How does coronary vasodilator dysfunction affect the prognosis of type 1 diabetes mellitus (DM), and how does diabetes affect mortality in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

Updated: Oct 08, 2021
  • Author: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP; Chief Editor: George T Griffing, MD  more...
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In both diabetic and non-diabetic patients, coronary vasodilator dysfunction is a strong independent predictor of cardiac mortality. In diabetic patients without coronary artery disease, those with impaired coronary flow reserve have event rates similar to those with prior coronary artery disease, while patients with preserved coronary flow reserve have event rates similar to non-diabetic patients. [49]

A study by Bode et al indicated that among patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the US in-hospital death rate for individuals living with diabetes, patients with an HbA1c of 6.5% or higher, and those with hyperglycemia throughout their stay is 29%, a figure over four times greater than that for patients without diabetes or hyperglycemia. Moreover, the in-hospital death rate for patients with no evidence of preadmission diabetes who develop hyperglycemia while admitted was found to be seven times higher (42%). [50, 51]

A whole-population study from the United Kingdom (UK) reported that the risk of in-hospital death for patients with COVID-19 was 2.0 times greater for those with type 2 diabetes and 3.5 times higher for individuals with type 1 diabetes. However, patients under age 40 years with either type of diabetes were at extremely low risk for death. [52, 53]

A French study, by Wargny et al, indicated that among patients with diabetes who are hospitalized with COVID-19, approximately 20% will die within 28 days. Individuals particularly at risk for mortality over this 4-week period include patients of advanced age, as well as those with a history of microvascular complications (especially those who have had kidney or eye damage), who have dyspnea on admission or inflammatory markers (increased white blood cell [WBC] count, raised C-reactive protein, elevated aspartate transaminase), or who have undergone routine insulin and statin treatment. It should be kept in mind, however, that the data was gathered between March 10 and April 10, 2020, with a statement from Diabetes UK explaining that in people with diabetes, COVID-19–associated mortality has decreased over time as treatment has improved. [54, 55]

Another study, by Barrera et al, looking at 65 observational reports (15,794 participants), found that among COVID-19 patients with diabetes, the unadjusted relative risk for admission to an intensive care unit (ICU) was 1.96, and for mortality, 2.78. [56, 57]

Another study from the United Kingdom found that risk factors for mortality in COVID-19 patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes include male sex, older age, renal impairment, non-White ethnicity, socioeconomic deprivation, and previous stroke and heart failure. Moreover, patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes had a significantly greater mortality risk with an HbA1c level of 86 mmol/mol or above, compared with persons with an HbA1c level of 48-53 mmol/mol. In addition, an HbA1c of 59 mmol/mol or higher in patients with type 2 diabetes increased the risk as well. The study also found that in both types of diabetes, body mass index (BMI) had a U-shaped relationship with death, the mortality risk being increased in lower BMI and higher BMI but being reduced between these (25.0-29.9 kg/m2). [58, 53]

A literature review by Schlesinger et al strengthened the association between severe diabetes and COVID-19–related mortality, finding that among study patients with diabetes, the likelihood of death from COVID-19 was 75% greater in chronic insulin users. The study also indicated that the chance of death from COVID-19 is 50% less in individuals undergoing metformin therapy than in other patients with diabetes. The investigators suggested that the medications themselves did not impact survival but were indicators of the severity of diabetes in each group, with the prognosis being poorer among those with more severe diabetes. [59, 60]

However, a Belgian study, by Vangoitsenhoven et al, indicated that in most people, the presence of type 1 diabetes mellitus is not associated with a greater risk of hospitalization for COVID-19. The investigators found that during the first 3 months of the pandemic in Belgium, the COVID-19 hospitalization rate was similar between individuals with type 1 diabetes and those without (0.21% vs 0.17%, respectively). Among the patients with type 1 diabetes, older persons had a greater tendency toward COVID-19–related hospitalization, although glucose control, comorbidity profile, and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor/angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB) therapy did not significantly differ between the hospitalized and non-hospitalized groups. This and other research suggest that in persons with type 1 diabetes, an increased risk of death from COVID-19 is found primarily in particularly vulnerable individuals instead of in such patients overall. [61, 62]

A retrospective, multicenter study by Carrasco-Sánchez et al indicated that among noncritical patients with COVID-19, the presence of hyperglycemia on hospital admission independently predicts progression to critical status, as well as death, whether or not the patient has diabetes. The in-hospital mortality rate in persons with a blood glucose level of higher than 180 mg/dL was 41.1%, compared with 15.7% for those with a level below 140 mg/dL. Moreover, the need for ventilation and intensive care unit admission were also greater in the presence of hyperglycemia. The report involved over 11,000 patients with confirmed COVID-19, only about 19% of whom had diabetes. [63, 64]

In contrast to the above study, a report by Klonoff et al on over 1500 US patients with COVID-19 found no association between hyperglycemia on hospital admission and mortality, in non-ICU patients. However, the in-hospital mortality rate was significantly greater in such patients if they had a blood glucose level above 13.88 mmol/L on the second or third hospital day, compared with those with a level below 7.77 mmol/L. Findings for patients admitted directly to the ICU differed from these, with the investigators determining that mortality was associated with the presence of hyperglycemia on admission but was not significantly linked with a high glucose level on the second hospital day. [65, 66]

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