Diabetes patients at Bristol Regional Medical Center and Holston Valley Medical Center have an ally to speak for them when they can’t speak for themselves.

The Glucommander, a computerized system that works in conjunction with an insulin drip, monitors the glucose levels of critically ill diabetes patients. The new technology is used in the hospitals’ critical-care units and during surgery to alert caregivers when patients’ blood-sugar levels are too high or too low.

“The Glucommander saves lives by getting critically ill patients with high or low blood sugar stabilized,” said Matthew Beasey, MD, an endocrinologist with Blue Ridge Medical Associates. “The people who are using the system can’t tell you if their blood sugar is dropping. The machine can tell you for them.”

When a patient’s blood sugar needs to be checked, an alarm goes off and will not stop until the glucose level is entered into the system. Once the glucose level is entered, the machine calculates how much insulin should be given to the patient.

“If we have a patient who is in the process of being stabilized, the alarm may go off every 20 minutes,” said Jim Perkins, director of Wellmont’s Diabetes Treatment Centers. “Once the patient is stabilized, the alarm will sound every two hours, which means the patient’s glucose level will be checked at least every two hours.”

Stabilizing blood-sugar levels is a priority for patients with diabetes.

“Critically ill patients need to have their blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible,” Dr. Beasey said. “If a person has a heart attack, elevated blood sugar increases damage, while reducing it to a normal level decreases damage. The same goes for patients who have experienced a stroke or had an operation—elevated glucose increases damage.

“It can take two to three days to stabilize blood sugar with an insulin drip alone. With the Glucommander, patients are typically stabilized in less than eight hours.”

The Glucommander may also reduce the time a patient spends in the hospital.

“Before the Glucommander the average stay for a person with diabetes was around 12 days,” Perkins said. With the Glucommander, the average is about six days. It helps us get the patient healthier quicker. Simply stated, this works.”


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