Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

- Rogue Medic

Dextrose in Cardiac Arrest – More Kitchen Sink Medicine

Should we treat hypoglycemia in a dead person?

How do we determine hypoglycemia in a dead person?

Is there any evidence that giving dextrose, in any concentration, will help to resuscitate a dead person?

Should we treat patients based on the philosophy of Who knows? Maybe it could work? Bleach enemas are currently in fashion among the alternative to medicine crowd,[1] so we could use the same reasoning to give bleach enemas in cardiac arrest. Who knows? Maybe it could work.

Is Kitchen Sink Medicine significantly different from any other alternative to medicine?

The dead person is not breathing, so we have to provide ventilations.[2], [3], [4]

The dead person is dead, so we have to do something.

We do compressions and (when indicated) defibrillation, because those are the only treatments that have been demonstrated to work.



The foundation of successful ACLS is high-quality CPR, and, for VF/pulseless VT, attempted defibrillation within minutes of collapse. For victims of witnessed VF arrest, early CPR and rapid defibrillation can significantly increase the chance for survival to hospital discharge.128–133 In comparison, other ACLS therapies such as some medications and advanced airways, although associated with an increased rate of ROSC, have not been shown to increase the rate of survival to hospital discharge.31,33,134–138 [5]


Ventilations are only a part of high-quality CPR for children and people who have a respiratory cause of cardiac arrest.

But what about dextrose for hypoglycemic cardiac arrest?

We may already be raising the blood sugar with epinephrine.

Epinephrine causes a prompt increase in blood glucose concentration in the postabsorptive state. This effect is mediated by a transient increase in hepatic glucose production and an inhibition of glucose disposal by insulin-dependent tissues.[6]


We seem to have trouble understanding that dead people do not respond to treatments the same way that living people do.

Pharmacologic insults are just so massive and normal metabolism and physiology so deranged that no mere mortal can make a meaningful intervention. The seriously poisoned who maintain vital signs in the ED have the best, albeit never guaranteed, chance of rescue from a modicum of antidotes and intensive supportive care.[7]


Maybe we should find out what we are doing and not blindly throw kitchen sinks at dead people based on hunches.

Dr. Brooks Walsh gave a good review of the evidence in his article written three years ago.[8]

What about my original questions?

Should we treat hypoglycemia in a dead person?

There is no evidence that giving dextrose is safe or effective for any cardiac arrest patients.

How do we determine hypoglycemia in a dead person?

We guess or check a capillary blood sugar, which is not reliable.

Is there any evidence that giving dextrose, in any concentration, resuscitates a dead person?


Go read Using Dextrose in Cardiac Arrest at Mill Hill Ave Command.


[1] Bleaching away what ails you
Science-Based Medicine
David Gorski
May 28, 2012

[2] Cardiocerebral Resuscitation: An Approach to Improving Survival of Patients With Primary Cardiac Arrest.
Ewy GA, Bobrow BJ.
J Intensive Care Med. 2014 Jul 30. pii: 0885066614544450. [Epub ahead of print]
PMID: 25077491 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

[3] Cardiocerebral resuscitation is associated with improved survival and neurologic outcome from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in elders.
Mosier J, Itty A, Sanders A, Mohler J, Wendel C, Poulsen J, Shellenberger J, Clark L, Bobrow B.
Acad Emerg Med. 2010 Mar;17(3):269-75.
PMID: 20370759 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Free Full Text from Academic Emergency Medicine.

[4] Cardiac Arrest Management is an EMT-Basic Skill – The Hands Only Evidence
Fri, 09 Dec 2011
Rogue Medic

[5] Management of Cardiac Arrest
2010 American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care Science
Part 8.2: Management of Cardiac Arrest
Free Full Text from Circulation.

[6] Effect of epinephrine on glucose metabolism in humans: contribution of the liver.
Sherwin RS, Saccà L.
Am J Physiol. 1984 Aug;247(2 Pt 1):E157-65.
PMID: 6380304 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

[7] Dissecting the ACLS Guidelines on Cardiac Arrest from Toxic Ingestions
Emergency Medicine News:
October 2011 – Volume 33 – Issue 10 – pp 16-18
doi: 10.1097/01.EEM.0000406945.05619.ca
Roberts, James R. MD

[8] Using Dextrose in Cardiac Arrest
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Mill Hill Ave Command
Dr. Brooks Walsh



  1. […] T. (2015, March 12). Dextrose in cardiac arrest – more kitchen sink medicine. Retrieved July 10, 2016, from Rogue […]

  2. […] T. (2015, March 12). Dextrose in cardiac arrest – more kitchen sink medicine. Retrieved July 10, 2016, from Rogue […]