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Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a life threatening complication of diabetes mellitus in pediatric patients with new onset insulin dependent diabetes. Despite advances in therapy mortality from DKA, especially in children less than two years, remains high. This review highlights the role of obligatory renal defense mechanisms in the evolution of DKA and its implication for therapy: to accomplish this goal the review starts with a cursory description of the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of metabolic derangements in DKA as a basis for understanding the renal compensatory mechanisms geared towards restoration of acid-base balance; then, the next section of the review describes how alterations in fluid and electrolyte balance at the onset of DKA and the extent of renal regulatory defense mechanisms geared towards its restoration can predispose to cerebral edema at the beginning of therapy. We conclude by suggesting that restoration of fluid and electrolyte balance should be based on the severity of metabolic acidosis as determined by the extent of renal impairment at the onset and during the course of DKA rather than strictly by protocols.