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Special concerns: Diabetes and post-surgical infections

September 4, 2012 in News

You may already be aware that people with diabetes are at high risk for bacterial and fungal infections of the skin. This is one of the reasons foot care is so essential if you have diabetes; the combination of poor circulation and nerve damage make it easy to injure your feet without noticing, or to develop ulcers. Ulcers and small wounds are difficult to heal if your circulation is poor or your blood sugar is not controlled. The longer a wound or ulcer takes to heal, the easier it is for infection to set in.

Two recent studies, published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, found evidence that susceptibility to infection in people with diabetes is not limited to skin complications.

The first study looked at surgical site infections among 790 adult patients who suffered orthopedic injuries and needed surgery. The researchers did not find that age, race, injury severity, or blood transfusion influenced the rate of infections, but they did find a link between high blood glucose values and infection. Patients who had one or more blood glucose value of 200 mg/dL or higher were significantly more likely to experience surgical site infection. 4.4% of patients with a glucose value above 200 mg/dL experienced infection, compared to only 1.6% of those patients without elevated blood glucose values.

The second study looked specifically at joint replacement surgeries; the researchers examined 7,181 hip or knee replacement surgeries. They found that having diabetes more than doubled the risk of infection after the surgery. High blood glucose at the time of the surgery seemed to increase the risk of developing an infection.

This study also looked at the impact of BMI on infection risk. Patients with a normal body mass index had a 0.37% risk of infection after joint replacement surgery. Patients who were morbidly obese had a 4.66% risk of infection.

The results of both studies underline the importance of making sure that your health care team knows about your diabetes. Your diagnosis is important information to any health professional treating you, even if they are treating you for something not related to your diabetes. If you are told that you need to have surgery, ask your doctor what special precautions you need to take.

The study findings also speak to the importance of managing your blood glucose and maintaining a healthy weight. Controlling your blood sugar and achieving or maintaining a healthy weight give you the best possible chance to avoid most of the complications associated with diabetes, not just a serious infection after surgery.

You can read the original news release from Orthopedics Today on Healio.com’s website.

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