You can learn how to reduce your alcohol intake or eliminate it altogether. Joining a local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous may provide you with the support you need to cope. You should also follow all of your doctor’s recommendations to ensure proper nutrition and recovery.

Alcoholic ketoacidosis doesn’t occur more often in any particular race or sex. Alcoholic ketoacidosis is the immediate cause of death in a relatively high number of cases of death of chronic alcoholics (up to 23%). Table 4 shows the numbers of deaths in each of the Davies’ criteria groups 1–5 in the alcohol excess group versus the non alcohol excess group. In the alcohol excess group, there were relatively fewer deaths compared to the non alcohol excess cases in groups 1, 2 and 3, i.e., the deaths where we can be more certain about the cause of death. Interestingly, there is an increased proportion of Davies criteria 5 deaths (4.3% of cardiac deaths versus 1.3% in the non-alcohol excess group). This is the group of deaths in which alcohol related arrhythmias will be present.

What to Know About Alcoholic Ketoacidosis

The main differential diagnoses for ketosis in our patient included AKA, starvation/fasting ketosis and DKA. In starvation ketosis, a mild ketosis is noted to develop in most after 12–24 h of fasting. Therefore, only a mild acidosis is observed in starvation ketosis. In the two cases in which there was toxicology available, alcohol was present at non-fatal or low levels, as shown in previous studies [6,8]. These seven cases represented 0.5% of deaths undergoing coroner’s post mortem.

  • Post mortems on these cases are essentially negative, showing only liver steatosis.
  • With increasing alcohol consumption in the UK, we have absolutely no idea how many cases of sudden arrhythmic death are occurring in those who chronically drink alcohol to excess.
  • Toxicology and liver histology results were also recorded if available.
  • The prognosis for alcoholic ketoacidosis is good as long as it’s treated early.
  • The liver’s inability to synthesize and release glucose can also lead to dangerously high levels of lactate.

It also depends on how long it takes to get your body regulated and out of danger. If you have any additional complications during treatment, this will also affect the length of your hospital stay. If a person is already malnourished due to alcoholism, they may develop alcoholic ketoacidosis. This can occur as soon as one day after a drinking binge, depending on nutritional status, overall health status, and the amount of alcohol consumed. There have been numerous speculations as to the cause and mechanism of death. Severe metabolic disturbances including high levels of free fatty acids do probably play a major role due to the effect on the Krebs Cycle.

Alcohol Excess Group

By hospital day two, the patient’s INR normalized to therapeutic range and his warfarin was restarted. On hospital day three, the patient was discharged home with outpatient services for his alcohol use disorder. There are inevitable limitations of a post-mortem study performed under current patterns of practice in the UK. Nevertheless, we believe that our study has demonstrated that fatal arrhythmia in association with fatty liver and chronic excess alcohol consumption is a significant public health issue for the UK.

alcoholic ketoacidosis death

Pyruvate and lactate are then maintained in steady state at much higher levels than normal. This results in a decrease in circulating lactic acid and an increase in acetoacetate. The presence of a high anion gap, although not specific, is suggestive of AKA in a patient with an appropriate clinical history [9]. Additional measurements that may help determine the diagnosis of AKA include beta-hydroxybutyrate levels (high in AKA, low in DKA) and serum alcohol concentration (typically low or undetectable) [8].

Possible Complications of Alcoholic Ketoacidosis

In my opinion alcoholic ketoacidosis may well be signed out as the cause of death, but we must be aware of the fact that the mechanism of death is not yet fully understood. The pH levels are usually not very low, and as described by Palmiere and Augsburger (2014), a multitude of biochemical indicators are affected in these cases. It has since our publications been confirmed that alcoholic ketoacidosis is the cause of death in a substantial number of alcohol abusers.

Medically supervised detoxification can reduce the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms (which can contribute to AKA development) and the risk of relapse. If your blood glucose level is elevated, your doctor may also perform a hemoglobin A1C (HgA1C) test. This test will provide information about your sugar levels to help determine whether you have diabetes. These conditions have to be ruled out before a medical professional can diagnose you with alcoholic ketoacidosis. Alcoholic ketoacidosis can develop when you drink excessive amounts of alcohol for a long period of time. Excessive alcohol consumption often causes malnourishment (not enough nutrients for the body to function well).


I read with interest the article ‘The Postmortem Diagnosis of Alcoholic Ketoacidosis’ by Palmiere and Augsburger (2014).

  • With timely and aggressive intervention, the prognosis for a patient with AKA is good.
  • You may get vitamin supplements to treat malnutrition caused by excessive alcohol use.
  • The diagnosis is often delayed or missed, and this can have potentially fatal consequences.
  • This test will provide information about your sugar levels to help determine whether you have diabetes.

AKA is a diagnosis of exclusion, and many other life-threatening alternative or concomitant diagnoses present similarly, and must be ruled out. Failure to make the diagnosis can result in severe metabolic abnormalities, acidosis, and shock. Causes of death and post mortem findings in the seven cases of alcohol related arrhythmia. Elevated cortisol levels can increase fatty acid mobilization and ketogenesis. Growth hormone can enhance precursor fatty acid release and ketogenesis during insulin deficiency.

Alcoholic Ketoacidosis

The metabolism of alcohol itself is a probable contributor to the ketotic state. Alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), a cytosolic enzyme, metabolizes alcohol to acetaldehyde in hepatocytes. Acetaldehyde alcoholic ketoacidosis symptoms is metabolized further to acetic acid by aldehyde dehydrogenase. Both steps require the reduction of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) to reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH).