BACKGROUND: Lactate is a robust prognostic marker for the outcome of critically ill patients. Several small studies reported that metformin users have higher lactate levels at ICU admission without a concomitant increase in mortality. However, this has not been investigated in a larger cohort. We aimed to determine whether the association between lactate levels around ICU admission and mortality is different in metformin users compared to metformin nonusers.
METHODS: This cohort study included patients admitted to ICUs in northern Denmark between January 2010 and August 2017 with any circulating lactate measured around ICU admission, which was defined as 12 h before until 6 h after admission. The association between the mean of the lactate levels measured during this period and 30-day mortality was determined for metformin users and nonusers by modelling restricted cubic splines obtained from a Cox regression model.
RESULTS: Of 37,293 included patients, 3183 (9%) used metformin. The median (interquartile range) lactate level was 1.8 (1.2-3.2) in metformin users and 1.6 (1.0-2.7) mmol/L in metformin nonusers. Lactate levels were strongly associated with mortality for both metformin users and nonusers. However, the association of lactate with mortality was different for metformin users, with a lower mortality rate in metformin users than in nonusers when admitted with similar lactate levels. This was observed over the whole range of lactate levels, and consequently, the relation of lactate with mortality was shifted rightwards for metformin users.
CONCLUSION: In this large observational cohort of critically ill patients, early lactate levels were strongly associated with mortality. Irrespective of the degree of hyperlactataemia, similar lactate levels were associated with a lower mortality rate in metformin users compared with metformin nonusers. Therefore, lactate levels around ICU admission should be interpreted according to metformin use.