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Diabetics Experience High Blood Sugar after Joint Surgery

By Labmedica International staff writers
Posted on 26 Mar 2019
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Image: The Quo-Test HbA1c Analyzer: People with diabetes who undergo joint replacement surgery are at sharply higher risk of experiencing elevated blood sugar after the operation (Photo courtesy of EKF Diagnostics).
Image: The Quo-Test HbA1c Analyzer: People with diabetes who undergo joint replacement surgery are at sharply higher risk of experiencing elevated blood sugar after the operation (Photo courtesy of EKF Diagnostics).
People with diabetes who undergo joint replacement surgery are at sharply higher risk of experiencing elevated blood sugar after the operation, increasing their chances of developing infections and other complications.

Previous studies have shown that high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, during the perioperative period of orthopedic joint replacement surgery is a risk factor for infection. Patients requiring insulin can be considered to have more severe diabetes and have a greater chance of experiencing elevated blood glucose in the perioperative period.

Medical Scientists at the Hospital for Special Surgery (New York, NY, USA) reviewed the medical charts of 773 men and women who had undergone total hip or knee replacement between 2011 and 2016. Of those, 437 had been diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes, while 336 had not been diagnosed with the condition. It included patients with a diagnosis of diabetes whose blood sugar was being controlled using the hormone insulin and compared them to diabetics who did not require insulin.

The team reported that patients with insulin-dependent diabetes were more than five times as likely as those without the condition to develop hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, after surgery (odds ratio, 5.2). Patients with higher blood glucose over the previous three months, as measured by glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), were more likely to experience post-operative hyperglycemia regardless of which group they were in. An HbA1c above 6.59% for people with insulin-dependent diabetes, and 6.6% for those without the condition, was associated with an elevated risk for post-operative hyperglycemia.

Despite the increased risk for elevations in blood sugar after surgery, however, the incidence of post-operative joint infections did not differ between the two groups of patients. Bradford S. Waddell, MD, a hip and knee surgeon and co-author of the study noted that a limitation of the study was that it was underpowered to detect the risk of infection. He added, “If your patient comes in with diabetes and is dependent on insulin, you need to be more cognizant of controlling their blood sugar in the perioperative period because they're at higher risk.” The study was presented at the AAOS 2019 – the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons – held March 12-16, 2019, in Las Vegas, NV, USA.

Related Links:
Hospital for Special Surgery


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