Trajectories of Glycemic Change in a National Cohort of Adults With Previously Controlled Type 2 Diabetes

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Individualized diabetes management would benefit from prospectively identifying well-controlled patients at risk of losing glycemic control.


To identify patterns of hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) change among patients with stable controlled diabetes.

Research Design:

Cohort study using OptumLabs Data Warehouse, 2001–2013. We develop and apply a machine learning framework that uses a Bayesian estimation of the mixture of generalized linear mixed effect models to discover glycemic trajectories, and a random forest feature contribution method to identify patient characteristics predictive of their future glycemic trajectories.


The study cohort consisted of 27,005 US adults with type 2 diabetes, age 18 years and older, and stable index HbA1c <7.0%.


HbA1c values during 24 months of observation.


We compared models with k=1, 2, 3, 4, 5 trajectories and baseline variables including patient age, sex, race/ethnicity, comorbidities, medications, and HbA1c. The k=3 model had the best fit, reflecting 3 distinct trajectories of glycemic change: (T1) rapidly deteriorating HbA1c among 302 (1.1%) youngest (mean, 55.2 y) patients with lowest mean baseline HbA1c, 6.05%; (T2) gradually deteriorating HbA1c among 902 (3.3%) patients (mean, 56.5 y) with highest mean baseline HbA1c, 6.53%; and (T3) stable glycemic control among 25,800 (95.5%) oldest (mean, 58.5 y) patients with mean baseline HbA1c 6.21%. After 24 months, HbA1c rose to 8.75% in T1 and 8.40% in T2, but remained stable at 6.56% in T3.


Patients with controlled type 2 diabetes follow 3 distinct trajectories of glycemic control. This novel application of advanced analytic methods can facilitate individualized and population diabetes care by proactively identifying high risk patients.

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