Cerebral edema is the most frequent serious complication of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) in children, occurring in 1% to 5% of DKA episodes. The rates of mortality and permanent neurologic morbidity from this complication are high. The pathophysiologic mechanisms underlying DKA-related cerebral edema are unclear. A number of past and more recent studies have investigated biochemical and therapeutic risk factors for the development of cerebral edema. Recent studies have shown that a higher initial serum urea nitrogen concentration and lower initial partial pressure of carbon dioxide are associated with the development of cerebral edema. This and other information suggests that the pathophysiology of DKA-related cerebral edema may involve cerebral ischemia.