglycaemia early may prevent severe health complications from developing. 

“Tackling this issue will reduce the number of cardiovascular and renal complications as a result of high or low blood glucose levels. Further research should evaluate interventions to optimise admission glucose on improving COVID-19 outcomes.”

NIHR ARC East Midlands funds vital work to tackle the region’s health and care priorities by speeding up the adoption of research onto the frontline of health and social care. The organisation puts in place evidence-based innovations which seek to drive up standards of care and save time and money.

NIHR ARC East Midlands is hosted by Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and works in collaboration with the East Midlands Academic Health Science Network. It has bases at the University of Leicester and the University of Nottingham.

Admission Blood Glucose Level and Its Association With Cardiovascular and Renal Complications in Patients Hospitalized With COVID-19’ is published in Diabetes Care.