A 23-year-old man is brought to the hospital by his girlfriend. She states that he has not been feeling well, complaining of nausea and abdominal pain for the past 2 days. His younger sister was recently treated for rotavirus, though she denies that anyone else had any other symptoms. Given his lethargy, he has not taken any of his medications. She also admits that he “binge drinks” on occasion but has not consumed any alcohol over 2 months.
On physical examination:
His oral mucosa is dry, and his pulse is palpable though thready.
Which of the following is MOST likely the cause of his acid-base disturbances?A. Starvation ketoacidosis
Correct Answer: E
Both diabetic and alcoholic ketoacidosis can lead to increased anion gap metabolic acidosis. However, given the patient’s elevated blood glucose and ketones in the urine, this is more suggestive of DKA. Patients with DKA generally present with nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Patients with diabetes can develop DKA due to a reduction in effective insulin leading to increased conversion of free fatty acids into ketones, including β-hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetic acid, thereby leading to ketoacidosis. In this case, the patient’s elevated β-hydroxybutyrate also points toward DKA, though it may not be present in all cases. Treatment includes insulin and fluid administration as most of the patients are volume depleted.